Today I had the most enjoyable experience. It almost caught me by surprise. It was a meal, and the best meal I have had in recent memory. I didn’t eat too much and I didn’t eat too fast. I was not in my typical rush, and I felt pleasure in each bite. The meal was so much more pleasurable than my typical experience it caused me to think: what does it mean to eat well? Is eating well a great but lost art?
My thoughts have tended towards ‘yes’. Eating is one of the most central and necessary activities in life. It is a great time to relax, enjoy the company of others, and the delights that food and flavor can bestow. Few feelings are as good as that particular feeling of contentment, fullness, and relaxation brought about by a good meal well eaten. Why then is this feeling so rare? I suppose there are several reasons.
Our busy culture temps us to eat too fast, too much, and too much of what is not good. If you don’t think you eat fast, try spending at least 30 minutes between your first and last bite during your next three meals, taking small bites, and savoring each one. I’ll bet it is harder than you think. Compare this to the relaxing feeling of savoring each bite, slowly filling yourself, reflecting on the goodness of life, experiencing food as sustenance.
Many people, in an attempt to derive more pleasure and comfort from food than food can give, overeat. Perhaps these people have the most to learn. The faster you eat, the less you enjoy each bite, and eating too much is a peculiar discomfort. In these ways, those who overeat fail to truly enjoy the food they abuse.
Finally, our culture makes many meals simply the means to another end. We eat because we are bored, we eat because we have nothing better to do, we eat in a rush to get on ‘better,’ ‘more useful’, and ‘more important’ things. What if we saw eating as an opportunity to slow down and simply enjoy life? What if we looked forward to a meal in similar ways to how we look forward to sex or vacation? What then would eating a meal become? I am convinced that eating well is a lost art, with more pleasure to give than many people realize.
What do you think? How important is how we eat? What does it mean to eat well?