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Friday, February 10, 2012

The Department of Food Psychology, Philosophy & Sociology

The New York Times had a rather interesting article this week on a certain Buddhist perspective on eating, known as "mindful eating."  I am sure there are many complications and variations on the term "mindfulness," but most simply this just means being aware of what's taking place in the moment.  Mindful eating, therefore, is being aware of the food you're eating. It entails a very slow and deliberate process of placing food in your mouth, putting down your utensil, chewing, noticing the flavors and sensations, swallowing, feeling the food go down into your stomach, and repeating.

Some thoughts:

- I am a fairly fast eater.  I am often finished before many people have eaten even half of their food.  I have tried slowing down my eating, but seem unable.  Whenever I consciously try to eat more deliberately, I find myself uncomfortable and squeamish and I feel the need to pick up the pace. It seems if I am simply incapable of slowing down.

- Given that I eat very quickly, I do wonder how much of the gastronomic experience I am missing.If a meal is a symphony of flavors and textures, each with its own meaning, and in combination producing a meaning far greater than the sum of its parts, am I depriving myself of an ocean of spiritual sustenance?

- Is the fact that I am unable to slow down my eating indicative of an inability to enjoy the moment?  For instance, I am often clamoring after the next meal, the next ice cream sundae, the next piece of fried chicken.  My whole eating life consists of creating lists and places to try, and almost immediately upon trying, I am thinking ahead.  What is going on here?  Is this more about an obsessive quest as opposed to truly enjoying the thing being sought?

- One thing I have often pondered:  how good does food actually taste?  Anticipation is usually the best or worst part of anything.  The thing itself tends to be whatever it is.  If we truly slow down and contemplate what's happening when we're eating, will we enjoy it more, or will we realize the whole experience is an illusion?  There's really nothing there; it's all a gustatory mirage.