Recipes Resonate

tofu and mushroom spaghetti

By AJ Shurr, Communications Specialists

Knowing a particular food is healthful is sometimes miles away from actually incorporating that food into your daily diet. A great way to bridge the gap? Recipes.

Unfortunately, health foods can carry various negative connotations: bland, depriving, time-consuming and difficult to cook, and overall unenjoyable. Beyond the tasteless echo, some just don’t know where to start to incorporate a specific healthful food into their diet.

Take tofu, for example. In its raw form, it is a squishy, flavorless block. A tofu newbie could easily be intimidated by this versatile health food. But those familiar with the center-of-plate plant protein know of tofu’s ability to soak up all kinds of flavors, transform into crispy, meaty squares, and be that “secret ingredient” in dishes ranging from mashed potatoes to pudding and everything in between.

The key to combatting the misperceptions and lack of information around healthful foods – including tofu – is to focus on flavor, taste, experience, and enjoyable attributes. Research has found that describing a food with a focus on taste, instead of health, will increase the consumption of the dish. That concept can be applied to health foods and the recipes that feature them.

Anecdotally, my tofu pumpkin cheesecake stole the show at a Thanksgiving (Friendsgiving) celebration. The cheesecake was described as having a creamy, decadent pumpkin filling and a crunchy gingersnap crust. Needless to say, it was a big hit – the only of three desserts without leftovers available. Several people inquired about the recipe and were surprised that it included tofu — an ingredient they have never tried before. All who tried it said they would eat it again, and a few even said they would make it themselves.

Recipes resonate because they give people a starting point. A delicious-tasting recipe can go a long way to helping people incorporate a specific ingredient into their life.  A recipe is a pinch of tradition, a dash of adventure, and a spoonful of delicious fun. Recipes are practically a language unto themselves.

Food — and by extension the recipes that make up the food — is often more than nourishment for most Americans. When the novel coronavirus swept through, people started using food to (re)discover their passion for cooking, to get back to the basics, and to try something new in the comfort of their homes. In non-pandemic years, food is the center of family and friend gatherings and brings people together to explore different cultures, and it will continue to do that in the future.

In 2020, many families practiced social distanced holidays. Some may have held get-togethers virtually, they may have shared a recipe for everyone to cook on their own, allowing people to be together while separate.

Family, friends, and strangers can all be brought together through recipes.

A good recipe (resulting in a scrumptious end-product) can garner immediate attention and popularity. A good recipe can also introduce a new food to people. This is where health foods can make their mark. One of the biggest hurdles, beyond perception, to healthy foods is getting people to actually eat them.

Speaking through recipes, health foods can bridge that gap between what is perceived as healthful and what ends up piled on plates.