Good Food Blog
Snap, crackle and popPosted at 5:40PM, 15 September 2010 by Stuart Walton - Food and wine writer
Forget snail porridge. The State Fair of Texas is where the innovative culinary action is. Not to be outdone by last year's winning entry, deep-fried butter, Mark Zable carried off the prize this year with his deep-fried beer.
Little ravioli-style parcels of pretzel dough are filled with beer, and are then flash-fried in oil quickly enough for the dough to crisp up while none of the alcohol is cooked off. Now there's no need to go through the tedious bother of lifting a beer can to your lips in between mouthfuls, because the beer just squirts right out at you while you eat. Nor are more sophisticated customers to be neglected. Next up from Zable will be deep-fried wine, pretzel pockets full of fruity Texan Riesling.
It's easy to sneer, but when pop comes to sizzle, we all love deep-fried foods
It's easy to sneer, but when pop comes to sizzle, we all love deep-fried foods. There is a worldwide predilection in cooked food for crunchy textures, the kind that are produced by the meeting of gooey batter with hot oil. Chinese cooking is full of crispness and crunchiness, and the takeaway industry as a whole would be lost without it, from buckets of chicken to onion bhajis to golden-battered cod. Who doesn't prefer properly cooked chips to even the best brands of frozen oven fries? Indeed, there is seemingly nothing that isn't enhanced by being submerged in sizzling oil, including of course the heroic Mars bar.
What is it about crunchiness in food that makes it so appealing? One theory is that there is no more obvious sign (sound?) that food has been cooked, so we are reverting to the days of the caves when cooked food was of more nutritional benefit, and so more crucial to survival. Others say crisp-cooked food releases happy hormones in the body, which may help you to forget that it's also furring up your arteries.
Most of all, though, crunchy food is satisfying because it constitutes the nearest thing there is to a total eating experience. The textural adventure that begins with that initial shattering of its surface between the teeth, followed by the sound vibrations that are transmitted along the jawbone to the ear canals while you chew, add up to a whole lot more activity in the mouth than eating something prosaically chewy.
Just try not to think about those arteries.