Ooh, a donut!

I see them beautifully arrayed on a tray and they are calling to me. My mind is immediately awash in the epic donuts from my youth.

Sometimes my friends and I would drive thirty miles to Meadville from Franklin to catch the “Spudnuts” as they rolled down the conveyor belt at midnight, still hot and moist and deliriously good.

I order a French cruller and coffee and eagerly bite in. Disappointment! It tastes nothing like the heroic donuts of my halcyon memories. I stuff it in my mouth out of habit, but grudgingly. This one falls way below the line.

How often are we actually eating our memories?

Have you ever inhaled a sandwich or a Blue Plate Special with no sense of actually having participated in the event? Maybe you were conscious enough to obediently follow the Prime Directive of “Clean your plate,” but how much joy did it give you?

When you actually taste your food interesting things happen. Maybe you might get a little choosy about what food you eat. Instead of eating out of habit, you check in with your body-mind and feel into what would give you pleasure. You might discover that you are not actually very hungry and are only eating because “It’s lunch time.” Or you might notice that there are other items than “club sandwich” on the menu. You modify your selection accordingly.

But the biggest boon that I came across by tasting my food was the awareness that the taste changes as I eat. I start my three-egg omelet and by the time I’m halfway through, I get an urgent email from my digestive system that the mission has been accomplished. The message says, “Nutritional requirements have been met. It’s recreational eating from here on.” Sure, I might take another bite or two if I’m really enjoying myself, but it’s with the awareness that it’s not necessary. And if I’m really tasting it, how much fun am I actually having at that point?

For many of us, that quiet signal is way too subtle to slow the express train of knife and fork. The only flags we heed are the empty plate or the uncomfortably stuffed feeling. Maybe Mom’s admonition that “children are starving in China” still rings in our ears, but I’ve been to China recently and people there leave more food on the table than anyone I have seen. And they eat with gusto!

Dinner at Wudang mountain

The real payoff for me in tasting my food is enjoyment. I only eat what I like and only as long as it still tastes good. I’m halfway through my rib eye and it’s no longer the food of the gods. It’s now more like Styrofoam packing material. I can soldier on, but maybe I’ve got my eye on the tiramisu now. And I feel perfectly righteous about splitting that with someone. I’m not terribly limited in my choices if I pay attention to what gives my body pleasure.

Eating is a troubling affair for many people, filled with anxiety, shame, and regret. It need not be if you enter into it as a respectful dialogue. You MEET your dinner in reciprocity, starting by getting yourself really coherent and present. That stuff on your plate is going to be part of you in the very near future, so why not start off this budding relationship on really good terms?  Make that  couscous or pasta primavera your new best friend and talk to it.

Like in any good conversation, you listen to the partner that is here NOW, not some voice from days gone by. You taste the food on the plate in front of you. Acknowledge. And listen when your tummy says, “That’s enough.”

When the song is over you stop dancing.