I love food. I love meal planning, I love grocery shopping, I love making food (especially with my husband), and I love eating food. Growing up, I always loved going to parties at my Grandma’s house. She, a feisty German woman, would cook up heaps of food. We would then spend hours talking, goofing off, and enjoying the meal. When I journeyed to Europe as an eighteen-year-old, I really enjoyed mealtimes. Our tour group would sit together, take time to relax and talk over wine, and enjoy food. At the close of the trip, we were rushed, and only took about 40 minutes for one of our final meals. I felt rushed. I will venture to say that, for many Americans, 40 minutes would be uncomfortably long for a meal where all of the food has been prepared and laid out. I mean, then people would actually have to talk, get to know each other, and discuss pressing issues in a reasonable manner! Oh wait, they’d all be on their iPhones.
I don’t think that the European “dining experience” (which I have enjoyed several times, in my three separate excursions abroad) is an unreasonable expectation for Americans. I think that we can maximize our experience of community and enjoyment of food quite simply. But how do we do this? Allow me to sail off on a tangent briefly.
Two weeks after graduation, my husband and I flew out to the state of Washington for his younger sister’s wedding. We were blessed to spend a little over a week there, hanging out with family (I got to meet TONS of his extended family in person!!!), friends (a handful of the bride’s “college friends” came out), having many hippie-ish conversations about fertility and food (because really, what else is there to talk about when in the Northwest?), and eating strange things (cricket protein bar, anyone?). Oh yes, and at the end of our visit, my mother-in-law went online mantilla shopping with me, and purchased her first ever chapel veil! Super exciting J
The visit was great, but I was also really excited to come home…to packing boxes! Because of a cancelled flight, we got in on Wednesday, instead of Tuesday. And then, because we were going off of no sleep (due to a cross-country overnight flight), we spent all day Wednesday in recovery. So for the past couple of days, we’ve been full-gear into moving/try-to-see-awesome-people-before-we-leave mode. And we leave tomorrow morning!!!! For these reasons, I have been a bit absent from the blog, and will probably continue in this manner. In the next few weeks, we have a long trip to make, family and friends to see, a new city to explore, AND the whole process of “getting settled.” I’m super excited for all of this, especially because I get to do it with my awesome husband. I know that sounds kind of cheesy, but it’s totally true. Adventuring while single is great, but getting to have an adventure with your spouse? Incredibly epic!
So what does all of this have to do with food? Let’s backtrack to the Washington trip. My mother-in-law knows that I love to read. It’s a fact fairly evident to a lot of people. So, towards the beginning of the week, she pulled a couple of books out for me to peruse at my leisure. One of these books has the most intriguing title: French Women Don’t Get Fat, by Mireille Guiliano. I skimmed the first part of the book, read the second half of the book, and loved it. Unfortunately, there is a small section towards the end in which the author talks about the “benefits” of having an active sexual life and cohabitation outside of marriage, which I did not appreciate. Other than this area, I learned a great deal, and I believe that this secular book closely aligns with many virtues and values which Catholicism upholds. Yet another proof that Catholicism and Christianity make coherent sense!
To give a quick briefing of the book: the French author traveled to America for a period of time. When she returned to France, she had gained twenty pounds (thank you, American diet and lifestyle!). This book details the steps that she, and other women, took to live full, healthy lives while enjoying their food. In fact, one of my favorite aspects of the book is how it emphasizes that the “French” way of eating is to maximize the pleasure and enjoyment that you experience with food. To illustrate, here are a couple of fabulous quotations (from pages 31 and 32):
“One thing French women know is that the pleasure of most foods is in the first few bites; we rarely have seconds. The things we enjoy we don’t enjoy as a matter of routine…Do not eat on autopilot.”
“There can be an almost ecstatic enjoyment in a single piece of fine dark chocolate that a dozen Snickers bars can never give you.”
Now, I want to be abundantly clear: I love Snickers bars, and I will definitely eat multiple in a setting. I’m also a huge fan of eating seconds, particularly if I’m super hungry. But, the author makes some good points throughout the entire book that are well worth keeping in mind.
First, we should be intentional and not “eat on autopilot.” I know that when we’re really hungry, it can be easy to scarf down a plate, and suddenly ask: Wait, what did I just eat? Food is a blessing and tremendous gift from God—should we mindlessly scarf down one of God’s gifts to us? Mealtime should not be about cramming food into our mouths, but by taking a step back with others, and enjoying God’s blessings together. Just look at the New Testament. Jesus does this with His followers all the time! Wedding Feast at Cana (we don’t hear about the food, but we know it was there), the Feeding of the 5,000, and the Last Supper, to name a few. God gives us a Eucharistic, Heavenly Banquet to partake of! In all of these instances, mealtime is a time of grace and God’s presence.
Secondly, we can have “an almost ecstatic enjoyment” in one piece of fine chocolate that handfuls of Snickers can’t give us. There are several places in the book where Guiliano talks about enjoying what one loves to eat in moderation. Really enjoying. Don’t go crazy eating gobs of your favorite treats; intentionally enjoy the food. It’s about quality, not quantity. God gives us many blessings, and some of them come in the form of people, of food, or of material possessions. In all of these cases, we need to thank God for each blessing, and look to the quality of the gift. We need to take joy in the simple gifts that God sends us! How lame would it be if God sent a cool person along to be my friend, but I said: Okay, God, thanks and all that, but one person is not cutting it!! Send me 10 more people like this, and THEN I’ll be happy. Enjoy what—and who—God gives you.
I know that these ideas from the book may seem unrealistic. There are the people who will say: “What about the athletes? The farmers? Surely you can’t expect them to sit and slowly nibble on potatoes when they are super hungry!” This objection is completely reasonable, and I definitely think that people should take care of themselves. Guiliano’s book provides some great ideas, some of which can be implemented, and others that we can adapt to our particular lifestyles responsibly. One of the cool ideas that she writes about is the idea of having a snack on hand, to help subside hunger in-between mealtimes. I’m a big fan of snacktime, and I notice that when I’ve been eating a few snacks throughout the day (especially when I go the “healthy snack” route), I don’t feel like overeating, and I find myself leisurely enjoying my food more.
I need to close off this ramble about food, so here’s another cool quotation from the book:
“A ‘main’ dish seems to be defined as the thing you have the most of. But eating a lot of any one element of a meal can be surprisingly less satisfying than eating equal portions of all things.” (Guiliano 131)
(So does this mean eating the same amount of dessert as salad???? I’d be down for that J )
On that note, I’ve got to finish packing up my life and preparing for our next adventure! Westward ho!