Food - Drink
How A Founding Father And A Spy Brought Tofu To The Global Stage
Tofu was originally developed during China’s Han Dynasty over 2000 years ago before appearing relatively recently in the Western world. The mention of tofu in the West, though, can be traced back to Benjamin Franklin in his letter to a botanist friend, John Bartram.
Franklin sent Bartram a few soybean seeds in a letter praising the “Chinese cheese” called “tau-fu,” though neither likely ever made it. The letter, however, signifies the awareness of tofu, reflecting the growing agricultural curiosity and rapid global exchange of knowledge in the 18th century.
Interest in tofu rose in the West after Li Shizeng, a Chinese spy, enrolled in an agricultural school in Montargis during a mission and instead found a love for educating his peers about tofu. Shizeng left military school to research tofu and soy, and in 1908 turned tofu into a business.