Almost every week this summer, there came an early dark morning when I tiptoed my way to the edge of Elizabeth’s bed, gently tapped her shoulder and coaxingly whisper: “Wake up now, it’s time to run.”
To which she would normally roll over, crack her eyelid open enough to give me a glare and then pull the covers over her head.
But it didn’t faze me. I knew that within ten minutes she would dashing down the stairs all dressed to go, snatching up her sneakers and yelling over her shoulder: “Well, are you coming or not?”
We knew we needed each other and our weekly running date with friends. We knew that without the encouragement (wanted or unwanted) of training partners, we’d be quickly drained of motivation. And now as our goal is in sight and race day quickly approaches, we know more than ever that it is the companionship of each other (and lots of prayer!) that is going to see us to the finish line. Those who sweat together stay together.
Friends need friends. It’s a simple fact of life.
Friends need friends who will help them through difficult and uncertain times. They don’t even need to speak the same language. Sunday night, my sisters and I spent three hours at the kitchen table in a conversation with two new friends who didn’t speak English and are now back home in Japan. We had a great time.
It began roughly with exaggerated facial expressions and pantomimes to which they responded with smiles and nods and chuckles to each other in Japanese, which is a most disconcerting feeling. But finally, we began to discover effective ways to communicate. We learned words and phrases that were mutually understood and we Googled up others. Here we were — three very Americanized young people with two very Asian teenagers. Our cultures were drastically different, our food was different, our schools were different, and for as long as I live I’ll never understand the Japanese alphabet. But in spite of all of that, we found common interests and thoughts. We taught them English words, they gave us a whole new perspective into their world. Culture gaps were bridged. Friendships were formed.
Friends need friends. To push alongside them over hills and across finish lines, through unknown territory and unfamiliar places. The companionship of someone who cares can make all the difference in the journey. Like Ecclesiastes says, “Two are better than one.”
For the longest time, tofu and I did not get along. I knew of it’s health benefits. I knew that as a vegetarian, it was an important souce of protein. Trust me, I tried to like it. I bought every couple of months, hoping that this time it would be different. But it’s texture and blandness turned me off.
Finally, I had an epiphany. Tofu needed friends. Tofu and I needed to be friends. So we needed mutual friends. Specifically, we needed foods and flavors I enjoyed that would complement tofu. And maybe even disguise its presence.
You see, tofu is essentially flavorless. But it is also absorbent. It soaks up the flavors of foods that it is cooked with. It needs flavorful companions.
So the next time a container of tofu snuck it’s way home in a grocery bag, I chopped it up and paired it with mushrooms and eggs, foods with a similar texture. I added some of my favorite seasonings — soy sauce, hoisin and ginger — to compensate for its blandness. And when I ate my big bowl of stir-fry, I could scarcely tell the tofu was there. And trust me that’s a good thing.
Is there a nutritious food you’re having trouble befriending? Try food pairing. Whether it is kale or tempeh, lentils or avocado, you can train your taste buds by tricking them. Match the new food with a familiar food that is similar in texture and throw in some of your favorite seasonings. Throw some kale in a vegetable soup, grumble tempeh and brown in taco seasoning. Mash cauliflower with your mashed potatoes. Blend spinach into your smoothie. Disguise, complement, enjoy.
It’s the simple rule that friends need friends.
- ½ block extra firm organic tofu, drained sliced and cubed.
- 1 T. soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 c. sliced mushrooms
- 2 c. broccoli florets
- 1 ½ T. stir-fry sauce (or hoisin sauce)
- 2 t. lime juice
- ½ t. black pepper
- 1 egg
- Remove tofu block from package, wrap it paper towels and squeeze out liquid. You want it as dry as possible. Slice half of the block into 1 inch thick slabs and then dice into about 1 inch square.
- In a large skillet, cook tofu with garlic and soy sauce over medium heat until lightly browned. Add mushrooms, broccoli, stir-fry sauce and lime juice and raise heat. Stir regularly and cook until broccoli is tender.
- Lower heat and push the tofu-veggie mixture to one side of the skillet. Crack the egg into the other side and let it settle for a few minutes before scrambling. Once the scrambled egg is set, mix into the rest of the stir-fry. Cook for a few minutes longer, adding spices or sauces as needed. Serve with your choice of grain: rice, quinoa, millet, potato, or even sweet potato would all work nicely. Serves one as a main dish or two side dishes.
The house smelled like an Asian restaurant. Eating this made me want to sneak into Mitsu’s suitcase and travel to Japan for the real thing — chopsticks and all. After all, what are friends for?