Commentary
5:00 am
Fri June 28, 2013

Food: Mouthfeel

Sea cucumbers, never again
Sea cucumbers, never again
Credit stu_spivack / Flickr

Lots of people I know are texturally sensitive eaters.

They won’t eat anything slimy, bouncy, gummy, gelatinous or spongy. Even the idea of tapioca pudding gives them the shivers.

I once shared a meal with a friend who, on encountering a piece of sticky, chewy beef tendon in the soup, spat it out and spent the rest of the meal miserably shuddering, while I ate the remainder of her pho.

I wasn’t born with this affliction. There are few things that really turn me off. I won’t eat sea cucumbers again (they were simultaneously crisp and gelatinous, with a bottom-of-the-sea-filter brininess that I will never forget), and I won’t eat insects, no matter how drunk I am or how crisply-fried and coated with lime and chili they are. But aside from that, bring on the strange.

Most people love the unctuous, gooey stickiness that comes from long-cooked collagen (think braised short ribs or lamb shanks), but they would rather not eat the boiled tendon or cartilage that it comes from on its own. I respect that, but I’ll eat your portion, if you don’t mind.

I am also surprised by how many people will not eat food that is attached to a bone. The no-bone people, I have noticed, don’t seem to have a problem gnawing anything batter-dipped, deep-fried and on a stick. Isn’t it sort of the same thing, minus the cartilage but plus the danger of putting your eye out? No-bone people won’t touch the hot wings, the pork ribs, the fish heads, the fried chicken backs, or the neckbone soup. They won’t eat anything that isn’t recognizably a cutlet, a fillet or a chop. SO boring and civilized. They are missing the primal pleasure of putting their canine teeth to work. Why do you think we have them in the first place? To tear flesh from bone, that’s why.

Think about that the next time you buy a package of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

This commentary originally ran on July 1, 2011

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