In celebration of House Foods America’s recently installed photovoltaic solar energy system, I donned a hard hat for a tour of their Garden Grove, Calif., facility to learn about the role solar panels play in the production of a food much-loved by vegetarians: tofu!
A representative from Blue Oak Energy, the company responsible for installing the Sharp modules across the House Foods rooftop, explained that the arrays absorb photons from the sun and convert them into electrical power (much like photosynthesis), then send the energy to a grid installed on the side of the building. By generating energy during the day, House Foods reduces its carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 675,000 pounds a year!
I swapped my hard hat for a hairnet as our group made its way towards the tofu assembly line. Vats of soybean milk mixed with calcium coagulated into curd form and was poured into rectangular metal boxes that, when pressed, created large blocks of firm tofu. The tofu blocks were then sent through a watery bath (the same water that keeps the tofu fresh in its package), sliced into squares, sealed, and sent soaring across overhead conveyer belts toward west coast restaurants and supermarkets.
Chef Nori Sugie, former Chef de Cuisine at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in New York, greeted us at the end of the tour for a tasting of soy-centric dishes. Using Mexico’s influence on So. Cal cooking as inspiration for his first dish, the chef prepared a colorful ceviche made with soft tofu, fresh corn, and diced jalapenos. Smokey tofu sliders followed. And for desert? French toast triangles with a side of soy ice cream.
—Sarah J. Montoro, guest blogger