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When a hurried pace of life dominates our daily priorities, it is all too easy to eat without thinking about what we're doing. We eat because it is time or because we need to—and yet when we rush through meals, we often miss out on the joy of eating.
A meal is so many things—it is someone's hard work (maybe our own), it is an opportunity to connect with the moment and perhaps with people we love, it is a tasty collection of nutrients that care for our body, and it is a display of what the planet provides.
Eating mindfully is a practice we can reclaim. It isn't hard or time-consuming, but it does require attention and practice.
Slowing down is the key.
Amazingly, our senses have a magical way of piggybacking on one another to enhance sensory experience. "When you smell garlic sautéing in olive oil, your stomach starts to react and your digestive enzymes begin to blossom even before you've begun eating," explains 1440's Executive Chef, Kenny Woods.
Smell, as it turns out, literally prepares you for taste.
Slowing down enough to really take in the preparation, presentation, and enjoyment of food is something Chef Kenny advocates—regardless of what we're eating or where we are. It matters, he says, that we keep our eyes, heart, and belly aware and appreciative of our food. "Coming into a space where you're relaxed and in tune with your body before you even start to eat is the first step," he says.
When we fully experience our food—colors, textures, smell, and even touch—we enjoy it more.
It also matters that we notice and appreciate whomever prepared our food. We know that feeling grateful contributes to a sense of joy. If you consider your gratitude for both the food you're about to enjoy and the person who prepared it, you're likely to care about the meal that much more.
And of course, eating slowly and carefully is vital for the health of the digestive process.
"Once you start eating, take full bites and chew everything," says Chef Kenny. "After 15 or 20 minutes of eating, check in with yourself and ask, Am I still hungry? How do I feel?"
If you're around the table with children, says Chef Kenny, consider engaging them in conversation about where the food comes from.
"Many kids don't know that grapes grow on a vine and blueberries come from a bush. The opportunities to educate kids about where their food originates are endless."
When we take the time to cultivate awareness of where our food comes from, appreciate how it is prepared, and notice how it stimulates all of our senses—sitting down for a meal becomes an opportunity to be fully present and nurture our whole self.