It was the cheese that first set off the alarm bells in my brain. Up until then, my usual Tuesday afternoon grocery shopping at LifeSource Natural Foods had gone as it usually does.
I had no clue that my vegetarian life would be upended before I reached the dairy aisle, my habitual final stop before heading to a checkout register.
Glancing at my list to see what my wife and I needed there, out of the corner of my eye I noticed that something had changed in the alternatives-to-meat section.
Cheese had taken over several feet of that section, oozing over from the already large cheese department to the right of it.
My sometimes still sharp senior citizen mind jumped to a logical conclusion: The cheese must have displaced some items in the eggs/alternatives-to-meat area.
Jumpy, but not yet panicked, I scanned the shelves for what I usually buy in that section.
Tofurky Treehouse Tempe? Yes, still there. Tofurky Plant-Based Chick'n Barbecue? Yes, still there. Hodo Tofu Veggie Burger? Oh, crap! It's missing!
I peered at the labels under some empty areas of the alternatives-to-meat section. None said "Hodo Tofu Veggie Burger."
My life didn't exactly feel like it was slipping away. Just markedly diminished.
For the Hodo Tofu Veggie Burger is by far the best vegetarian burger I've ever eaten. And since I've been a vegetarian for over 50 years, I've eaten a heck of a lot of them.
I make a Hodo burger for lunch almost every day.
I love the taste. I love the simple ingredients: organic tofu, carrots, cabbage, onions, soybean oil, salt, dried shiitake mushrooms, garlic powder, white pepper. I love the nutrition facts: 200 calories, 9 grams of fat (just 0.5 grams saturated), 9 grams of dietary fiber, 19 grams of protein.
The Hodo Tofu Veggie Burger kicks the butt of every other vegetarian burger LifeSource carries, in my admittedly personal opinion.
If the Hodo burger was in a boxing match against, say, the LightLife burger that's still on the LifeSource shelf, the referee would stop the contest after the first round, declaring a knock-out. It not only tastes great, and has great nutrition, it looks great after being fried in a pan.
I don't put anything on the Hodo burger, just some salt. Ketchup disguises the taste of the burger, which is so good, I don't want anything coming between me and my beloved Hodo Tofu Veggie Burger.
That's why I stopped by the Customer Service desk at LifeSource and asked why it was discontinued. I didn't get an answer to "why," but was told that someone else also had asked about the Hodo burger, being disappointed that it wasn't available now.
When I got home, I sent a message to LifeSource via their web site. I expressed my dismay at their dumping such a fine upstanding veggie burger, while allowing lesser quality veggie burgers to remain.
It's been about a week. I haven't gotten a reply from LifeSource.
I told LifeSource that Natural Grocers still carries the Hodo Tofu Veggie Burger, along with three other Hodo products such as the Chinese 5-Spice Tofu Nuggets that I like a lot. LifeSource how has no Hodo products.
Last Sunday I stopped by Natural Grocers, where I rarely shop, and stocked up on the Hodo burger. I also bought some other things that I usually get at LifeSource, as long as I was in the Natural Grocers store.
I'll ask LifeSource again why they discontinued the Hodo veggie burger. I've bought so many of them over the years, it seems like I should learn this. Maybe the Hodo burger, being tofu-based, fell prey to what I consider an irrational fear of tofu by many people these days.
Regardless, they'll have to pry the Hodo Tofu Veggie Burger out of my cold dead hands (leaving aside the question of who "they" is).
I just hope that Natural Grocers doesn't discontinue the burger -- which I doubt, since now they're the only place it can be bought in Salem.