COLUMBIA — Leigh Lockhart, owner of Main Squeeze Cafe in downtown Columbia, knows tofu. However, it hasn’t always been that way.
“I probably bought tofu three or four times when I started trying to eat healthier. It would always go bad because I didn’t know what to do with it,” Lockhart explained to 29 residents Wednesday afternoon for a Columbia/Boone County Health Department video on how to cook with soy and tofu.
Earlier this year, the health department received a grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health to film a series of healthy cooking videos on topics as varied as solo cooking and cooking with a disability. The series is called “Columbia Cooks.” At least 12 cooking videos will be filmed over the next 2 1/2 years. The filming of the videos is open to the public.
The videos are broadcast on the Columbia cable channel, but there is no set schedule for when the segments air, said Linda Cooperstock, public health planner for the health department. After all the videos have been filmed, they will be compiled into a set of DVDs that will be made available to other local health departments.
The soy-focused segment was an attempt to show how easy and convenient it can be to cook with sometimes-mystifying products like tofu.
“Tofu and soy can be kind of puzzling,” Lockhart said. “But now I’ve learned a few tricks, and it’s easier.”
Self-described “almost-vegetarian,” Leslie Conn attended the demonstration to learn more about cooking with soy in the hopes of possibly going completely meat-free.
“I’m really scared of tofu, but I want to eat it,” she said before filming began. “When you grow up your whole life with bad food, it’s baby steps. It’s hard to try new foods.”
Lockhart cooked up samples of creamy corn chowder, vegetable tofu stir-fry and chocolate pudding. In addition to trying to take the mystery out of making tasty dishes with soy products, she offered other cooking tips and answered cooking-related questions from the audience.
She suggested searching the Internet for cooking videos and browsing cookbooks for ideas, and she also told her audience to try pre-made soy products like veggie patties and vegetarian sausages that can be found in the freezer aisle at most grocery stores.
After tasting Lockhart’s dishes, Conn proclaimed them delicious.
“I’m going to try it,” she said. “I think this is what I really needed.”
Lockhart told everyone not to let a cooking flop or two discourage them from trying something new. After all, Lockhart said, “If you’re going to spend money, you might as well spend it on good food.”
The next video segment will be filmed on July 1 at the Health Department, 1005 W. Worley St.