There are times when I am convinced that the world is divided into two types of eaters -- those of us who do not like cruchy foods and everyone else: times when a friend serves sole almondine for dinner and I discreetly scrape off the almonds into a pile behind the carrots; times when I bite into an egg-salad sandwich only to find large chunks of celery hiding amid the filling; times when I furtively penetrate a piece of chocolate in an attempt to determine whether a nut lies inside waiting to pounce.
If you too have had times like these, you are a hater of crunchy foods. While crunchy-food lovers can and will eat soft foods without apparent discomfort, crunchy-food-haters go out of their way to avoid anything that makes their jaws work overtime.
Unlike religion or a sibling who passes bad checks, you cannot hide an aversion to crunchy foods if your social life includes eating with other people. Disliking foods that your family and friends probably crave can cause you to become a culinary outcast if they decide your fetish is to be derided rather than pitied. Onions, celery, nuts, potato chips become weapons in a war of the kitchen.
The crunchy-food problem falls into several categories. There are those foods that can please both lovers and haters of crunch -- but only one group at a time. These foods include crisp vs. chewy chocolate-chip cookies, brownies with or without nuts, chunky vs. smooth peanut butter. Then there are foods whose crunchiness is dependent on the length of cooking time: French fries, pizza crust, toast. This is particularly importants in the case of vegetables, which can range from crispy raw for use with dips to steamed limp in cafeterias.
Do crunchy foods qualify for inclusion in the phrase "you are what you eat?" Random testing of crunchy and noncrunchy eaters proved inconclusive.Initial conjecture that upbringing made a difference to future preference (e.g., that in a wealthy home all the food was cuisinarted to the consistency of mush) was disproved. Other factors that were discarded are sex, age, occupation and the diner's feelings toward his or her mother.
But while the crunch trait is not readily found in the genes or society, it appears that geography might play a role in one's crunchiness quotient. In Southern California, the healthfood obsession means crunchy raw vegetables and granola, while Philadelphinans wolf down pretzels of the soft and chewy variety. In many towns, the preferred ice cream is not solid, hand-dipped scoops but soft custardy cones.
Ice cream is a good example of the divisive nature of crunch. Ask a crunch-hater to choose a Good Humor bar and he or she will select a melt-in-the-mouth Humorette. A crunch-lover will order something along the line of a toasted-almond bar. And watch people when they choose toppings in an ice-cream parlor. The crunch crowd gravitates to jimmies (a.k.a. sprinkles), M&Ms, chocolate chips, shredded coconut and the invidious nuts. The noncrunchers hit the whipped cream and hot fudge. a
Nuts, of course, are Public Enemy No. 1 to crunch-haters. They invade candy, hide inside some foods and taunt on top of others, and are anything but inscrutable in Oriental cooking.To one who despises crunch, the only good nut is an unshelled one.
Sometimes one cannot avoid crunch. If you are Jewish, the sacrifice of Passover takes on added meaning during eight days of sandwiches made with matzoh instead of bread.
But in most cases, where there's a will there's a way to avoid the crunch. Once when I had some stomach problems, my doctor told me to eat dry toast. No butter or jelly could soften the crisp repast. The solution? I simply wrapped the hot toast in foil for several minutes until it selfsteamed to an edible sogginess.
If nothing else, those of us who dislike crunch in a crunch-lovers' world learn to be resourceful.