Savoring is the better version of eating, dancing is the better version of walking and singing the better version of talking. Savoring means eating slowly, enjoying the moment and in the process using all the senses to better remember the experience. Savoring is the art of eating.
“Eating is a necessity, but eating well is an art”, I remember reading somewhere once, and I couldn’t agree more. The way I see it, is that life in itself is our chance to master the art of living. In other words, how to find joy and beauty all around us. Cooking is certainly an art and a vehicle to discover many of the wonders that life has to offer. I like to cook slowly, smelling, feeling , touching all there is to smell, touch and feel. I open my senses to the pleasure of preparing food.
I often light a candle when I cook, not only because this helps to alleviate the crying effect that onions can cause, but because the gently burning flame reminds me to be present in the moment, in my kitchen, in front of my stove in the company of my pots and wooden spoons . Before the house gets filled with the fresh smells of all the cooking food, I usually burn some essential oils, my favorite two are rosemary and sage. The healing effect of aromatherapy has been known for centuries. The scent produced by the burning oils, inhaled through the nose, stimulates the senses and unlocks the emotions, and there I am ready to enjoy the ride!
Nutrition is a very important subject in our day and age, we are gaining so much awareness about what we choose or not choose to eat.This is an important matter because what we eat and how we eat it will effect our health, mood, and overall being. In so saying we should never forget, that the food that will truly nourish us, is the food that we enjoy. Sitting at a beautifully set table, perhaps in the company of loved ones, allowing ourselves enough time to be present in the moment is the perfect condition to show our appreciation and gratitude and at the same time the best way to nourish and replenish our bodies.
Food is not an equation or a math problem, counting the carbohydrates and the proteins is something we can leave for the scientists and for those who write food labels. Instead, what it is really wonderful is to basque in the flavors, aromas, textures, and smells of our dishes.
Cut open a red cabbage and let ourselves be captured by the beauty of the intricacy of its patterns. Create favorite dishes, travel in time remembering smells from childhood, have fun cutting up a lush fresh peach.
The way we look at food varies from person to person, from culture to culture. In Italy old traditions are kept alive by the strong love that people there have for eating. Traditional dishes like the cannellini bean soup with spelt, is still one of the favorite dishes for the people of my hometown. Grains like barley, corn,and oats are used on a daily base.
Nowadays so many people suffer from allergies and it is troubling that too many of us have to look at food as a threat to their health. Science has discovered that many people have a hard time digesting some of the proteins (gluten in particular) in grains. It was shown how this problem can be alleviated by a soaking process.
Some of the most insightful cookbooks recently have started reintroducing the idea of soaking the grains overnight before using them. This is not a new tendency, but a rediscovery of an ancient wisdom which has been confirmed by modern science. As Sally Fallon points out in her book Nourishing Traditions, science has found phytic acid in the outer layer of all grains. Once ingested phytic acid combines with essential minerals such as zinc, copper, magnesium, iron, and calcium it blocks the body from absorbing them.
Granted that soaking food requires planning ahead and that is not always possible, but what a relief to know that we are regaining precious ancient knowledge in the light of modern consciousness and that through understanding our body and what it needs we can aspire to heal ourselves in a way that is most beneficial to us.
Having a balanced diet is probably the base of healthy nutrition. All traditional cuisines such as Italian, French, Chinese, Middle Eastern are based on ways of combining food that is the result of ancient knowledge passed down from generation to generation. This knowledge was based on observation and a true and deep understanding of the food in relation to the human body. Balance is a great condition to achieve in all sphere of our lives and the kitchen is a great place to start.
In these last years research has shown that even though French cuisine is rich in animal fats (butter, cream, milk, cheese), French people do not suffer from obesity. Italian cuisine is very rich in carbohydrates and yet Italian women are proven to be among the most long -lived people in the world. The explanation that researchers have been giving is that the secret lies in the combination of the food. In Italy, even though people consume a lot of pasta and bread, fruit and vegetables are also an important part of the diet and of course the generous use of olive oil, rich in non saturated fats. The lifestyle also plays a fundamental role in how our bodies receive, digest, and absorb what we eat. Sitting down, relaxing and putting our minds to the act of eating is essential for a good digestion. Too often in our modern life food is viewed as fuel, a chance to charge up quickly and run to our next task, somewhat similar to gassing up a car, and while you are at it ,might as well fill it up all the way. Well, our bodies don’t work quite in the same way. Eating a lot of heavy food on the run is a great cocktail for poor nutrition and poor health.
As an Italian, I have the idea of sitting around the table in loving company, savoring delicious food and sipping great tasting wine, ingrained in me but at the same time I understand the convenience of at times being able to “not make such a big fuss about eating” and just “get it over with” sometimes it is necessary, and that is okay, especially if food preparation and consumption becomes another source of stress. Sometimes, we just simply don’t have a choice. Most of the times though, when I sit around a table that radiates love, and I open myself to the gift of food and companionship what I feel when I stand up is satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment. What a comforting thought that around this table, with my family, in our dining room, is the place where we meet again and again, and is the place where we invite others to join us. Precious just like a shared loaf of homemade bread, a bouquet of flowers, what this gesture means and how it makes us feel.
During this Spring season I invite all of you to celebrate any chance you get. Get a big board, put some sort of legs under it and throw a pretty table cloth over it. Set flowers on the table and invite people over. Tell everyone to bring some food to share and all together savor the flavor of joy. The joy of the here and now. The joy of companionship. The joy of a happy and slow life. Happy Spring Everyone!