Article by Jozef Youssef on GBC – Sandpaper and silk: texture and flavour perception

What is texture in food? Is texture what we see? Feel in our mouth? A tactile sensation or sound? What role does texture play in our enjoyment of food? For this article in his multisensory exploration series with Great British Chefs, our founder Jozef Youssef explores the role of texture in food.

Sandpaper and silk: texture and flavour perception

by Jozef Youssef 17 November 2015

Chef Jozef Youssef takes a look at how texture can affect flavour perception and the experience of eating.

For the penultimate article in my series on multi-sensory dining, I am tackling texture. This may well be the shortest article of the five because, of all the senses considered in relation to gastronomy, touch (along with sound) is one of the least researched. This is mainly due to the fact that conventional definitions of flavour do not include texture. But how important is the role of texture in experiencing flavour?

Does texture matter?

Let’s start out with something very simple to help us answer this question; what makes a crisp, a crisp? Think of your favourite crisp brand. Flavour will factor into your choice, but is that all that makes them your favourite? For many, it is the size, thickness (or thinness) and the mouthfeel – the crunch in the mouth (which also belongs in the sound domain) – which, along with a particular flavour, make up the characteristics of their favourite crisps. Dare we say the texture, weight (and sound) of the packet itself may even be a characteristic which endear us to our favourite brand?

Think about throwing all the elements of your next Sunday roast in a blender before serving it to your family and friends. If texture was irrelevant to flavour, those beautiful crispy potatoes, rare beef, perfectly cooked vegetables and home-made gravy would be just as delicious after a good blitz. Clearly we have certain associations, perceptions and preferences for the physical attributes of food which go beyond just how they look and taste.

So far so simple. Everything I have mentioned above is hardly mind blowing, nor is it really that experimental, but it is important to highlight the role that texture plays in the simplest terms. I’m now imagining that perfect crème brûlée with a glass-like sugar disc waiting to be shattered into velvety custard. The texture is a big part of what makes it a great dish – a disappointing top equals dissatisfaction.

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