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Q&A: Texture

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Janet - much anticipated and now much enjoyed. Please tell us that there will be a Part III which goes into the practical applications of all you have taught us!

The very first dinner I cooked for company (more than 40 years ago!) consisted of:

Mashed potatoes

Cauliflower

Pork Chops

Only when it all appeared on the plate did it strike me that it was totally lacking in variety of colour or texture! I will never, never forget that but I still have problems introducing differing textures.

I suppose I am looking for an easy answer - a chart like those in (darn I will have to add the title when I find my copy!- Culinary Artistry by Dornenburg and Page - found it on my bedside table.) showing which flavours work well together. Then, if I am serving a steak, for example, I might choose from a selection of sides/garnishes that would offer some crunch or some creaminess - this one is perhaps too easy, but I think you get the picture.

Many, many thanks for your efforts in this course - I have learned much.

Edited to insert the name of the book I couldn't find.


Edited by Anna N (log)

Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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fascinating ...no questions..just views to be shared..i have been thinking about textures and flavours a lot lately...raised a vegetarian and a hesitant meat taster, i am completely floored by my inability to 'taste' meat..meat tastes like..well..'meat'...i cannot, to save my life, describe the texture of any kind of meat...interestingly, the only flavour that overwhelms me is the salt...i figured that that is the only recognisable flavour that registers inside my head...as my mind chants apologies to my dear departed grandmother ...my taste buds simply REFUSE to register the texture or taste of any kind of meat...

chicken- does absolutely nothing to me

veal-tastes like 'meat'

lamb-'meat'..none of the 'succulent explosions' that i keep hearing from my lamb loving friends

beef-it felt 'metallic'...and i have to say that it appealed to me

pork-salty

foie gras-it simply melted in my mouth...still salty

fish-salty

shellfish-dont care to remember...my food pipe swelled up

on the other hand, meat that has been 'hidden' subtly...like meats in soups...goes down well..but still doesnt register as a distinct taste or texture...sampling indian meat dishes has been an absolutely horrific experience for me..i cannot taste any of the meat, but am overwhelmed by the cacophony of spices that 'hide' the meat...the beef filet, on the other hand, was straight foward...there was nothing to obscure the 'flavour' or 'texture'...i have to say that it was the most honest meal i have ever had...and whats the deal with chicken anyways..i'll never understand..

re chemosensory irritants..here is something i read: the 'heat' in certain foods releases endorphins..the body's natural painkillers...the poor man's morphine...its opiate like nature gets us 'hooked' on to what is really pain...people get high on hot chilli peppers just like they get high on exercise or even BDSM...watch out for the pleasure junkies!

thank you, the article is truly appreciated

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Thanks, Anna. I'm glad you're finding it helpful.

In a way, I guess I presented Part III before Parts I and II, since way back at the beginning of the eGCI I did a class on Menu Planning. Maybe that will provide a little guidance.

I'm not sure about a true Part III here. In the meantime, I'll try to provide a little more practical advice on this thread.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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Thanks, Janet. I have, of course, paid attention to your course on Menu Planning and perhaps I am expressing myself poorly as to texture/colour tables.Maybe what I really mean might better be called garnishes.

Let me try again.

I love to make and serve ice cream but I want crunch with my cream. Tonight we are having a chocolate/hazelnut ice cream and it's basically a no-brainer - garnish with coarsely chopped and roasted hazelnuts.

I also make a sambuca ice cream and have yet to come up with a crunch accompaniment that works well. It could be a small cookie or something like (what I served the last time I made it) sugared phyllo squares.

Maybe we can all offer our little texture tips to this thread and build our own lists.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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I also make a sambuca ice cream and have yet to come up with a crunch accompaniment that works well. It could be a small cookie or something like (what I served the last time I made it) sugared phyllo squares.

Maybe we can all offer our little texture tips to this thread and build our own lists.

Supposedly the "classic" compliment to Sambuca is chewing on coffee beans then flaming the liquor, expelling the coffee beans and tossing the liquor into the mouth. Since I don't drink alcohol I couldn't say, however, considering the basic flavor, I would think a burnt sugar type of crunchy bits with coffee flavor might do.

Have you ever made expresso-flavored hard toffee? That can be broken up into small bits and stirred into ice cream as well as cream.

I make a whipped cream cake - just a plain angel-food cake cut into several thin layers, with whipped cream with this and toasted almonds folded into the whipped cream which is slathered on between the layers and all over the outside of the cake, then into the freezer for about an hour and a half to make it easy to cut.

Just a thought...........


