On the Table

On the Table: A flashback to exotic eating in 1993

May 21, 2013 

My husband recently unearthed a time capsule of sorts hidden among a stash of old family videos. It’s a great illustration of just how much times have changed.

In the 1993 recording, I am a guest on “Good Morning America” representing Vegetarian Times magazine, where I served on the editorial advisory board. This was back when vegetarianism was still unusual enough to merit a segment on a talk show.

I take host Joan Lunden on a countertop tour of exotic vegetarian ingredients such as tofu and tempeh. Couscous and quinoa also made the lineup of what were then oddball foods.

My, how times have changed.

You may not eat tofu by the forkful today, but chances are good that you’ve tried – or at least heard of – some foods that are made with it. Twenty years ago, most of those foods were still totally outside the mainstream.

So in the video, Lunden samples a slice of tofu cheesecake. She gamely goes for a small scoop of chili made with crumbled tempeh, another soy product, in place of ground beef.

Then she approaches a scary-big glass of a beige-colored beverage. She takes a deep breath and braves a swig of soy milk … apparently for the first time.

The camera crew laughs but Joan pronounces the milk good enough that she could drink the whole glass.

And down the line we went.

Hummus was another wild and crazy item. Today, it’s not uncommon to find a half dozen varieties in your local supermarket and hummus sandwiches on restaurant menus, too.

Costco carries quinoa. And by now we’ve moved on from soymilk to drinking other milk alternatives such as almond and coconut milks. And no need anymore to go to a health food store for any of these products.

You can watch the GMA clip for yourself on my blog at: onthetable.typepad.com.

During the closing credits, you’ll see Charlie Gibson’s tortured grin as he’s forced to eat a tortilla chip dipped into tofu sour cream. He must have been hungry, and he survives long enough to reach for one more tofu-tainted chip.

Makes you wonder what we’ll be eating 20 years from now.

Suzanne Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor of health policy and management and nutrition at UNC-Chapel Hill. Reach her at suzanne@onthetable.net; follow her on Twitter, @suzannehobbs.

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