I once knew a man who said he wished they’d hurry up and invent a spaceman-style nutrition pill which he could swallow three times a day in place of meals – he reckoned the whole business of shopping, cooking and eating was just a tiresome bother that a more advanced society would do away with. Needless to say I thought he was already on another planet. To me food is a daily pleasure, and usually at the heart of the most relaxed and enjoyable times spent with family and friends.
I do realise not everyone shares my enthusiasm – I remember once being invited to lunch at the home of a new friend. On the way I indulged in happy little fantasies of what she might have prepared – perhaps some delicious home-made soup . . . or a delicate herb-flecked omelette . . . or simply a platter of well-chosen treats from the deli, with a crusty artisan loaf . . . I came sharply down to earth ten minutes later, when I was given a sliced white and processed cheese sandwich with a slightly stale packet of crisps. Too late I realised that food just isn’t as important to some people as it is to me.
It’s a shame as eating good food is an opportunity to nourish ourselves both physically and emotionally, and it can have a massive impact on our mood and wellbeing. We often seem to recognise this with regard to children – the effects that a ‘sugar rush’ or the dreaded E-numbers can have on a kids’ party, or conversely how a healthy snack can magically transform a tired and grizzly toddler – yet we forget that our food choices as an adult are equally significant.
I’ve been delivering training recently with some dietitians and nutritionists, and was eager to tap into their expertise, especially to find out if there’s a magic bullet to deal with the worrying rise in obesity levels. Their advice was refreshingly simple, and didn’t involve fad diets, detox potions, artificial meal replacements, expensive supplements, or any of the other so-called solutions peddled by the weight-loss industry. Instead, their advice was to take an interest in the food we buy (or grow), cook, and put into our mouths and choose the most natural, fresh and wholesome options, avoiding processed and manufactured foods with long lists of dodgy-looking chemical ingredients. Not only would that lead to trouble-free weight management, but more importantly, we’d all be happier and healthier.
So let’s take each mealtime as a daily opportunity to nourish our bodies, balance our emotional health, and most of all savour the food in all its wonderful varieties. I read an article recently about eating with mindfulness – one exercise involved taking an hour to explore the taste and texture of a single raisin . . ! Now, I’m not sure I would have the patience for that (though I’d love to see ravenous teenagers try it) but I think the point about focusing our senses and fully experiencing the pleasures of food is a valid one.
I remember a lovely phrase in a book I once read by the wonderful travel writer Lesley Blanch, where she talks about enjoying the pleasures of a leisurely breakfast with ‘Darling Self’ – i.e. alone. (Check out Lesley – she led a marvellously adventurous life, loved her food, and lived to the age of 103, so she must have made some good choices!) So next time I’m having a solitary meal, rather than shovelling something down in a mindless way in front of the TV, I’m going to get out the best china and take as much care over the food as I would for an honoured guest – after all, I’m inviting ‘Darling Self’ to the table – and she’s worth it!
|Poem of the weekThis Is Just To Say
I have eaten
William Carlos Williams