Sunday, December 1, 2013

Ask Sadie: Kitchen Cut-ups

It’s been awhile since our friend Sadie weighed in with her helpful opinions and advice:
I’ve turned to Sadie because a reader’s email has me flummoxed. I’m running his letter in full because I feel he’s hit a hot button that affects many readers. So from Pompano Beach, Fla., here’s Max W.’s question:

Dear Nicole Parton:

Does size matter? Sometimes when my wife prepares ingredients for a salad or some other dish, I think she may be slicing and dicing them too small. When I’ve hinted that she might cut a few things larger for variety, my input hasn’t been all that welcome. Am I out to lunch, or can the size of chopped ingredients affect more than their appearance? I think ingredient size actually does matter, and that it affects more than presentation.  

“I believe the overall texture of how food feels in your mouth is important, and that the quality of that experience is important. I also believe ingredient size can affect taste - for better or for worse. There’s also the practical side of things. When onions, bell peppers, celery, radishes, and green onions are finely minced, they fall out of rolled tortillas and evade capture by the fork in salads.  

“If size matters, are there any general guidelines to determine which foods get cut which way, when, and why? How do I tactfully make a case to my wife to consider better chopping options?”

The Chicago Bugle

Advice to the Lovelorn: Ask Sadie 
Need answers? Ask Sadie!

Dear Max: Why don’t you do some of the cooking? And yes, size does matter. I can’t say too much on that topic in a family newspaper. Any chance you might slip away to Chicago? Mazel tov.

From Nicole: Oh, dear! That wasn’t the kind of answer I was expecting, but to give Sadie the benefit of the doubt, I’m sure she was talking about food rather than … It’s always wise to get a second opinion, so I’ve turned to nutritionist and author Judy Toews, who knows Florida well. Unfortunately, Max, my plea that Judy cook for you on her next visit fell on deaf ears, but this was her reply:

Dear Nicole: A fine chop will expose more surface area, but a mouthful of finely chopped food can slip down the throat before you fully taste it. Crunch into a chunk of green pepper on your pizza and you get a nice pop of flavor. Most of us enjoy a variety of distinct textures. Some moms blenderize veggies and throw them into spaghetti sauce to trick their kids into eating them - an example of loss of a distinct flavor by breaking a food into teensy bits.

So there you have it, Max! I’m not aware of any guidelines,” but recipes often give prompts to chop foods coarsely” or finely.” Such prompts hint at the mouth feel of the variety of textures and tastes most of us enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. As for how large or small to cut salad veggies, I would say definitely not too small because the food will spoil more quickly that way. Take an apple, for instance. Cut in half, the half exposed to air will turn brown.

    Cut in quarters, there is more area exposed to turning brown. Chopped, even more. I would rather bite into
    a quartered apple than a sliver (1/16" of the apple) or a 32nd or 64th. I'd rather see little curved pieces of celery than diced. Make it too fine and you don't know what it is anymore, and yes, it is hard to pick up with the fork.

    However, coleslaw is best finely shredded. But not minced the way they make it at Swiss Chalet, or some of the supermarkets -- that is horrid. Cabbage mash murdered by food processor serial killer, then drowned in salad dressing - Ellen


Want to find a long-lost favorite recipe? Want to submit one of yours, or simply leave a comment? Always happy to hear from you!