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Friday, March 19, 2010

Items of texture

Usually, when food is reviewed or written about, flavor is mostly spoken of in terms of the sensations of taste and smell. However, texture is a powerful component of that dining experience. Many people who profess to not liking tomatoes, for example, have no problem consuming it in sauce or salsa form - they simply object to its texture (probably from a bad experience with mealy refrigerated tomatoes).

I liken texture to a drummer in a band - it may not be in the forefront of your experience, but it forms the framework in which the song comes together. In the processed food heavy world of the Western diet, thickeners and other texturizing elements are often used in packaged foods, and may not be immediately obvious to the home cook. For example, just about all packaged heavy cream incorporate carageenan, a seaweed derived thickener that confers a fuller "mouthfeel". So that lower butterfat content doesn't appear that way. Probably why American cream is less rich than say, British cream.

On the other hand, numerous ingredients in Chinese cooking are revered simply for their textural properties. In fact, two of the most expensive items in Chinese cookery - shark's fin and bird's nest - don't have flavor of their own at all, but are used purely for their textural capacity. Other ingredients prized for their textural contribution include sea cucumber (may be an acquired taste for the Western palate), and silver fungus.

1 comment:

  1. Absolutely texture is important! I love triscuit crackers because of the texture with smooth cheese. My father hates that cornbread crumbles on him. My husband didn't like mushrooms because he didn't like the way it was in his mouth. (since I put mushrooms in almost everything I cook, I have wore him down some.)