The Father of Tofu

July/August 1997

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The Father of Tofu

Los Angeles Times/Anacleto Rapping

Bill Shurtleff wants you to stop pushing that white blob of soybean curd to the side of your dinner plate. Known as the Father of Tofu, Shurtleff, '63, MA '69, is the director of the Soyfoods Center, the world's only computerized database on soy and soy products. Shurtleff has compiled more than 53,000 documents--from information on soy ice creams to the history of tofu in Europe and Asia. He's also the co-author of The Book of Tofu, which features 500 recipes (including the cheesemushroom-tofu-egg substitute "scrambler" pictured at right). "We would like to do for soybeans what Johnny Appleseed did for apples," Shurtleff says .

Shurtleff discovered tofu while studying in Japan in 1971. He's been on a mission to teach Americans about its health benefits ever since. He says the high point came in 1995, when the New England Journal of Medicine published an analysis of studies linking consumption of soy protein to lowered blood cholesterol levels. The evidence suggested that replacing animal protein with soy could help prevent heart disease. Shurtleff adds that eating soy will reduce demand for more scarce food supplies. "The world is inevitably moving to a plant-based diet because of population pressures," he says. Pass the soy sauce.

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