Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Fastest Food Shoveler In The West

The topic at WW this week was tips on how to really slow down and enjoy your food. My husband eats like he’s in a prison camp with 4 minutes to shovel as much as possible into his stomach because his next meal may not be for several days.

We also, like so many other empty nesters, have gotten into the very bad habit of eating dinner, each and every week night, with Diane Sawyer. I work from home, so each afternoon I start to pull together an evening meal for later, when the H gets home. Sometimes, I can create a meal quickly if it’s something really basic. I’m not much of a sandwich or eggs for dinner kind of gal. I probably should have been a chef or at least a short order cook, as I can’t seem to give up the temptation to “mess” with dishes so they’ll be “better”.
Even the occasional frozen pizza does not escape me adding some fresh mozzarella or a few microplane swipes of Grana Padano, fresh tomato slices, mushrooms, fresh basil or a dash of my Italian seasoning mix before it hits the oven. Nothing is safe when you hear me say, “Oooo, hang on a sec…”. I‘m an awesome cook and I love to take my time to create things that make your mouth sing.

When I have spent an hour or two making fresh raspberry vinaigrette dressing for the salad greens I have laced with slices of fennel bulbs, almonds, slivers of Muenster cheese and a few home made seasoned croutons to pair with a pork roast and balsamic vinegar and apple reduction sauce, I would like to think that the eater of my offerings actually tasted what I took all that time to make.

Imagine my surprise (she said sarcastically), when I get my plate and head to the TV room where the husband has already taken his plate and flipped on Diane and the nightly news and by the time I sit down, he is done with his dinner. Really? We don’t live in a 20,000 square foot home. It’s about 30 feet from the stove to the sofa in the TV room. If I walk very slowly, and I mean cartoonishly slow, it might take me 10 seconds to get from one place to another. Did he give it to the dog? Did he shove it under the sofa? If he ate it, did he chew or simply unhinge his jaw like the Anaconda’s of the Amazon? I am baffled with the speed in which this food was inhaled, and frankly, a little insulted.

At the WW meeting this morning, a woman who grew up on a local farm with many siblings shared her family food motto. It goes like this; He who eats the fastest gets the most. Then, to a round of laughter from the 50 people gathered, she added, “I won.”

We learn fast eating from somewhere; our families or an over crowded school system that allots 10 minutes for lunch or the military operations that rush you through as you try and get a handful of whatever they’re serving. It’s a really bad habit and unless you are out there doing the Jillian Michaels killer boot camp every day, you are going to over eat when you do it at home and no one is there to eat up or remove the seconds and thirds you’ll be going for a few minutes after inhaling your first helping.

The H is the youngest of four boys and his father before him was the youngest of more sibs than that. My father-in-law proudly told the story of rushing to his childhood breakfast table and licking every piece of toast so his sibs wouldn't want them. He thought it was hilarious. I thought it was his training ground for the Grinch-like character he became during his lifetime.

It takes almost 20 minutes for your brain to tell your stomach you are full. When you eat like a speed demon, you could have eaten your third helping in 20 minutes. When you're shoveling it in at the speed of light you're not really enjoying it and, more importantly, it hasn't had time to register on the FULL meter.

An empty stomach is the size of your fist. Hold your fist out over the cookware and bowls full of food before you eat and mentally absorb the fact that there is more than enough to fill you many times over. That may still the desperate kid buried deep in our mind that's screaming, "There won't be enough for me!"

Here’s another suggestion for slowing your meals down and forcing yourself to taste, chew and savor every bite of your food: use chop sticks whenever possible. Get some really nice ones. I bought several sets when I was in Hong Kong and Japan and I’ve also collected some nice contemporary wooden ones, traditional ceramic and even a couple of fancy ceremonial  sets. I love the way they feel in my hands and if you can snap your fingers, you can figure out how to eat with them.

This is one simple change you can make that will make a world of difference in how much you are eating and in how much you actually taste the meal that you or someone else may have taken a very long time to lovingly create. Your satisfied stomach will thank you and the cook will thank you for properly appreciating their culinary artistry and spare you their silent wrath, or loud wrath or wrathy wrath in my case. What? It could be a word.  

I'm hiding the forks tonight. How about you?

Check out your local Asian grocery store, World Market, China Town or the web for some beautiful chopstick sets. Here’s an entire website devoted to these handy dandy eating tools:

And if you don’t know how to use two sticks to eat, here’s a lesson. Go watch it! Chop, chop!