12 June 2009

Slow Food and Sensory Awareness

It’s easy to understand why the Slow Food movement has gained such worldwide popularity over the past two decades. So many of us have gotten used to going through life by just going through it, as opposed to actually living it. Slow Food seeks to enlighten people about the joys of sitting down to a leisurely meal with family and friends, and really enjoying every aspect of that entire experience, as opposed to rushing through meals. According to USA Today, “Slow Food aims to be everything fast food is not.”

We (and I think most especially, Americans) are all realizing that faster is sometimes but not always better, and that we can miss a lot of life-fulfilling happiness if we just rush from one thing to the next. My husband, Jack, has been saying, for 20 years now, that computers have speeded everything up so fast for us, that instead of always being a convenience, they have created a sense of “need it right now” which is unrealistic in many arenas. One of these arenas is food.
I believe that slowing down and paying attention to sensual pleasures is not just important for our enjoyment of food, but for every single aspect of life. We will never be able to slow down our instant communications, and we really wouldn’t want to. Immediate texting, email and cellular words back and forth are a boon. However, these conveniences should be in addition to a life worth living to the fullest – not instead of it. Even with instant communication abilities, we should all be aware of our own and everyone else’s need to take time to think about our responses, not just to interpersonal and business communications, but to our own communications with ourselves – brain to soul.
Much as I dislike how cliché it has become, the expression “Take time to smell the roses” should be a personal motto for all of us living in a fast society. Of course this expression stands for so much more than smelling. It is about noticing all of our senses, and furthermore, paying attention to what our senses are telling us!
La joie de vivre is about really paying attention to every sensory piece of information our brains receive, and making the most of it all, sensually. How many of us truly notice the sights, smells, textures, sounds and tastes that make up our daily lives? Our brains constantly receive this information, but I believe most of us instantly and thoughtlessly relegate the data to some back storeroom in our brains, never to be seen or heard from again. What a sad waste! We miss so much pleasure by ignoring this information. It is time, now, for us to take notice of our senses, and to live every moment in full awareness of what they are telling us.
Easy? No. Worth it? Absolutely! We must retrain ourselves to notice things we have bypassed since we were children – when we did pay attention to what our senses were conveying to us.
It’s probably easiest to start with food. A great inspiration would be this Fennel & Orange Peel Soup recipe from one of my favorite blogs, Chocolate & Zucchini.
The next time you sit down to a meal, even if it has to be “on the fly”, enjoy the colors and shapes of the food, first. Then, close your eyes and breathe in the aromas and think about the tastes (always a mélange of various elements) of what you are eating. Notice the texture of the food. Is it crunchy or smooth and how does it feel on your tongue? Don’t forget sound – can you hear it? (Isn't the sharp crack of a raw carrot is an integral part of the carrot experience?) All of these elements add distinct pleasure to the eating experience and transform it from being just a necessity, to a nice addition to one’s day. When we do this, we add time to our lives, instead of losing it.
Of course, it’s always preferable to eat slowly, savoring your food, and it’s best in the company of pleasant people who also appreciate the food. This is Slow Food’s message.
After you have gotten in the habit of eating to enjoy, you can start to enhance other areas of your life, using the same senses. Recognize and contemplate your sensory information and you will live a full life.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Share on Tumblr