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texture vs creaminess

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On shows like Top Chef, I often hear the tasters complaining that a dish doesn't have
texture. What does that mean, specifically? I have an idea of what "texture" would feel like in the mouth, yet I also hear so many shows describing their food as "creamy". My assumption is that
"creamy" is the opposite of "having texture"......but certainly they are describing a dish as
"creamy" in a GOOD way.

Do all dishes HAVE to have texture to be good?
Can you give me an example of something, say a sandwich, that has texture, versus a sandwich that does not?

(hope this makes sense to someone, LOL)

Thanks, Sue

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  1. Perhaps a lack of texture is really a lack of play between different textures. In a sandwich, I can imagine a nice chewy artisan bread would play off the texture of the crisp veggies and the juiciness of the meats and the creaminess of the cheese. Unlike say a Subway sandwich where the bread is squishy, the meat is squishy, the cheese is floppy, and the veggies sort of even lack crunch thus the sandwich lacks the interplay of various textures. It becomes "one note."

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jen76

      I think you nailed it on the head, Jen.

      When people say "lack of texture" they are really referring to the lack of interplay between different textures.

      If I got a dessert of ice cream, topped with chocolate syrup and whipped cream, I would say the dish lacked texture because all three ingredients all essentially have a smooth, creamy mouth-feel.

      Now, if I got a dessert of ice cream, chopped nuts, served on a chocolate chip cookie, then I would say that the dish had nice texture to it because I get the smooth creamy from the ice cream and the crunchy from the nuts and cookie.

      1. re: ipsedixit

        "had nice texture" and a contrast of textures, which makes eating it infinitely more interesting.

        1. re: ipsedixit

          agreed. however, thick gooey chewy fudge on ice cream is a different story...

      2. Compare two ham sandwiches. Both have sliced ham, sliced cheese, lettuce, tomato, and a mayo-mustard spread.

        One comes on plain white bread, with american cheese and boiled rectangular processed ham with a wilted leaf of iceburg and refrigerated tomato slice. It's mealy, mushy, sticks to the roof of your mouth and to the teeth & gums. It's the sandwich equivalent of overcooked pasta.

        The other comes on a toasted rustic semolina with muenster, baked ham sliced off the bone, curly leaf lettuce and the tomato has been allowed to remain unrefrigerated prior to slicing open. This sandwich has crunch, you need to gently tear the meat apart with your teeth, there's no mealiness, the separate components of the sandwich don't become a wad of sameness in the mouth as you chew. It's the sandwich equivalent of al dente pasta.

        Creaminess is partly a texture and partly the mouthfeel of richness that comes from fat.

        3 Replies
        1. re: weezycom

          Food texture is defined as "A food property that describes the compositional quality of the food as it is perceived by the mouth and taste organs during ingestion." and further along "Combination of physical properties perceived by senses of kinaesthesis (muscle‚Äźnerve endings), touch (including mouth feel), sight, and hearing. Physical properties may include shape, size, number, and conformation of constituent structural elements."- A Dictionary of Food and Nutrition, David A. Bender, author, 2005

          Mouthfeel is a very close cousin to texture, being is a term used to describe the physical and chemical reactions noted in the mouth when eating, and is a concept used in wine-tasting and food rheology, the study of the alteration and flow characteristics of matter in terms of viscosity and friction (too geeky for me). Alternately, the word texture is sometimes substituted for the word mouthfeel when describing wine, but that's a different thread. The difference between texture and mouthfeel is compositional quality of the food product as perceived by the mouth, and the physical sensation the food imparts as perceived by the mouth.

          Creaminess is thought of as a texture that provides a certain mouthfeel (sensation), as does any other type of texture. Texture is not defined as being just crunchy, crispy or chewy, that is, something with bite, but more the general structure and disposition of the component of a food product. "creamy" is the opposite of "having texture" quoted from the OP; creaminess can't be described as a component of a food product lacking texture; creaminess is texture.

