7 Ideas to Slow Down & Enjoy FoodWritten by Gavin Humphreys
Rush, rush, rush, rush rush.
So much of our life, these days, is rush.
We rush for the subway.
It’s a run to the bank.
Something quick for lunch.
We are in a hurry to get home.
No time to cook.
Order something in.
Which we eat while watching TV.
In a world where we rush far too much, food is an opportunity for you to take a break.
Here are seven great ideas to slow down and enjoy your food more.
First, let’s take a step back.
Food is important
Food is not a commodity, to be measured in tonnes and dollars. Nor is it something to be ignored in your day-to-day. It is at the center of our biosphere, and it is at the center of our human lives.
You will find that by slowing down and giving some love and attention to what you eat that your life will improve in several ways.
Eating a balanced diet and choosing your ingredients carefully, you will get ill less often and are more likely to live a long, healthy life.
It is also good for the brain. Not only does eating well have several biological benefits, you will also never stop learning with food.
It’s the best kind of knowledge, too. You can enjoy it fully now, and you can pass it on to the next generation. They can benefit and improve on what you know.
On top of that, eating well (and avoiding fast foods) is proven to reduce risks of dementia.
The world itself will also benefit. Small-scale, greener agriculture not only tastes better but is better for the environment.
The Slow Food Movement
In the ’70s and ’80s, there was a shift change. People stopped appreciating their food. Microwave meals took off. Globalization meant our meat and vegetables were being flown from the other side of the world.
Then The Slow Food Movement started in Italy as a reaction against the fast-food culture, which was taking over everywhere. They wanted to preserve traditional and regional cooking methods and also use more local food - farmed using age-old, organic farming methods.
Basically, slow down, take your time, and appreciate what you eat.
This is something that dovetails with our mindset here at Beckett Simonon. Part of our philosophy is No Immediacy.
Our founders had the idea that our artisans could produce top-quality, hand-crafted shoes and accessories much more affordably if we give them time. Slowing down means you can appreciate the products more, and they will look better and last longer.
Unless something is life or death, say “no” to immediacy!
So, here are 7 actions that you could make part of your life that would give food the central role it deserves.
1. Grow vegetables, fruit, and herbs
By growing your foods, you will appreciate what you eat much more.
You may not have a farm, but we are all able to grow some ingredients for our kitchen.
A window herb garden is the easiest way to start, if you have limited space.
If you have a back garden, then get your spade out. Nothing feels as good as producing the food you eat, and it is a lot easier than you might think.
Gardening will also reduce stress and burnout, and give you exercise.
Along with a food-centered culture, gardening is one of the explanations given for the longevity of people in Okinawa, Japan.
2. Make your own bread
This involves planning and patience. It’s not only cooking time, but resting the dough (or perhaps even waiting for natural yeast to grow).
I can almost guarantee you that the first loaf you make, while you will probably be proud of it, won’t be all that great. By your tenth attempt, though, your bread will likely be something that your neighbors will be talking about.
3. Salt and pickle
If you can source fresh, quality meats and fish, why not try these methods of ‘cooking’?
Salted meat has gone out of fashion, but it can taste great. Why not make it yourself? You need a nice piece of brisket, salt, berries, and a fair bit of waiting time!
Salting fish is a traditional cooking method, the world over. Coming from the north of Europe, I also love pickled fish - fish preserved in salt, vinegar, and sugar.
And what about pickled cabbage? If you make Kimchi at home, you can get it just how you like it. Same with Sauerkraut, and other pickled veggies.
4. Marinade and brine
Similar to salting and pickling, but instead of ‘cooking’ your food, the intention is to give it flavor.
Brining your turkey at Thanksgiving will make the flesh more moist and flavorsome.
Marinating or brining is usually better overnight (although with delicate flavors, such as fish, some marinades might need less time).
It’s not just for meats either - you can marinate tofu, for example, and it packs it with flavor.
5. Slow the cook
There are many ways to cook slowly - such as a long simmer on the stove-top, a low temperature in the oven, or using a slow cooker.
Many cuts of meat need a slow cook, and because of this are not so popular these days (as a plus, this means they are often at a lower price, as a minus, they may be tougher to find). These cuts, when cooked well, are brimming with flavor and are highly versatile.
A slow cook allows the flavors to mix well. A curry or a Bolognese sauce, for example, will benefit from a slow cook - or even taste better if you make them the day before and leave to rest.
6. Smoke meats, fishes, and cheeses
Pack your food with flavor - smoke them!
It requires a little investment, but once you have a smoker, you will be able to produce your own pulled pork, beef jerky, smoked salmon, and many more delicacies.
There are several types of smokers out there, so you can have a lot of fun finding out more, maybe building your own, and seeing what you can do.
We had a smoker when I was growing up, and even bought a pig once to make into bacon. She became my pet, however, and I never allowed her to be smoked!
On a serious note, being that close to your food, and slowing down your approach to food, can make you profoundly question what you eat. That is a very good thing.
7. Slow the eating
I have to admit - I find this difficult!
Hunger takes over. Before you know it, you have eaten the meal without giving it a second thought.
Many cultures have the idea of taking a moment to ‘give thanks’ before we eat. It is a worthwhile exercise, and it does not have to be connected to any belief. Stop for a moment to think about where the food has come from, all the work growing and cooking, and be thankful.
It also breaks you away from troubles and thoughts of the day and focuses your attention.
Eat at a table, and remove distractions, such as your phone, the TV, or a newspaper. Dedicate this time for the food and the company.
Chew your food long enough to appreciate all the flavors. With malt whisky, as an example, I was given the advice that you should keep it in the mouth at least as many seconds as it was years in the cask.
Another practice I have come across (in a Buddhist monastery, although I am sure it happens elsewhere!) is eating in silence. This focuses the senses and the mind.
Some people like to eat alone and try to enjoy their food intensely. I often think of Athos, the brooding Musketeer, who insisted on eating apart.
Another school of thought is that you should always talk with a meal! Porthos, the jester of the Three Musketeers, would be amongst the people, eating heartily and consuming multiple bottles of wine.
My father always encouraged me to put down the knife and fork between mouthfuls and talk. This forces you not to shovel down your food, but also prompts the social part of eating.
Try to finish what is in our mouth before picking up the cutlery to take your next mouthful.
Slower eating also allows your body to register the food you are eating and stops you from stuffing yourself. Overeating has a negative effect on your health and your enjoyment of food.
Another tip from Okinawa - eat until you are 70% full. Your body always asks for more food than it needs because it takes a while for the system to catch up. It’s easier said than done if you have a tasty meal, but slow, mindful eating will help.
Try to include some of these actions into your routine, or at least spark ideas, and inspire you to search for more knowledge about your fare. To that end, one last thought: try to be aware of the source of your food.
One fantastic way to do this is to go to a farmers’ market. Speak with the stall owner, and if you can, arrange to go to the farm itself. This way, you can trust the product, and you will appreciate the work and the nature behind them.
I once met the goats who produced some cheese I bought - the cheese tasted even better when I knew who was behind it.
Connect with your food - eat, experiment, enjoy!
Thanks Jim! I totally agree, nothing better than home cooking. You know, though, I don’t believe I’ve ever had braciole… that’s now my plan for this weekend!