Liberty Cheese, or possible effects of Tofu on early America


Benjamin Franklin apparently introduced tofu ("tau-fu") to the US in 1770 per a letter to John Bartram. Suppose tofu becomes popular as a sort of early superfood or becomes a major form of sustenance for some segment(s) of the American populace within a generation - how might this change the modern American diet or history in general?
 
1581703175599.png Map of US soybean production. Stuff seems to grow well along the very same lands settlers were angling for in the decades after the Revolutionary War, so if soy was adopted widely it would deliver results almost immediately. The trouble, though, is that while America's urban intellectuals experimented as they wished, for good or ill (and the ill effects eventually culminated in the Dust Bowl) American agriculture (well, all agriculture) gets stuck in ruts, and the only things that can get it out of the rut are 20th century changes (education, mechanization, pesticide, use etc.), which changed some old habits and established new ones.

I think mass adoption of soy would require upfront state investment in a rural college system and funding for agricultural institutes which can try out/promote soy and other crops. Tall orders for the late 1700s/early 1800s: there's the financial cost, the somewhat unprecedented nature of the program, and the negative perceptions of federal overreach (especially from western farmers: first they want to tax our whiskey, now they want to waste our time with classes on Chinese magic beans?! That money would be better spent on an anti-Indian militia!) that will be attached to this. Such overreach would have to be justified, so American voters would have to be convinced of its need from early on. Maybe the US has a really nasty break with Britain, which leads to an autarkic sentiment that America needs guaranteed food surpluses, and so it needs to experiment with new food crops.
 
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If tofu becomes popular (by the way, it's dou-foo) then it will probably be widely adopted by vegetarians of the time (tofu has a high protein content). This tofu will most likely evolve into something unique and distinguishable as "American tofu" and might even get its own name. What it will be called or how it will taste, I can't imagine, but it will be culturally distinct.

As mentioned above, tofu has a high protein content, so if it becomes part of the American diet, settlers will probably eat less meat as a result, which means less farm animals, less need for expansion for space for the farm animals, etc. There will still be conflict and settling the West, of course, but it might happen at a slower pace.
 
If tofu becomes popular (by the way, it's dou-foo) then it will probably be widely adopted by vegetarians of the time (tofu has a high protein content).
Tofu, or rather tōfu, is the Japanese name for it.
As evidenced by Ben Franklin's name for it, and based on the way Hokkien vs Mandarin words for tea spread, tofu would probably be known by a variation of the Hokkien name dauhu or tauhu (which for the same reason is the Malay word for tofu, IIRC).
As an aside, what is the difference other then the milk source (cow milk vs soy milk) in the production of cheese and tofu?
Both consist of coagulated proteins, but while milk proteins are usually acid or enzyme coagulated to make cheese, tofu uses mineral salts, usually magnesium chloride (or seawater rich in it) or gypsum depending on the culture and desired texture*. And while there are stinky, moldy forms of both, unlike cheese there aren't any long-aged, dry tofu products that I know of.


*apparently some manufacturers have started using acid-coagulation as well.
 
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As an aside, what is the difference other then the milk source (cow milk vs soy milk) in the production of cheese and tofu?
Here is everything you need to know about tofu, including tofu production, compared to cheese here. I personally believe that the largest difference in production is the use of bacterial cultures in cheese (there's no bacteria in tofu, with the exception of stinky tofu, "hairy" tofu, etc).

Oh, and tofu tastes WAY different from cheese. I don't know how to describe it, TBH. The best way to know what tofu tastes like is, of course, to try some yourself at an Asian restaurant or somewhere.
 
Both consist of coagulated proteins, but while milk proteins are usually acid or enzyme coagulated to make cheese, tofu uses mineral salts, usually magnesium chloride (or seawater rich in it) or gypsum depending on the culture and desired texture. And while there are stinky, moldy forms of both, unlike cheese there aren't any long-aged, dry tofu products that I know of.
So strictly speaking, it is possible to make soybean cheese or cow milk tofu.
 
I think mass adoption of soy would require upfront state investment in a rural college system and funding for agricultural institutes which can try out/promote soy and other crops. Tall orders for the late 1700s/early 1800s: there's the financial cost, the somewhat unprecedented nature of the program, and the negative perceptions of federal overreach
It may be difficult in the early 1800s but maybe post-civil war the Granger movement could help promote soy agriculture?
 