"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

My blog:Books,Cooks,Gadgets&Gardening

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fascinating ...no questions..just views to be shared..i have been thinking about textures and flavours a lot lately...raised a vegetarian and a hesitant meat taster, i am completely floored by my inability to 'taste' meat..meat tastes like..well..'meat'...i cannot, to save my life, describe the texture of any kind of meat...interestingly, the only flavour that overwhelms me is the salt...i figured that that is the only recognisable flavour that registers inside my head...as my mind chants apologies to my dear departed grandmother ...my taste buds simply REFUSE to register the texture or taste of any kind of meat...

chicken- does absolutely nothing to me

veal-tastes like 'meat'

lamb-'meat'..none of the 'succulent explosions' that i keep hearing from my lamb loving friends

beef-it felt 'metallic'...and i have to say that it appealed to me

pork-salty

foie gras-it simply melted in my mouth...still salty

fish-salty

shellfish-dont care to remember...my food pipe swelled up

How fascinating. A couple of thoughts:

"Meaty" is a term often used to describe a texture as well as a flavor, and I suppose what most people mean by the term is a combination of factors: slightly chewy with some resisitance, but not tough; juicy and succculent; and substantial, for lack of a better term. When not applied to meat, it's used for mushrooms mostly.

As for the taste, well, meat, like all protein, is relatively high in glutatmates, so you have the umami (savory) flavor going on, plus the flavors of cooking (caramelization and Maillard-related flavors). I'm curious about the salty taste you detected -- was it because the meat was salted and that's all you picked up on, or did the meat taste salty on its own?

The "metallic" feel you detected is not surprising. If you've ever bit the inside of your lip or mouth, or otherwise tasted blood, you probably noticed a distinct metallic taste and feel. Although meat (ideally) contains very little blood, red meat contains similar compounds that can produce the same taste and texture, especially if it's rare.

Chicken, especially breast meat, is very bland -- chicken thigh meat has more flavor, but it's still relatively mild. I think the lack of strong flavor is one of the reasons that chicken breast meat is so popular -- many people don't like strong flavors, plus the neutrality provides a nice platform for all kinds of sauces and other treatments.

A little meat in sauces, soups or stews, even if it's not the main ingredient, can add a lot of "depth" to both the flavor and the texture: not only do you have the glutamates, which give you the umami taste and texture, but depending on the meat, you get fat, collagen and other substances dissolving into the liquid, which will give you a thicker, richer mouthfeel.

re chemosensory irritants..here is something i read: the 'heat' in certain foods releases endorphins..the body's natural painkillers...the poor man's morphine...its opiate like nature gets us 'hooked' on to what is really pain...people get high on hot chilli peppers just like they get high on exercise or even BDSM...watch out for the pleasure junkies!

Yes, I didn't really go into the detail, but that's what I was referring to when I talked about the "regulated doses of fear" that we get from capsaicin.


Janet A. Zimmerman, aka "JAZ"
Manager
jzimmerman@eGullet.org
eG Ethics signatory
Author, The Healthy Pressure Cooker Cookbook and All About Cooking for Two

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Thanks, Janet, for the "food for thought" in both courses. Nice that they were posted in and around the "Cooking For the Disabled" course. You have given me much to ponder. For Heidi, senses are everything. Far much more so than for the rest of us; most of us can isolate or assimilate the different textures and tastes. This is not the case for everyone; for some, the senses as individual senses, not integrated, rule. I will look at her likes, dislikes, obsessions and extreme dislikes in a different way, and consult your classes frequently!


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Janet,

I think I must be the most naive cook on the board but this course really has changed the way I approach the "tasting" part of cooking.

A couple of days ago I was forced by poor planning to whip up a home-made mayo. It just didn't taste right. I thought about your course once again and tried my best to analyze why it wasn't right. Bingo - as weird as it seemed at the time, and as risky a technique as I have dared to try, I added a little sugar! A few grains only but it turned the mayo right around! Perhaps the lemon juice was too tart on this occasion - who knows... the point is that you gave me the nudge to trust what I was tasting and to take remedial action. Once again, my thanks.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

Our 2012 (Kerry Beal and me) Blog

My 2004 eG Blog

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Nice piece, very tastefully done. :wink:

I would like to point out that tastes are harder to describe than textures. This makes sense because textures are also sensations that we experience in non-gustatory ways (i.e. skin sensations), whereas tastes are always related to food, and often become self-referential.

Examples: try to describe concrete in terms of texture (rough, grainy, sandy, abrasive, etc.) and then try to describe it's smell (in this case this is better than taste!)...musty, earthy...?

