Saturday, February 11, 2012

Mindfulness at the Dinner Table

I ignored a recent article at the New York Times, Mindful Eating at Food for Thought, mindful of my 20-article limit per month.  But when it crept to the top of the Most Read list, and stayed there, I decided it was time to read it.  I should memorize it.

The lead quote from the article's author, Jeff Gordinier encourages us to put "a forkful of food in your mouth," and in order to pay attention to it, we must do "the hard part" of putting "the fork down. This could be a lot more challenging than you imagine, because that first bite was very good and another immediately beckons. You’re hungry."

He goes on to say that "Today’s experiment in eating, however, involves becoming aware of that reflexive urge to plow through your meal like Cookie Monster on a shortbread bender. Resist it. Leave the fork on the table. Chew slowly. Stop talking. Tune in to the texture of the pasta, the flavor of the cheese, the bright color of the sauce in the bowl, the aroma of the rising steam.Continue this way throughout the course of a meal, and you’ll experience the third-eye-opening pleasures and frustrations of a practice known as mindful eating."

I once took a "food" class where the moderator attempted to retrain us on our eating habits.  This was ages and ages ago, and it was in conjunction with yet another approach to losing weight.  I think I've been on just about every diet in the world--well, at least many of them.  Part of this was a desire to lose the weight after a baby and part of it was defense due to unrelenting criticism on how I looked from the person I was married to at that time.  The experiences I had during that time marked me, and perhaps skewed my vision of, and my response to, shedding weight.  Not only have I been on countless diets and eating plans, but I have also read countless articles on eating, obesity, weight gain, weight loss.

But this article doesn't mention weight loss as the goal, anywhere, but only how to enjoy our food--the textures, tastes, the temperature, the fragrance--all of it.  After years of trying to get through a plate of food--quickly, before the baby did, or the teenager had to be driven somewhere--this advocates a thoughtful approach to eating.  Like what we did in one lovely restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as we dissected the brilliantly designed salad, bite by bite, flavor by flavor.  We photographed and documented it, and I wrote down the list of ingredients in my travel notebook. (Don't worry, the restaurant was nearly empty--we were early birds.)  We were eating mindfully.  From my travel blog, I wrote:

The “Mayhem” salad was a work of art, which we planned to share, bit by savory bit.  We wrote down what was in it as we went:
thin slice of turnip
wedges of radish, roasted zucchini, roasted yellow squash
“quickled” beet–a beet pickled quickly, in other words
pea pod
puree of butternut squash
smear of balsamiced honey
shiitake mushroom jelly (that was a new on on us–kind of like clear little lumps)
quickled fiddlehead
quickled cucumber (English-type, julienned)
confit of quickled onion
poached whole shallot
plump dried cranberries, softened
All on a little tiny plate.

We still talk about that salad.

1 comment:

Alice said...

Several years ago my friend and I would do this. But, now it happens because I'm chasing someone around between bites...or I stuff the whole sandwich in my mouth at once before chaos arrives:) Great article!