          Other posters have given pretty good examples of sandwiches, while containing texture, (mealy and mushy are textures; lack of crunch doesn't mean lack of texture) are severely lacking in pleasant mouthfeel, imo. That is subjective, of course, because one person's mealy, mushy or gummy texture is another person's preference. Personally, I'll take some good crispy crunch any day.

          Plain old vanilla ice cream, containing a creamy texture and a sensuous mouthfeel, can be quite one note also, flavor- and texture-wise (hence the expression, "...so vanilla"); that's why it's often topped with food products containing other textures (and flavors), like nuts or fruit, to break up the flavor and textural monotony. Ice cream, on the other hand, reigns in mouthfeel.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            "lack of crunch doesn't mean lack of texture"

            I said, "lack of play between different textures." It's the judges on the show that say something "lacks texture." The OP is just trying to figure out what that means since, similar to what you said, everything has a texture, it just may not be pleasant to the perceiver.

            1. re: Jen76

              I wasn't referring to what you wrote in your post when I responded; just the texture in the sandwiches described, and expounding on the definition of texture.

              However, lack of play (I think you mean contrast) in textures in any given dish would definitely be an issue, if I was a Top Chef judge. Maybe that's what the judges are referring to.

        2. I don't know food as well as other here, but I think a lot has to do with expectation. It comes down: does the food have the texture you expected. We have a certain expectation of what steak texture should be or a mashed potato should be. If they live up to their expectation, we praise. If not, we criticize. Imagine if your rib eye steak has a texture of mashed potato, or your mashed potato has the texture of a steak. So there is no single optimal texture for all food.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Yes, it's certainly about expectations; that comes from the experience of eating a certain food, expecting a certain texture based on experience, and responding to it either favorably or not, flavor and texture-wise; what texture and mouthfeel one enjoys or not is very subjective. Beyond that, any change in the expected texture we have of a food ("rib eye steak has a texture of mashed potato") can be off putting, even upsetting.

            I love chewy and crunchy things, like chips or a good bagel or celery, but I can't handle crunchy cartilage, so you won't see me eating chicken feet at a dim sum place. It's not the flavor of the chicken foot, it's the particular crunch of cartilage. I don't enjoy that kind of crunchy texture.

            "No single optimal texture for all food" if I understand clearly what you mean to say by that; it's certainly a good thing; what a boring world it would be if all food products had the same "optimal" texture (given the varieties of food textures we already experience every day, if that was suddenly taken away). Variety and contrast, what it's all about with food, for the most part, and the lack of textural contrast was possibly what the Top Chef judges were referring do, as Jen76 pointed out. I wish I knew the components of the dish or dishes the judges were commenting on.

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              :)

              Yes, pretty much I said the obvious. I wanted to point out that everything has a texture -- even a bad texture like a steak feels like mashed potato However, when a food judge says a dish lacks texture, he/she probably means it lacks contrast texture, so I agree with you and Jen76

          2. Pay no attention to those guys on the other side of the TV screen. Half the time they're groping for words and just talk to fill air time. "Creaminess" *IS* a texture! Just as graininess, or lumpy, or smooth, or slimy or stringy are all textures. Are all textures good or bad all of the time? No. My only regret is that so little actual cooking is shown on most of today's "cooking' shows. I'm recording all of the French Chef shows they're running on the Cooking Channel. It's nice to be able to watch someone who shows you what she's doing!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Caroline1

              Yup, all foods have texture (even foam).

              There are no "good or bad" textures IMO, just whether the texture is appropriate for the dish served.

              1. re: Caroline1

                I thought creamy *was* a texture until I read the replies! Thanks for confirming my gut instinct :)

              2. I always think gnocchi has no texture but I do love it with a creamy pesto - though there comes a point where I just can't eat any more because every mouthful feels the same.

                1 Reply
                1. re: smartie

                  That's called the law of diminishing returns.