As mentioned above, tofu has a high protein content, so if it becomes part of the American diet, settlers will probably eat less meat as a result, which means less farm animals, less need for expansion for space for the farm animals, etc. There will still be conflict and settling the West, of course, but it might happen at a slower pace.
A very generous best-case scenario (I can't imagine tofu overtaking meat in the 1800s, there's just no social reason behind it) but this does open up a possibility-- if American westward expansion is somehow actively blocked at the Mississippi (stronger Louisiana?) and the US never gets the lands to develop a cattle economy on, then maybe soy could be looked at as a better-than-nothing way to bump up protein intake.

In any case, there's actually another problem for soy: corn. 1581707605798.png

Corn and soy grow in the same places and the same times, to the point where Midwestern farmers have to decide which one they're going to plant this year, at the expense of the other. And nowadays Midwestern farms are sprawling enterprises focused on export, with international links to markets demanding corn and soy, so the choice is actually something to think over. But in the 1800s, most of the Northwest Territory's farms are tiny clearings in the forest, producing food for subsistence. And when you're choosing what to feed your family, the crop that your people have been growing since Jamestown and Plymouth (and hey, it's certainly keeping the Indians strong too) is gonna win over whatever beans Franklin's on about.

How can soy win the turf war against corn... Maybe the link between corn and pellagra is somehow discovered earlier? Or some kinda corn blight hits? A corn blight would seriously put America on the ropes, there's actually no better window for soy to be adopted en masse.

It may be difficult in the early 1800s but maybe post-civil war the Granger movement could help promote soy agriculture?
Maybe so. The postwar South and Midwest had a lot of agricultural experimentation, emphasis on rural education, and an idea that national change (free silver!) was necessary to make serious improvements/prevent a serious downfall in local conditions. Imagine: Soy and Silver, icons of late-1800s Populism! Having the Granger Movement be a vector for it would require it to maintain more focus on its original mission (improving farmers' practices); seems like OTL the mass struggle against the railroads eclipsed that, and they kinda dropped off the map after that struggle was won?
 
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It is my understanding that soybeans fix nitrogen in the soil. If that was known during this time, then you can argue to case for crop rotation. Also the soybeans could be fed to the cattle. Hopefully with the increase in corn production and the increase weight of animals, then soybean production would grow.
 
It is my understanding that soybeans fix nitrogen in the soil. If that was known during this time, then you can argue to case for crop rotation. Also the soybeans could be fed to the cattle. Hopefully with the increase in corn production and the increase weight of animals, then soybean production would grow.
Soybeans will fix nitrogen but hog potassium. A Three Sisters style solution with multiple crops growing in close proximity that interact to solve mutual problems might be a solution?

If tofu becomes popular (by the way, it's dou-foo)...
Franklin called it "Tau-fu" in the letter, maybe that becomes they Western/US name for it :p

Oh, and tofu tastes WAY different from cheese. I don't know how to describe it, TBH. The best way to know what tofu tastes like is, of course, to try some yourself at an Asian restaurant or somewhere.
It tastes like the brine it was made in or the food it was eaten with? Maybe ramen gets supplanted for college students with literal NutriSoy flavored with chicken and beef broth?
 
It tastes like the brine it was made in or the food it was eaten with? Maybe ramen gets supplanted for college students with literal NutriSoy flavored with chicken and beef broth?
Tofu can taste like anything, depending on what you cook it with. I've eaten boring tofu cooked without anything else (the taste is, as mentioned above, impossible to describe, but that's just plain vanilla tofu), several varieties of spicy tofu (including this, which is delicious when mixed with rice), tofu chopped up into ludicrously thin slices, rice wrapped in tofu, stinky tofu (tastes better than it sounds), and that's just the varieties of tofu I can think of off the top of my head.

As for possible American cuisines, if tofu takes off as a major culinary dish, then it will probably be incorporated with European dishes and American crops, producing something that is (hopefully) delicious and not as bad as bri. Unfortunately, I doubt if any of it is going to be spicy (Europeans weren't big on spicy foods).

The existence of tofu in American dishes might affect the flow of immigrants from Asia (China in particular, because the US got a lot of Chinese immigrants IOTL) during the 19th century. People in Asia would probably hear about Americans eating tofu, which might make the country all the more enticing to them. (They would be disappointed upon learning that there are no spicy dishes, with the possible exception of Tex-Mex tofu dishes, which sounds awesome. I mean, imagine spicy tofu tortillas!) This might lead to a larger population of Asian Americans in the US overall. IOTL, Chinese Americans suffered a lot from discrimination, and I can't readily predict if the existence of tofu will lead to more or less racial prejudice against Asian Americans.

Apparently cuisine affects history more than one might think.
 