The okra example is great. Go ahead, try to find some words to describe the taste of okra. It ain't easy. Tastes like....okra. And if you chose other terms (vegetal?) they become either vague or they refer to other foods, like so many wine descriptions. A carbernet can have a green pepper taste, but what does green pepper taste like? Hard to put into words without referring to other foods.

I guess it comes down to the fact that texture is physical , whereas the majority of taste (the olfactory component) is less "concrete".


Chip Wilmot

Lack of wit can be a virtue

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Although only part way through reading

Janet A. Zimmerman, 'Science Of The Kitchen: Taste & Texture, Part Two', Jun 3 2004, 04:29 PM, eGCI.

in the interest of humanity and human compassion and decency, I fervently RUSH to warn Ms. Zimmerman to implement defensive measures against the impending actions of infuriated vengeful Media Content Enforcement Police seeking retribution and retaliation!

Of course, it is the high sworn duty of the Media Content Enforcement Police to keep all media content below the fifth grade and below the shoulders. Without special exceptions, content should be at the fourth grade or below; anything with arithmetic should be at the second grade or below. Content should connect with the heart, the gut, or a few inches below the belt. The principal techniques should be fear, anxiety ("Oh, we got Trouble ...."), scandal, perversion, passion, pathos, and poignancy. Graphs are to be included only as decorations. Chemical compounds and reactions are completely forbidden. Mathematical equations are to be regarded as Top Secret or higher and under the direct control of National Command Authority.

The only exception is some of the content below the belt can be permitted to be at the level of the sixth grade.

Under no circumstances is content to be permitted to rise above the shoulders. Anything between the ears is for the Media Content Enforcement Police the equivalent of terrorists with WMDs!

With considerable irony, the Media Content Enforcement Police had been assuming that anything about food would appeal almost exclusively to the gut, perhaps occasionally to the heart or below the belt, but had no risk of rising above the shoulders.

Now comes the incautious, indeed, courageous, Ms. Zimmerman openly discussing classes of chemical compounds and chemical reactions! In the central monitoring and control center of the Media Content Enforcement Police, the big threat board must be ablaze with red alerts from people around the world connecting, downloading, reading, activating neurons the Media Content Enforcement Police had long assumed to be safely permanently dead, achieving forbidden actual understanding and comprehension, letting just ordinary people get their hands on the control knobs of new and better things, threatening shockingly stimulative applications, and from both the understanding and the applications achieving intense forbidden pleasures from corresponding torrents of released endorphins!

We should be expecting the Media Content Enforcement Police to use their most modern and advanced weapons -- yelling, screaming, battering rams, and flaming skin bags of hot oil!

Coalitions should be forming as I type: Joining the Media Content Enforcement Police will likely be nearly all the well known media companies, owners of famous brand names of tasteless 'package goods', Associated Coalition of Franchised Fast Food, and more!

Opposing and joining in the defense of Ms. Zimmerman, on the side of freedom, knowledge, and progress, chanting "Free at last!" should be vendors of peppers, mustard, garlic, ginger, horseradish, anchovies, orange rind, lemons, vinegar, salt, wine, mushrooms, and much more!

Cooks of the world unite! Sharpen your knives; let your cutting boards be your shields; let your rolling pins be your clubs. After a long night of terrible struggle should come a bright new day of stimulated neurons, olfactory cells, taste buds, and more! Long live the Internet!


What would be the right food and wine to go with

R. Strauss's 'Ein Heldenleben'?

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Chicken, especially breast meat, is very bland -- chicken thigh meat has more flavor, but it's still relatively mild. I think the lack of strong flavor is one of the reasons that chicken breast meat is so popular -- many people don't like strong flavors, plus the neutrality provides a nice platform for all kinds of sauces and other treatments.

I find it's easier to taste chicken flavor in stock form. That way, texture doesn't get in the way as much. Perhaps comparing a homemade chicken stock with chicken bullion from a cube and a commercial canned or aseptically packaged stock might make it easier to pick up on the flavor (as opposed to the texture). Oh, and chicken is very sensitive to how it was kept, both before and after it died. A bird that was fed a healthy diet and had healthy living conditions will taste better. A bird that died quickly and with no pain will taste better. A bird that died recently (ideally just before it was cooked) will taste better. I know *what* it tastes like, but I don't have good words to describe it :-/.

FWIW, while chicken's flavor may not hit you over the head, there's a lot of the flavor compounds in one chicken. You get much more chicken stock from a single chicken's worth of bones and meat than you do from a comparable amount of beef bones and meat.

Emily

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