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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Column: Tofu chili

I made tofu chili in my house last week. It was kind of a big deal. For the last two years, I purchased and consumed a small tofu chili from the CoHo marketplace nearly every single day I was on campus. To this day, if I so much as catch a whiff of tofu chili, I can instantly determine the quickest path to Wellman Hall. You might say I’m an evangelist for tofu chili. To the enlightenment of friends, I preach its affordability, nutritional value, satiety and spicy-yet-reasonable taste. Don’t worry; this is not a column solely about tofu chili. But seriously, try it. Right now.

My last column is more about what it meant to me, and the corresponding symbolism of preparing it in my own home. Tofu chili was once a thing I thought I would miss about Davis. There aren’t too many places out there that bring this nomming sensation together for $2.25 at the register of my friend Loni. I figured I would enjoy the dish like a fleeting moment and sing its gospel to others. For two years, that’s exactly what I did.

And then my roommate brought home this vegetarian chili mix from the Co-op. This probably says a lot about my character, but it never occurred to me that I could make my own tofu chili, with my own ingredients, in the comfort of my home. With leftover tofu, some green beans, soybeans, chili and the mix, I made it the next day at the (and this probably also says a lot about my character) rough cost of one dollar. I’m not the type to boast, but let’s just say my homemade tofu chili brings all the roommates to the yard. And I’m like, it’s better than yours.

Of course, tofu chili wasn’t the only thing I was going to miss about this place. I’m going to miss sushi buffets with the first friends I made here. I’m going to miss staying at the MU way too late just to hang with some folks I knew would be there too. I’m going to miss the regret of cramming papers and studying for exams at the last minute. I’m going to miss the Arboretum at night, Late Night at the DC and closing time at the ARC.

I’m going to miss how mind-bogglingly helpful and kind students, staff, faculty and administration on this campus have been to me day in and day out. I’m also going to miss the rallies and demonstrations that brought thousands of Aggies together. I’m going to miss the distinctly UC Davis way in which these last two items were never mutually exclusive.

And I’m going to miss writing this column and fighting with my beloved editors Melissa and Jeremy every week and getting put in my place because they’re (usually) right. I’m not going to miss the prohibition on using the Oxford comma.

With so much to miss, I look to tofu chili for the final gift it has given me — a way to deal with moving on. I don’t think graduation is an exercise in dealing with loss. I think it’s a challenge to recreate the magic of college in countless little ways as we make our way into the real world. In some cases, that means literally recreating tofu chili in your own kitchen. In others, it means keeping in touch with old friends, procrastinating other deadlines, finding new places to explore in the night and returning kindness while honoring your sense of activism.

For all these items and more, I haven’t yet determined the recipes. But I have the right ingredients.

If you’re even a little interested in following RAJIV NARAYAN as this gig concludes, you can find his likeness online at http://www.rajivnarayan.com/blog. Until commencement in June, he may be ridiculed at rrnarayan@ucdavis.edu.

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