Do you remember the 1999 movie Simply Irresistible with Sarah Michelle Gellar? The one where she uses her magical abilities to transfer her emotions into the food she makes? I have chills just remembering how silent all her diners were while they ate one of her courses, tears streaming down their faces. There was something with crab in it, right? (Check out these other magical movies) One of my favourite things in the world is dining with friends and trying scrumptious new recipes. I love having gabby brunches - maybe even a couple mimosas. There's always something special about trying new restaurants or making something extra thoughtful for the people you love. It's crazy how food can trigger memories and feelings... but also how we can zoom through lunch without realizing we're even nurturing our bodies. Read my tips below on how to make your meals more mindful:
THINK ABOUT THE INGREDIENTS
Whether you're preparing the meal yourself, or choosing it from a menu, take a second to think about the ingredients. When I'm deciding on a meal, I usually choose the flavour first. I can sometimes be a little herb happy - whoops! - and I'll often base a meal around dill, basil, sage or something else. I love pinning to my Nosh Board on Pinterest, or flipping through one of my cookbooks, but I rarely follow a recipe to a T. I like to make it my own by taking a second to think about how I could enhance the flavours. Once I've chosen my recipe, I make my plan. If I'm using meat, what kind of cut of meat do I want? Can I marinate it in a special way? Should I massage the kale and drizzle something extra on it? What other courses would complement my main dish? Do I even need complementary side dishes? Taking a bit of extra time to think about your meal doesn't take that long but it can reap a lot of benefits.
TRY SOMETHING NEW
Sometimes it can feel like I always cook the same meals almost on autopilot. I have the stir fry memorized, Derek has his two meals he can contribute to, chilli is easy... it gets so boring. I made this Hungarian Paprikash the other day, and Derek and I couldn't stop making cooing sounds while we slurped it down. And we've already made it again to serve for my sister while she stays with us to get her thoughts. Having something new and delicious is a great way to slow down and enjoy what you're eating because you aren't certain what to expect when the food hits your tongue. It can spend more time rolling around in your mouth, reaching all the sides of your tongue while you explore it. Life is too short not to eat new things.
SET THE TABLE
Don't underestimate the power of presentation. A fancy napkin can go a long way, and having something to drink along with your water can be a nice change of palette. But the dinnerware you use matters just as much. If your plate is chipped or has a naughty rust stain that winks at you from under your food, its hard to stay mindful and focus on what you're eating when a chipped glass is gnawing at your lip. Having nice dinnerware you love using and looking at will encourage you to actually make these great meals and put thought into them. It's just like having a smoke-show outfit to actually get your butt into the gym. By having different options in bowl depths, dipping bowls, saucers, plates or even cutlery, you're creating a fun table setting that makes the experience memorable for whomever is dining. And you don't need a million options. I know we're not made of money, but toss out any broken items and replace them when you can. Thrift stores are great places to find old treasures - and oftentimes they'll be unique to you! I have these tiny bowls that can barely fit an egg inside, but they're perfect for individual soya sauce or Sriracha. And they're so fun to use with my miniature Canadiana Old Lady collector spoons. What's more fun: reaching for the ugly hot sauce container in the middle of the table, or dribbling some of your personal portion onto your meal?
SET THE MOOD
Girl, put your records on! There's a reason why restaurants have dim lighting and soothing tunes. Dim lighting encourages slower eating, so turn down those overhead lights or light some candles. Light some friggin' candles! And pick some really great music to play behind your meal to also encourage slower eating. You don't need to blare the most blogged top 40 - at least not unless it's mellow and semi-quiet. Fast music can subconsciously speed up how quickly your spoon or fork finds your mouth, so be mindful in choosing your music so you can be mindful in eating your food. It's a ritual now that when I set the table, the man of the house is putting a record on in the living room. And it usually lasts the length of our meal.
DON'T RUSH. THINK ABOUT IT.
When that spoon touches your lips, think about how the food feels once it enters your mouth. Take an extra second to roll it around with your tongue, letting it trickle against all the sides of your mouth to really explore the flavour. Don't mindlessly scarf down your food - even if you're starving! Think about how it feels and how it tastes. It helps to talk about the flavours with whomever you're dining with, sharing how they think it tastes, too. That's why we made the yummy Paprikash for my sister only a week after having it ourselves. Sure, you can segue into how everyone's days were or the latest gossip among your friends, but be sure to address how your food tastes, and ask your dining partner(s) about theirs, too.
I could talk about food all day. I love to eat and I love gathering new recipes, but I can also zoom through a meal and not even pay attention to what I'm eating, which leads me to overeat and eat things that aren't as healthy for me. So by practicing mindfulness when I eat - when I can (I know sometimes we're just plain ol' busy) I feel healthier. What are some things you have made that helped you stay mindful during your meal?