I’ve been told that there are two types of people in the world: those who eat to live and those who live to eat. As a member of the live-to-eat clan, I’ve always chosen my meals consciously and focused on the flavors and textures that were presented to me with absolute attention. Or at least I thought I did.
I recently went to a breakfast meditation at Maman, a small French café tucked away on the edges of New York City’s Chinatown. Hosted by Lynne Goldberg of OMG! I Can Meditate, the goal of the breakfast was to let go of all other inhibitions, sit down and devote all attention to the day’s most important meal.
We started with five minutes of silent eating, placing a strawberry in our palms and studying every side, seed and curve of it. Before tasting the little red gem, we raised it to our noses and took in a big whiff of…well, not much — my strawberry wasn’t super-ripe. Finally we took our first bites with our eyes closed and were directed to really think about the tastes the strawberry presented, reminiscent of the flavor-driven visions of zany colors, lines and explosions that tingled Remy’s senses in Pixar’s Ratatouille.
Mindful eating, Goldberg says, is like the “anti-diet”: You can eat whatever you like as long as you’re absolutely present in the acts of chewing and breathing. In counting my chews, I felt that it was appropriate to chew slowly and savor the flavors present, taking two whole minutes to eat a baby strawberry. Naturally, being ultra-conscious about what you’re eating at a slower speed could lead to eating less and ultimately losing weight, which could be a plus for some.
Turning the act of eating into a form of meditation, Goldberg asked us to count our chews as if it were a mantra. I couldn’t imagine doing this with something rich and heavy, the feeling of grease coating my mouth, but if you’d like to slowly and consciously chew that bacon-wrapped hot dog, be my guest.
At the end of the day, eating mindfully wasn’t overly focused on the preparation of the food or the food itself, but how you consumed it. Indeed, Goldberg did tell us to think about the soil our berries sprouted from and the hands of the farmers who picked them and the people who loaded these seasonal treats onto trucks and the buyers who haggled over the prices and, finally, Maman’s buyers, who brought the berries to our beautiful blue plates, but there was no focus on whether or not the food was great (it was, if you’re wondering). We were instructed to “observe without judgment,” after all.
Mindful eating is about much more than what you decide to consume; it’s also about how you consume it as well as what and who led you to consume it. Whether or not meditation is for you, it is important to keep tabs on where your food came from and who took the time to prepare, ship and grow or raise it. Or possibly even print if you’re enjoying one of those 3-D printed meals everyone’s so excited for.