Y: Don, I always notice the texture of food most when I bite into something and the texture isn’t what I was expecting. That’s when I notice just how essential texture is to enjoying food.
D: I agree, Yaël: I know that I can instantly tell when gravy is gritty, or when fish chips have gone soggy, or that stale piece of bread that only looked fresh.
Y: If the texture of the food is unsatisfying, that has to do with mouthfeel—which is the feeling of the texture of food as we eat.
D: Mouthfeel is part of flavor. If a person finds the mouthfeel of a certain food unpalatable, they aren’t likely to incorporate it into their diet, even if the aroma of the food is pleasant.
Y: It’s not surprising, then, that researchers have found that sensitivities to certain textures partly explains pickiness in eating—and not just with children but adults too. The more surprising fact is that feeling a texture with one’s hands is related to the ability to appreciate it when you eat a food with a similar texture.
D: The science shows that exposure to textures that we’re unfamiliar with, or that we just don’t like, can actually help to increase our liking for foods with similar textures.
Y: In fact, research shows that if children play with food that they’re unsure they like, they learn to really appreciate it and its particular mouthfeel.
D: Good manners might keep us adults from playing with our dinner. But we can change the texture of foods that you may not otherwise enjoy by altering how you prep them. It’s also a good way to build a diverse diet.