|Having spent some time in France, I was keen on noticing the way that the French approached food and eating, which is a contrast to how we approach our food here in the U.S. Even though their foods are rich and they eat these rich foods later in the day, they seem healthier and are, on the average, thinner and more relaxed than their U.S. counterparts.
The way that they eat and their approach to dining is mirrored in the tenets of Ayurveda
They take their time and this is noticeable when dining out. In a restaurant, be prepared to sit contentedly for hours and don’t expect them to give you the check until you ask for it. They consider it rude to rush someone through a meal experience. You are there for the ambiance and enjoyment of your food and drink. Once, my husband and I went to a restaurant down the street from our hotel for a ‘quick bite’ and we couldn’t believe we were there from 7:30 to almost 10:00 p.m. Time moves differently when you’re relaxed and when food is presented as a source of pride, and not just as a source for profit.
People are engaged in the act of dinning and not looking around the restaurant or continuously scanning their environs. There’s no feeling of ‘let’s eat and get out of here.’ Or ‘I’m bored.’ Or ‘When are we leaving because I’m done with this food.’ Attention is paid to the entire dining experience, including to the others who are seated at the same table.
Portions are smaller. Amazingly so and is in great contrast to the ‘all you can eat’ buffets that we see here in the states. Individual dishes are also served like miniature works of art.
There is no such thing as a ‘doggie bag’ to take away leftovers. It made me question our practices here of asking for restaurant food to go. When the portions are small and served beautifully, the thought of dumping ‘what’s left’ into a disposable container so that you can run out the door and eat it somewhere else seems ludicrous.
So why not…
Take your time! We live in a world of rush. We have to ask ourselves, what is the hurry? If you have to get back to work, allow enough time to enjoy what you’re eating. If your work doesn’t provide for a decent lunch hour, reconsider what’s really important in your life.
Enjoy smaller and thoughtfully prepared portions. You will appreciate what you have in front of you and you’ll probably eat it more slowly, savoring instead of gulping.
Sit while eating. Picking and snacking and stuffing foods into the mouth while standing, driving, or doing work over a computer changes the entire digestive process. The benefits of sitting and focusing on one thing that you’re doing can apply to almost anything. So when you’re eating, just eat.
Make the most out of living. Eating should be one of the most sacred things that we do to sustain our lives. Eating just to fill an emotional void is not the purpose of food. That is the purpose of opening the heart.
If you’re eating to fill some undefined emptiness within, then the food is not nourishing and it could, instead, be detrimental to your health.
A note on wine and spirits.
The French do appreciate their wines. But they are enjoyed, not simply drunk.
I want to emphasize the importance of understanding that there is no perfect. And that achieving balance through consciousness is possible. We are all a product of our environment which, currently, is not very healthy. To counter this, it takes awareness to change bad habits into what is good and nourishing since unconscious minds tend to default into old, learned patterns from family as well as from culture. It can take work and it may not come easy. But it’s worth it.
So friends, I invite you to make eating and meal time a conscious act. And to start with where you are. And to go slowly. And to always keep an open mind as well as an open heart.