Slow Cheese and New Year’s Resolutions.
In these long winter nights of cold Chicago, I find that after I’ve had my fill of reading and watching reruns, I like to try new foods – most often, cheese. I’ve tasted so many kinds of
cheeses, and I hate to admit that most of those times I’ve simply popped a piece in my mouth, chewed, swallowed and went on with my day. A mere mid-day snack to satiate my growling stomach. A pointless act of sustenance.
As humans, we have the ability to discuss and ponder. We get to try new foods and enumerate the value it has for us. We get to taste and not just eat. Animals eat to get energy. Yes, they have their favorites and they know which ones not to eat, but they don’t consider the complexities of the bone they just gnawed on or comment on the
aroma of the random bit of vegetation they just devoured.
Humans can do this. So why is it that so often we don’t? We just eat for the sake of eating. We eat too fast and too much. We don’t remember where our food came from or even how we made it. Just eat. Fill your stomach and move on with your day. Stay busy. Eat when you have to. You are hungry.
There has been a lot of talk about slow. I heard a really great podcast of ‘To the Best of Our Knowledge.’ In it, a man talked about slow travel, slow parenting, and of course slow food. Like anything else, slow may be a fad. But it has some truth behind it. I read a book by Barbara Kingsolver called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that changed the way I approach food. What struck me most from her book, however was a piece by her daughter, Camille. Camile Kingsolver said when she decided not to eat standing up or in her car or running down the street, food became a whole new thing for her. A new experience that was more than just primal satiation.
New Year’s Day 2010 I decided to try this. I made my list of resolutions, most of which I’ve since forgotten, probably something in there about doing the laundry more often. Something I did not quite learn. I vowed to spend one year taking my time to eat every meal. Even if it was just a snack. Sitting down and using a plate (or napkin at least) and taking a second to taste the food. Even at work when I have 2 seconds to eat a quick piece of bread before I have to get back, I sit on the steps leading to the downstairs prep kitchen and savor that slice and then quickly run back upstairs to help the customers.
Now that we’ve reached another year and another list of resolutions–laundry is not on there this time–I take a minute to reflect on what happened last year. I tasted food, really tasted it and learned about local ingredients, grew my own food and savored dinners at a table with friends and family. It was a small and seemingly pointless exercise but it changed my whole view of food. I know don’t even think about running out the door with a piece of toast on my way to work. I get up earlier and eat breakfast. I feel settled and peaceful and ready to get on with the day.
In our busy busy lives, food and eating as become an obstacle in our days. It is the thing that keeps us from being productive. Or so we think. Eating and tasting and talking and everything else that goes into a sit down meal is productive in its own right. We need to move on from the idea that productivity is only measured by the physical output of work. Shift our priorities to less tangible ideals: family, rest, quiet.
This has be said by countless people throughout the years. Take your time, slow down etc. I felt like all that advice was contingent upon not having to work and having countless hours to sit in your meditation room and ponder the existence of life. That was clearly not my life. But this eating slow idea sounded promising. It was a little hard to get out of my old habits. Once I released myself from the bonds of rushing, I found that the benefits of taking it slower was innumerable.
This winter, with the holidays over and a new year upon us, try this exercise with your family and friends. Take your time. There is so much good food out there. Do not rush through it! And to get you started I suggest a cheese tasting. There are lots of places to learn about how to have your own cheese tasting. And here a few resources for you to check
Good luck with your slower eating. I know it will be so great.
Enjoy your food!