“Oh shit! I am the ‘Next Generation’!” — Learning to Savor Our Food

A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety.
Aesop

For those of you going to Super Bowl parties, today is not the best day to savor, but it can still be first day of your eating career.

Don’t get me wrong. Gathering with friends is a good thing. However, when we gather with friends over food, what we gain in friendship we often lose in food appreciation. Pursuing friendship and appreciating food are both excellent endeavors, but can they really be done simultaneously? Unless the food is the sole focus of the gathering, I think not.

Take a piece of fresh bread . . . please! Or a fresh anything. Really, go to your kitchen now, by yourself, before you head off to that Super Bowl party. Find something fresh.

(At some point during this exercise, make sure you are logged off of Facebook, Twitter, Snitter and Snatter.)

Now, slow your breathing . . . 3-1-6 . . . 3 seconds in, 1 second to hold, 6 seconds out.

Concentrate on relaxing your shoulders.

Take a bite of your fresh food. Concentrate on chewing, slowly. Concentrate on texture. What does it feel like? Concentrate on flavor. What does it taste like? Concentrate on your reaction. Do you like it? Why? Concentrate on whether you’ve ever concentrated on these things. If it makes you focus more, write down your thoughts.  

If you can’t do this now but get a second at the party, step out onto the back deck, bite into that chicken wing, and savor like you’ve never been able to do when you were sittng in front of the TV, hurriedly shoveling chicken wings into your gullet so that you can get back to that 7-layer dip before your cousin’s gluttonous boyfriend continues to double-dip into it.

On that back deck, are you going to look like a freak and have to explain yourself? If you are caught out there with a chicken wing, without a sweater and with your eyes closed, yes you are. You might get a moment to savor your food, though, and unless someone streaks across the football field naked this Super Bowl, your time out on the deck is the thing you’ll remember most . . . because you were in touch with your senses . . . or because years later, people still relay how some freak was out on the deck making love to a chicken wing. Either way, really . . .

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.  ~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story

Eating is fleeting in this life we’ve created. Slow down. Enjoy.

This is one of the reasons I’ve become so enthralled with cooking and food. Of late, I have been more than discouraged with my impact on the world. I cannot pinpoint why, though I am trying. Then there is the question: why am I trying?

“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

If Emerson’s quote about what makes life a success is true, then things look to be in fairly good shape. I laugh a good bit. Intelligent people surround me, and I would like to believe that I’ve earned their respect. I work hard to appreciate beauty, even if much of the beauty that appears in front of me certainly still bypasses my senses. Some things Emerson mentions may not be omnipresent in my life, but his statement of having “one life [that] has breathed easier because [I] have lived” is what I hope to be true.

I desire, often too much, to leave an impact on the world and, more importantly, to leave a legacy to my daughter. Even if she ends up as a non-cook, it will be of no consequence. (Reminder to future self: do not take personally any anti-cooking stance that your daughter adopts. You will not be able to control it anyway. The same goes when she decides that knowing the words to “Bust A Move,” still being able to do the “Running Man,” and falling asleep on the couch at 7 pm are all for lame-o’s, too. You will know that all of these things rock.) To know that she will go off to college appreciating the smell of homemade and recognizing the taste of freshness is paramount. I don’t want the world to be her Chicken McNugget; I want the world to be her fresh chicken breast with rosemary and sage.

“Ponder well on this point: the pleasant hours of our life are all connected by a more or less tangible link, with some memory of the table.”
Charles Pierre Monselet (French journalist and author)

Monselet’s point is the legacy I hope to leave Baby O. She does not have to love food as much as I. She just needs to remember the smells of her childhood home. May those smells make her “breathe easier” in times of happiness and strife.

I think I’ve been discouraged on my impact with the world lately because there is just so much stuff to learn that I cannot keep up. None of us will ever be able to keep up. I’d once convinced myself that I could keep up, and then when my father died and Baby O. was born, it made me realize, “Oh shit! I am the ‘next generation’.” I felt like people were looking to me to guide.

 In the years that have followed, I’ve struggled with taking the imagined lead I’ve been given and have decided that I have to focus on few things well, not many things haphazardly. All we humans can do is to promise to leave a “memory of the table.” To do this, we are going to have to actually taste the food for what it is.   

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