Food Texture and Happiness

The Lempert Report
February 10, 2016

Why you should know Adeena Sussman, and the movement she is hoping for...

Adeena Sussman is a recipe developer, author, former restaurant critic and began a series in Food Republic called Crispianity. Her premise is that foods that have “crunch” actually make us think more about what we are eating.

She points to a study in the Tamil area of Malaysia that in her words have a crunch-loving cuisine. A summation of that study: “The crunchy sensation produced when eating crispy foods evokes strong ideas of play, pleasure and delight. ... as it allows for extended mastication and the use of the muscles around the mouth.”

Our friend Oxford professor and IgNobel prize winner Charles Spence continues his work on the key role that the sound of crunchy food plays in our very enjoyment and perception of flavor. In his “Eating With Our Ears,” an article published in the 2015 journal Flavour, he relates the specifics of late-1980s market research on the chocolate coating for Magnum brand ice cream bars. In solving the problem of making a coating that stuck, R&D types got rid of the distinctive snap the chocolate made when consumers bit into it. Bottom line: The original formula had to be reinstated because consumers preferred the audible, edible crunch over chocolate that stayed put.

One of my favorite chefs, Michel Richard was one of the first to bring crunch to fine French dining adding crunch to a soft dish such as risotto, via a garnish of Rice Krispies, and wrapping fish in the shredded Mediterranean pastry called kataifi.   “When food goes to your mouth, the crunch gives it excitement!” he says. “I love the textures of crunch and moistness together. My first introduction to crunch was KFC when I was a young chef in America, and my fried chicken is still my favorite.”

For the rest of us home cooks, we toss nuts and seeds and bacon bits into salads and stir-fries; crumble potato chips into cookie dough; sprinkle flakes of Himalayan salt on steak; slip crisp pickle slices into sandwiches.