Food texture is as important to our gustatory pleasure as taste and appearance. Without chunks and cubes, strings and shreds, chewy versus soft sensations, the food experience is less complex. The juxtaposition of crunchy versus puréed, or raw versus cooked, makes food more enjoyable. When all colors on the plate are beige and brown, the food experience lacks vibrancy. And when all tastes on the plate are mild and in the same taste range the meal is bland. Each one of these food sensations merits a post in itself, but today’s is about texture.
I love a salad of raw shredded carrots, sometimes with added shredded red cabbage, or any other shreddable vegetable – makes for beautiful color combinations. The texture of it is very important to me. When the shreds are large, bordering on chunky, the experience is less pleasant. It feels rough and coarse. The finer the shreds, the more subtle it feels, and the better the shreds are able to meld with the dressing, adding to a more subtle overall experience.
Mirepoix is a French vegetable mix of onions, celery, and carrots that is often used as a base for roasts. The texture is all important. The dice have to be just the right size. Small enough so the tastes of all three vegetables meld together, but not too small to mush together, still almost distinguishable as small individual taste bursts, but not so you taste the chunks side-by-side.
When I grew up my dad used to emphasize the importance of cutting shallots for vinaigrette into super small dice so you would never bite on a sharp oniony bit. I love spaghetti squash for its fine stringy texture. Yet, a ratatouille, that Provençal vegetable combination of eggplant, zucchini, tomato, bell pepper, and onion, needs to remain chunky so the soft vegetables don’t disintegrate into a brown glop.
Sourdough bread can be chewy and I find that very satisfying, and I love to hear and feel crispiness. Soft French fries are simply not worth it, while half of what makes kale chips so much fun to eat is the crispy crunch under your teeth. Cherries are soft to bite into, while I enjoy a crispy apple that cracks when I bite into it – and when apples become mushy they go into the juicer, no mushy apples for me. What food textures do you enjoy?