April 2, 2009

It's All About the Texture

My au pair doesn't like couscous.

This is a surprise to me. I mean, it's couscous. Cooks up in minutes, minimal on the flavor spectrum, nice and easy. On the starchy sides scale, it's easier and about as interesting as plain rice or potatoes. And she's a plain food kind of girl.

Still, no go for her on the couscous.

I'm starting to think that half the world's likes and dislikes have more to do with texture than flavor.

All his life, my not-yet-ex-husband vehemently protested the addition of onions to a dish, sometimes crying allergies if he couldn't get his point across to wait staff. We were married a decade before I figured out the secret. I was making soup from scratch one day and desperately wanted the onions in it ... so I sauteed them, ground them to a pulp in my food processor, and put them back in the pot. Two whole onions, and not a single complaint from the peanut gallery. In fact, the dish got raves and a request for seconds, even thirds. I realized that, much as he might like to think otherwise, the issue was never one of flavor. It was simply the fact of the onion, its clearly observed presence, and its texture, that set off this intense reaction.

My lovable Aspie has always chosen his food - with the exception of permafaves pizza and macaroni & cheese - by their texture. I think this is a symptom of his hypo-tactile sensory integration issues. He needs stimulus. So when it comes to food, he wants hard, crunchy, tough or chewy. Or tongue curdlingly sour - yes, a taste, but one that produces a physical reaction.

I'm not much different. I will eat almost anything, but there are some foods - well, two, to be exact - that I avoid like the plague. Rye bread with caraway seeds, because little hard things that get stuck in your teeth simply do not belong in bread. Or in anything, for that matter. The second? Cottage cheese. The lumps get me every time. Actually, it reminds me of this coconut ice cream - I think it was called magpuno? - that I had when I lived in Manila as a kid. Little soggy pieces of frozen, grated coconut. It felt a lot like eating worm ice cream. Ick.

Couscous I can handle. Worm ice cream, not so much.

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