Understanding your foodie friends

May 18, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. ET

If you don't understand what in the world your foodie friends are talking about half the time, then bone up on some of the lingo. This little primer will explain a few key terms.

Friends cooking together

You love food and eating, but you wouldn't say you're a foodie. And you find yourself confused (but too embarrassed to admit it) when your foodie friends yammer on about a meal they've enjoyed and how it was cooked. To help you grasp the gist of what they're raving on about, here's a little guide to some of the terms they may be using. Who knows? You may even develop a greater appreciation for cuisine and cooking, and become a foodie yourself!

Molecular gastronomy

This is a cooking technique that involves applying the principles and methods of science. Using tools from science labs (liquid nitrogen, for example) and ingredients typically relegated to food science development centres are elements of molecular gastronomy. Creating foams to adorn plates is one example of the method, as is creating gelatin "caviars" that taste like other flavours, such as fruit. Chefs often associated with molecular gastronomy include Ferran Adria, Grant Achatz and Wylie Dufresne.

Sous-vide

Once only used by professional chefs in restaurant kitchens, sous-vide is a form of cooking that is making its way into the home cook's kitchen (maybe some of your foodie friends have tried it!). The method involves cooking food encased in airtight plastic bags in a bath of water set at a very low temperature (usually about 140 degrees Fahrenheit). As you might expect, given the low temperature, you have to leave the food cooking for a long period of time, often about 72 hours. The benefits of cooking sous-vide is that the food is cooked evenly inside and outside, and it remains juicier.

Amuse-bouche

Also called an amuse-gueule, this is a small serving of food (usually one-bite-sized). Often served in fine dining establishments, this free little accompaniment is meant to cleanse your palate so you're ready for your next course. It'll arrive at your table between courses (you don't order it off the menu).

Mouthfeel

This term is pretty self-explanatory. Mouthfeel is how a food tastes and feels when it's in your mouth — the tactile sensation as you chew it and let it envelope your tongue and teeth before you swallow it.

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