Today I was eating a meal of cheese, cucumber and watermelon. All cut into different shapes and sizes, to be eaten by hand. Different textures; some rock salt adding relief to the cucumber.
I was wolfing down this magical combination of flavours and textures – I hardly tasted anything, I hardly chewed, I hardly breathed. I was wasting the experience and bombarding my body without having the awareness that makes the process softer and more welcoming. So I sat back, and suddenly the world opened up before me on the table, on the round porcelain circumference displaying my food.
Immediately I saw: Every meal is a symphony, composed by the maker and heard/experienced by the consumer. The ingredients the notes, some subtle, some less so. The food groups displaying the keys on offer, that will blend together more or less harmoniously depending on what flavours we like to combine. The creation itself is musical – whether measuring, reaching over counters into cupboards, opening and closing containers, bending to reach the deepest draw in the fridge, the sounds from using blenders and from rummaging in drawers and display jars for the appropriate utensils… But that is only one part of it.
What brings the symphony to life is us. It could sit there on the plate, latent and magical. Or we can choose to consume it, taking the melodies and harmonies, the ingredients and the resonance into our bodies. Breathing through the process, not rushing through it. Suddenly the experience becomes sacred. Touching the food, tasting the flavours, feeling the textures in my mouth, thinking of where the ingredients came from and how they journeyed to this form on my plate and now inside me moving through my body. The composer knows what is in the meal, but it is the listener who experiences it. Every meal, as if it were the first time, a song that will never be played the same way again.
Eating with a group of people is another kind of symphony – a far bigger one. I love cooking with people, all bringing a contribution that always creatively combines to a delicious experience. At the table, people passing to and stretching over each other, glasses and utensils clinking, eyes twinkling, conversation threads weaving, laughing colour into the experience. Naturally we watch each other, and some eat faster than others, but I know for myself that my inclination is to subconsciously approach matching the pace of the person I am sharing a meal with if there is/are just one or a few.
For as long as I can remember, I have known: I eat quickly. Really quickly. Too quickly. And in coming into more awareness, I realise that this needs to change. It is a waste of time and we do not absorb what we need to from the experience if we guzzle through it. I challenge myself and anyone who does the same to consciously create our meals, whether elaborate and complex or something as simple as a piece of cheese on a Provita. Not obsessively so, but with awareness. It is probably easier to obsess than to just be aware, but the former is not healthy whereas the latter is.
I enjoyed my meal of cheese, watermelon and salted cucumber. I felt satisfied, jubilant, genuinely happy and connected to the world. Just as I do after hearing a song I have never heard before but love immediately.