Eating, plain and simple
Loounie is a vegan chef and blogger from Quebec, Canada.
I would often devour raw sprout salads on the go between meetings, without so much as sitting down a minute or two to do it. Though I took no real pleasure in it, I was persuaded I was doing all I could for my health, my well-being, and—I’ll admit it—my waistline. I went from food trend to food trend like a hiker along a trail, letting myself be influenced by the pointers I came across, setting off in different directions without a genuine plan. It got to the point that my brain reflexively categorized foods as either good or bad, according to a complex list of criteria: effect on my health, impact on my weight, carbon footprint, including distance travelled to get to me, the well-being of the supply-chain workers, and the treatment of animals. It was endless! But never would I actually slow down to focus on the pleasure I derived from my meal, or on my state of mind as I consumed it.
Today, after much reflection, poring over scientific evidence, and shifts in awareness that are too complicated to explain here, I am happy and grateful to be in a different headspace, without all those criteria buzzing around in my head. And to be eating slowly.
Picture credit Loounie
What does eating slowly mean?
For me, it means first and foremost being more relaxed when it comes to food. To be listening to my cravings, my hunger and my fullness. To shed the rules we’ve been conditioned to follow. To choose foods that are not only delicious, but that make me feel good about myself and my body. It’s about savouring a piece of dark chocolate because it’s fragrant and bitter just the way I like it, and not because it contains less sugar. It means adding a handful of roasted nuts to a salad because their crunchiness contrasts with the freshness of the vegetables, not because of some fear of not getting enough protein. It’s about eating chick pea croquettes because their fibre keeps me going when I need sustained energy, not because they are gluten-free. It means choosing organically grown seasonal vegetables from a local farmer and fair-trade coffee when they are available, because it nourishes me to know that my purchases help support businesses that share my values, when that is an option. And it’s also about stopping at a roadside diner in summertime to get some fries with brown sauce, simply because they’re so good (sprinkled with salt and a dash of vinegar) and they give me the energy to keep on driving.
Eating slower also means approaching each meal as an opportunity to “sandwich” in some time for myself in between my various responsibilities. My grandparents prayed. Me, I take one, two or three deep breaths. And I make sure I’m comfortably seated and able to set aside my worries for at least ten or so minutes. Or a few hours, if I’m blessed to be sharing a meal in good company.
Picture credit Loounie
Slow food, a love affair that started in Italy
In the 1980s, in response to the rising popularity of fast food restaurants and industrialization, the Slow Food movement was launched in Italy by a group of locals who were passionate about history, culture and quality meals made with simple ingredients. The movement has since spread around the globe. Its aim is to raise awareness of eco-gastronomy and alternative modes of consumption. Basically, the movement advocates for a slower pace that enables us to make more informed choices, prepare better meals and appreciate our food more. I’m not particularly familiar with the movement born in Italy, but in my kitchen, slow food means taking the time: to prepare delicious meals from the simplest ingredients available; to have a hand in the transformation of these ingredients rather than getting them already processed by a manufacturing facility; and to put together attractive presentations for my meals. It’s also about eating that is undertaken with pleasure, to satisfy my hunger, and with lighting and a musical accompaniment worthy of a restaurant setting.
As I started eating more slowly, it dawned on me that I could trust my body to communicate its desires and to convey its hunger and satiety cues. I understood that I could experience as much pleasure and satisfaction in devouring a fast food veggie burger as in savouring a stew made with locally sourced organic beans and vegetables. And I realized that my health and wellness are boosted three times a day, every time I take a break to cook or to eat.
To slow down, in the kitchen and at the table:
1. Reserve a few minutes or hours during the weekend to cook or to prepare foods that will be cooked during the coming week. It’s a small investment of time that will reap big benefits;
2. Take the time to decorate and set up the kitchen so that you enjoy spending time in it;
3. Define a space and time just for eating (for example, 20 minutes in the absence of all e-mails), and allow yourself to relax as much as you want in this space and during this period;
4. Eat with other people as often as possible and make a point of holding a conversation;
5. Make a conscious habit of exhaling deeply before each meal, to empty your lungs, then breathe in normally through the nose. And savour every bite!
Chocolate pots (without the Rocher!), because they’re easy to make and so decadently delicious!