There is an elderly gentleman who frequents my work a few times a week. His order is exactly the same, rain or shine. Two slices of raisin toast, lathered with copious amounts of butter on both sides, as soon as they come out of the oven, and then run out to him whilst they are still piping hot. His face breaks into the biggest crooked smile when you present the plate of hot, melty-buttery toast to him and you just know that it has made his day. Even when work’s frantic and you’ve hardly got time to breath, let alone be fussed trying to butter both sides of the toast without dropping it or smearing butter all down your front, it’s worth the effort just to see his reaction. And after observing this gentleman for a number of weeks, I’ve reached the conclusion that most of his enjoyment lies in the process of eating the toast. Relishing every mouthful.
Before you’ve even properly set the plate down in front of him, his hand whips out to snatch a piece. Impatient? Perhaps. I think he’s just excited to have that first bite when the toast is still piping hot. But then after that he becomes far more reserved. Once it’s in front of him he has all the time in the world. He goes slow – savours the hot meltiness of the toast. That’s more than I can say for a fair chunk of our other customers. To be fair, many of them are on their lunch break and have little time to spare/are starving by that point. However, more than once I’ve handed a sandwich to a customer, cleared a few tables and then walked past them again on my way back to the kitchen. It’s an effort to keep my jaw from dropping open. Their sandwich is gone. Did the fairies take it? Did a gust of wind blow it away? Surely the customer can’t have managed to consume the whole thing (and these sandwiches are BIG) in the short time I was clearing tables. I’m pretty sure I didn’t doze off…I would have known if I’d fallen asleep over the coffee cups wouldn’t I? My point is that people are consuming their food in ridiculously short amounts of time. Sadly, it appears to be a trend that’s here to stay.
I’ll fess up and admit that I’ve sat down to dinner and then been astonished to look at my plate few moments later and discover that there are only crumbs remaining. It’s almost difficult to recall what I ate as I certainly don’t remember tasting it. Your poor old tastebuds have their work cut out trying to detect flavours when the whole meal slides down your gullet in a few mouthfuls. I’m trying to make those occasions far and few, even if I’m ravenous. Tastewithoutwaste in a different sense – actually being able to taste and, dare I say, appreciate my food rather than wolfing it down. Not only will your tastebuds thank you for applying the brakes, but your digestive system will too. No one likes to be suddenly hit with a pile of work like a sledgehammer, your little digestive gnomes included. And, I’ll guarantee that the person who prepared your food will be more inclined to cook for you in the future. (It’s a pet peeve of mine for people to gobble down a meal in a matter of minutes that took hours to prepare. It’s called respect, folks.)
Well it looks like I’ve rambled on for more than long enough, so we’ll leave the elaborate descriptions of the benefits of slower eating for another time. Consider it the next instalment in a ‘slow food mini series’. In the meantime, try practicing spending a little more time over your meals. Does it take you fifteen minutes to eat lunch? Push it out to twenty. You’re body might be screaming “I can see more on the plate, give it to me now. Nowwwww!” but ignore that voice. Imagine it as the irrational bossy person you’ve never really liked. You don’t need to bliss out like the old man with the raisin toast – no where do the ‘rules’ for eating slower require you to adopt a slightly stoned expression (sorry sir, but it’s true). But do try to taste your food. More than two bites is preferable. You’d be surprised at the difference it makes.