Texture and Technology

Reading an article about a new high tech juice business in the New York Times, I was reminded of the warnings that regularly circulate among the food-interested that either nutritionists or food scientists will soon have all the rest of us consuming nothing but pellets for our meals. The fear is that food will be engineered for perfect nutrition without any thought of the traditional experience of eating. While nutritionists show no interest in these kinds of engineering hijinks, the occasional unaffiliated enthusiast emerges with an idea that radically departs from most of the norms of mealtime. Horace Fletcher was one of these. He theorized the textures of food as a barrier to nutrition and advised that one chew each mouthful many many times before swallowing. He probably would have loved Doug Evan’s juice business, which (as described in the NYT) does the chewing for you. For me, one of the delights of eating is the experience of multiple textures in any one meal. I suspect that as someone socialized into a western culture, I am missing out on some of the fun that cultures who use their hands more to eat enjoy. But for Evans, clearly, there is a triumph in his nearly uni-textural diet. He describes his liquid diet as “drinking the nectar of the earth.” This is not just a matter of expedience for him–too busy to chew!–but of preference. And so I reflected that my discomfort with the nutritionists-want-us-to-live on pellets panic has yet another angle, which is that there may be some who would delight in the experience of the pellet, those for whom lack of texture is the precise texture that appeals most.pellets