Now comes word from Ben Franklin 300 (via Robin Shreeves at the Mother Nature Network) that Franklin is the first American documented as
The tercentenary site quotes this letter from Franklin in London to naturalist John Bartram in Philadelphia on 11 Jan 1770:
I send, also, some green dry Pease, highly esteemed here as the best for making pease soup; and also some Chinese Garavances, with Father [Ferdinand] Navaretta’s account of the universal use of a cheese made of them, in China, which so excited my curiosity, that I caused inquiry to be made of Mr. [James] Flint, who lived many years there, in what manner the cheese was made; and I send you his answer. I have since learnt, that some runnings of salt (I suppose runnet) is put into water when the meal is in it, to turn it to curds.This letter was transcribed differently in nineteenth-century editions of Franklin’s works, leaving out the phrase about “Tau-fu.” Pamela Roper Wagner writes at the Oxford English Dictionary site that this letter antedates the next appearance of “tofu” in English writing by over a century. As for “garavances,” which Franklin thought soybeans were similar to, those are now better known as garbanzo beans.
I think we have Garavances with us; but I know not whether they are the same with these, which actually came from China, and are what the Tau-fu is made of. They are said to be of great increase.