. IOTL, Chinese Americans suffered a lot from discrimination, and I can't readily predict if the existence of tofu will lead to more or less racial prejudice against Asian Americans.
Doubt, the main american racism was the otherness always linked to Skin Colour...what is why white latinos like desi arnaz could pass as white easily but mestizo(ie miscegenated or mixed blood) darker latinos have it the harshest
 
Interestingly even at the beginning of the United States there was trade with China. The Old China Trade and the Yankee Trader both come out of this time period. Unfortunately tofu was not one of the products that were sought out by American traders (instead teas, fabrics, porcelain, furniture, etc. were purchased). The Old China Trade, and the Qing-American relation based on business contacts, came to an end with the First Opium War
 
Tofu can taste like anything, depending on what you cook it with. I've eaten boring tofu cooked without anything else (the taste is, as mentioned above, impossible to describe, but that's just plain vanilla tofu), several varieties of spicy tofu (including this, which is delicious when mixed with rice), tofu chopped up into ludicrously thin slices, rice wrapped in tofu, stinky tofu (tastes better than it sounds), and that's just the varieties of tofu I can think of off the top of my head.

As for possible American cuisines, if tofu takes off as a major culinary dish, then it will probably be incorporated with European dishes and American crops, producing something that is (hopefully) delicious and not as bad as bri. Unfortunately, I doubt if any of it is going to be spicy (Europeans weren't big on spicy foods).

The existence of tofu in American dishes might affect the flow of immigrants from Asia (China in particular, because the US got a lot of Chinese immigrants IOTL) during the 19th century. People in Asia would probably hear about Americans eating tofu, which might make the country all the more enticing to them. (They would be disappointed upon learning that there are no spicy dishes, with the possible exception of Tex-Mex tofu dishes, which sounds awesome. I mean, imagine spicy tofu tortillas!) This might lead to a larger population of Asian Americans in the US overall. IOTL, Chinese Americans suffered a lot from discrimination, and I can't readily predict if the existence of tofu will lead to more or less racial prejudice against Asian Americans.

Apparently cuisine affects history more than one might think.
If tofu or (tau-fu) becomes widely cultivated in America. One could it being used as cattle feed and perhaps slavery plantions adopt the food source as well for an inexpensive meat-like source for slaves. Also, immigrant groups would use it as well.

One could imagine the Americans might come up with a maple-syrup, jellies/jams ,molasses glazes, cooking with beers, wines, and ciders . Southern and black tofu dishes would be used in dishes such as gumbo. One could also imagine egg cheese tofu dishes.

One could even imagine that Upton Sinclair's The Jungle supposing it still exposed bad practices of meat producers. Maybe with a widespread tofu adoption the newly created FDA bans meat production to at least US domestic markets. Could you imagine what prohibitonlooked like if it was based on meat? Perhaps, there is just a widescale rejection of meat. Vegetarianism becomes the default American diet with tofu as an American stable,

American veganism and vegetarian are distinct from other vegan and vegetarian movements. These political parties/interest groups debates whether eggs, cheeses, and other animal products are safe to eat/ healthy rather than focusing animal ethics is a radical element of these American movements.Americans would be among the healthiest populations of the world.Medical costs would not be as high.

PB & J in this timeline might be a popular American children's tofu dish instead of a sandwich.
 
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One could even imagine that Upton Sinclair's The Jungle supposing it still exposed bad practices of meat producers. Maybe with a widespread tofu adoption the newly created FDA bans meat production to at least US domestic markets.
Or adulterated 'Meat' has lot of soy in it, leading to a backlash....

where 'Chicken' is 58% Soy and other filler
 
Unfortunately, I doubt if any of it is going to be spicy (Europeans weren't big on spicy foods).

The existence of tofu in American dishes might affect the flow of immigrants from Asia (China in particular, because the US got a lot of Chinese immigrants IOTL) during the 19th century. People in Asia would probably hear about Americans eating tofu, which might make the country all the more enticing to them. (They would be disappointed upon learning that there are no spicy dishes, with the possible exception of Tex-Mex tofu dishes, which sounds awesome. I mean, imagine spicy tofu tortillas!) This might lead to a larger population of Asian Americans in the US overall. IOTL, Chinese Americans suffered a lot from discrimination, and I can't readily predict if the existence of tofu will lead to more or less racial prejudice against Asian Americans.

Apparently cuisine affects history more than one might think.
Many of my friends from Commonwealth states joked the British incentive for international conquest was finding better food abroad. South and East Asian cuisine seems all the rage in the UK now so maybe they have a point. Europe and the West will incorporate more spices into their dishes as they become available with fusion dishes developing much as they did in OTL. Pepperpot with Tofu might be all the rage in early 1800s Philadelphia for example.
 
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