Because the laws of kashrut forbid consuming meat and dairy at the same meal, a lunch of a hamburger, for instance, cannot be followed by a dessert of ice cream. In the early 1980s, David Mintz solved this problem by selling a soy-based ice cream called Tofutti, the first such product to appear on the American market—paving the way for today’s abundance of faux-dairy foods. Mintz died last week at the age of eighty-nine. Hugh Merwin tells his story:
Mintz was born June 8, 1931, the son of a Williamsburg bread baker, and grew up in the neighborhood’s Orthodox Jewish community. After a brief stint selling mink stoles, he opened shops that sold prepared foods. One ingenious ploy involved Mintz’s promotion of the Jewish grandmothers he’d recruited in place of line cooks to prepare the most comforting foods: stuffed cabbage, fat knishes, perfectly rolled rugelach. The babushka strategy attracted long lines, Orthodox and not. “Finally I had to hire one grandma, a grandma foreman, to manage all the other grandmas,” Mintz told the New York Times.
David Mintz’s life changed in 1972, in a basement kitchen in Chinatown, where cooks transformed fresh soy milk into soft tofu for neighborhood dim sum parlors. . . . It took Mintz a decade to reverse engineer the taste and mouthfeel of various dairy ingredients that are forbidden, by Jewish law, to be served together with meat. He eventually learned that tofu could emulate the sour cream he felt should be dolloped on beef stroganoff, for example. Tofu emulsified with vegetable oil and alfalfa honey took on a butter-fatty texture and became the parve key to an ice-cream alternative that could triumphantly close out a fleyshik [meat] meal.
The market for Tofutti may have started with observant Jews—Mintz even sought guidance from Lubavitcher rebbe Menachem Schneerson, the venerated Orthodox Jewish leader—but it soon expanded to include the lactose intolerant, fad dieters, suburban vegetarians, and parents anxious to get their kids to eat plants on the sly. Early Tofutti flavors like carrot-raisin-apple, a riff on the Rosh Hashanah side dish tzimmes, also gave way to more serviceable chocolate and vanilla flavors, plus wildberry and banana-pecan.
Read more on Grub Street: https://www.grubstreet.com/2021/03/david-mintz-inventor-of-tofutti-rip.html