Friday, 17 May 2024

Foodie Freak: Thoughts on soy milk

After a comment about my wife/editor being funny and people wanting to hear more from her, I thought we could have some fun and have her write a column about something that we’re starting in our house. So, ladies and gentlemen, presenting my wife’s first time writing a food column (this will give me a break from her complaints about my run-on sentences and punctuation use).

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OK, so you probably aren’t going to believe me on this one, but give me a chance. We’ve recently tried using soy milk for the first time and ... and ... it’s good! I know, I’m as stunned as you are!

Over the past year, my husband and I decided it was time to start eating healthier. We cut way back on saturated fats and red meat, eat fewer calories, watch the sodium levels, get more fiber, and wherever possible cut out convenience items and make things from scratch. My husband has actually been the catalyst for this change, as I have very little willpower at all. Since he does the grocery shopping and the bulk of the cooking, it’s pretty easy for me to just sail along with it. But when he brought home soy milk, I thought, “Well, this experiment is doomed to fail.”

I tried soy milk a few years ago when it was only available at the health food stores, and I could barely swallow it. It tasted watery and still had a hint of vegetable flavor. Pour this over my cocoa nuggets? Put this in my coffee? Not a chance. But the soy milk my husband brought home recently has evolved from the earlier offerings and has gone mainstream. There’s no longer any hint of vegetable taste, and it’s richer than what I previously experienced. It even comes in fancy flavors like vanilla and chocolate.

The first soy milk we tried was the vanilla flavored. It tastes good all on its own, kind of like a melted milkshake, and when used on cereal it actually makes things taste better. If you have a cereal you normally add sugar to, you won’t need to if you use the vanilla soy milk.

One of the biggest tests it faced with me was, how’s this going to taste in my coffee? I’m one of those folks that don’t function well until I’ve had my morning coffee, and I like mine with all the trimmings. Once a week I allow myself real whipped cream in my coffee, so I was doubtful about how something that’s made up of ground beans would compare (and yes, I get the irony that coffee is ground up beans).

The soy milk works surprisingly well. The purpose of putting milk or any other dairy in coffee is to eliminate the bitterness, and it does this job just great. So we (I mean, my husband) started cooking with it. He put some of it in some mashed potatoes it didn’t work. The vanilla flavor made it taste like a quadruple-thick, but warm, milkshake. Yecch!

So the vanilla soy milk got its foot in our door, but only for applications where a little sweetness is desired. So on the next grocery run the plain unsweetened variety made its first appearance. It also passed my coffee test (the plain is similar to regular milk, but I prefer the vanilla flavor), does well on cereal and works better than I expected in recipes.

For example, we substituted the soy milk for regular milk in some mac ‘n cheese, and it was barely noticeable that there had been a switch. There was a slight difference in texture, but not enough to be an issue. So far, we haven’t found an application where the soy milk hasn’t performed as well as regular cow’s milk, except one: my cats looked at me like I was trying to pull a fast one on them when I offered them the soy milk. It’s heartbreaking to see the disappointment on their little kitty faces ...

Soy milk is a beverage made from soy beans. It is a stable emulsion of oil, water and protein, and is produced by soaking dry soybeans and grinding them with water. Soy milk is nutritionally close to cow's milk, though most soy milk available today is enriched with vitamins such as B12. It naturally has about the same amount of protein as cow’s milk.

Unlike cow's milk it has little saturated fat and no cholesterol, which many consider to be a benefit to the cardiovascular system. Since soy doesn't contain galactose, a product of lactose breakdown, it can safely replace breast milk for children with a lactose intolerance. In many countries, this product may not be sold under the name milk since it is not a dairy product, hence the name soy drink.

Soybean milk is reputed to have been discovered and developed by Liu An of the Han Dynasty in China about 164 BC. Liu An is also credited with the development of "Doufu" (soybean curd) in China, which 900 years later spread to Japan where it is known as "tofu". Tofu is made by coagulating the protein from soy milk, just as cheese is made from milk.


I’m sure that my husband will now try to make his own homemade tofu out of soy milk, “just to try it.” He’s always doing things like that, experimenting and concocting, “just to try it.” It may sound good to some of you women out there – you’re thinking how nice it is to have a husband who does the majority of the cooking, and for the most part I am grateful not to have that daily chore. But many evenings I’m served a plateful of food that I can’t recognize, and I think to myself (sometimes I think out loud), “I just wish he’d make me a plain ol’ potato.”

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community. His wife, Lacy, who wrote this column, edits his weekly columns for Lake County News.


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