The curd is the word

Images courtesy of Acadiana Soy

Whether you call it doufu, bean curd or tofu, it’s what Anna Anderson is making.

Anderson runs Acadiana Soy Products, making tofu and tofu-based foods. Her foodstuffs can be found throughout the HRM and in various stores throughout the province. But most people will recognise her products from seeing them at local farmer’s markets in the area. Passable sat down with Anna for one of our Passable Interviews to talk about her love of all things soy.

How did Acadiana Soy come to be?

In 1991 I began making tofu for myself because I wasn’t pleased with the tofu I was able to purchase in the stores. Back then, there weren’t many tofu-containing products in the local stores. But as well, the tofu quality was unpredictable. Sometimes it tasted fresh, sometimes it was a little sour. Also, I was a little curious about the process so I decided to try it out and see what I came up with. My sister gave me the book, “The Book of Tofu”, by Bill Shirtleff. I found the detail in the book fascinating, and I read it from cover to cover. I began selling tofu and tofu entrees at the Halifax Farmers’ Market. I registered the business as Little Bundles of Soy in 1991, reregistered it as Acadiana Soy Products in 1997.

What was the reaction when you first started?

In 1991 in Nova Scotia, tofu wasn’t taken very seriously so it was difficult to sell at the farmers market. People had either never tasted it before or had tried it once and didn’t like it. In order to change opinion, I made the tofu into brownies, dips, baked marinated slices, and offered sample tastes to customers at the farmers markets. I tried to make the tofu taste as close to what they were used to as I could. I passed out information and recipe sheets. Gradually, my sales grew to the point where I knew I had the beginnings of a successful business.

How many products do you make?

I mainly make tofu in plain and various herb varieties. I also make silken (soft) tofu, soymilk, smoked tofu. Then I have baked goods, dips, entrees, such as tofu pot pies, baked marinated slices, burgers; I probably have over 20 different products I offer at the farmers markets. In stores, only tofu, smoked tofu, burgers are offered.

Soybeans being ground at Acadiana Soy

How much tofu – as in raw product – do you produce on an annual basis?

At this time, we produce a little more than 200,000 pounds of tofu annually. When we supplied Atlantic Superstores we made twice that.

What do you want people to know about your product?

The two most important things at Acadiana Soy are the quality of the products we produce and the local economy. For these reasons the soybeans we use are certified organic and grown in Prince Edward Island, the cocoa, chocolate, coffee and sugar are fair trade, the flours are produced by Speerville Flour Mill in New Brunswick. Many of our other ingredients are organic and locally grown or produced when possible.

Why are local, organic and fair trade products important to you?

I have certain personal beliefs that I cannot ignore for any reason. I want to produce good tasting and healthy products. I also want to avoid manipulating, abusing, or taking advantage of people in the process of running my business. I want to support the people who live in the area in which I live.

Buying local products directly affects people who live in my area because it helps to provide jobs, keeping businesses and farms in the area operating and profitable for generations to come. I shop at the local Co-Op store for most of what I need, both for business purposes and personal. I’m a member of the store and what I want matters to the store and any profits made go back to the people like me who are owner-members in some way.

Using products that are organically grown is important to me for a couple of reasons: One, I want the food I eat and serve to people to be free of chemicals which have been shown to cause diseases and birth defects, and two, These chemicals can get into the water table and affect the health of people and animals. Using methods that replenish and build up the health of the soil for future use makes more sense to me.

I buy fair trade coffee, sugar and cocoa mainly because those are three of the food crops that do exploit the farmers and workers in other countries and there happens to be a coffee roasting business just down the road from me that sells these products. When I become aware of some unfairness happening I can’t ignore it.

Do these ideas limit you in any way?

Yes, they do. My costs are greater, profit less. Sometimes it’s difficult to get some products locally. Sometimes I’m tempted to go to the Bulk Barn or order through a distributor (usually US owned).

Have you ever thought of making other soy-based products, such as soy sauce, tamari or miso?

We’ve successfully made trial batches of tempeh from the okara (the ground, cooked soybean pulp) and miso. The results were very good and we look forward to having room and person to make these products as soon as we can.

Is it hard to find people to do this? what is involved in making these products?

A person can be trained to makes these products. They’re not difficult to make. For tempeh, the okara is mixed with the inoculant, put in bags with holes and incubated for a certain number of hours at a certain temperature, then packaged and frozen. It is sometimes difficult to find a person to be a reliable employee.

Do you think the quality of commercially produced tofu and tofu products has changed since you first started?

There are more varieties of tofu on the market, more flavour selections, now than before. However, I think the quality of tofu in the stores isn’t as good now. There are fewer smaller tofu producers. I suspect many of the larger tofu companies use processed soybean rather than the soybean which may account for the lack of soy flavour in the tofu.

In your opinion, how have consumers’ tastes’ for tofu and soy-based foods changed?

Consumers’ tastes have changed for the better. Many of them are demanding locally produced or grown product, fresh flavor, healthier, better quality ingredients. They want to know the producer or grower. More people understand the value of soy and are desiring to include tofu or soy products in their diet.

To find Acadiana Soy products, check out the Halifax Seaport Market, as well as at Local Source Market on Charles Street in Halifax.