The Art of Food

Food is a wonderful gift that comes in too many assortments to name. Do you make time during your day to eat a meal and fully enjoy it or do you eat on the run? When was the last time you set a place setting for yourself and your family? Do you eat when you are hungry or find yourself eating because of boredom, depression, anger, and/or sexual frustration? Maybe it’s all of the above. Here are some anecdotes conveying enjoyment and awareness of what you eat.

 At just five years old I learned about the art of food. My grandfather (who I called poppa) had such a warm, generous, loving spirit and a special place in my heart. I adored him. He owned a bar and grill in Fairfield, Ct. for most of his life. Actually that is how he supported my father, my Aunt Reba, and my Grandmother (who I called momma). My great grandfather was a baker as well, so I guess our love of food ran in the family.

 

I loved sleep over’s at my momma and poppa’s house. They made me feel like a real princess. My poppa would make breakfast for me in the mornings.  The first thing he would do was to take out my momma’s fine china and have me set the table with sterling silverware, cloth napkins and Lalique glasses. I remember saying  “Poppa, it’s breakfast. Why are we setting the table?” He replied, “Because we are eating and breakfast is just as important as dinner.” I will never forget that.  It was then that I learned the importance of all three meals. On the plate, he strategically placed 3 to 4 prunes, a piece of fresh fruit cut with finesse (similar to a sushi chef) and eggs. He made eggs an event and a lot of fun. Sunny side up with a toasted bagel, lox, cream cheese and capers was my favorite….except for, maybe, the capers. He taught me to savor the food. “Betsy, I want you to taste what you are eating and enjoy each bite. No one is going to take it away from you so SLOW DOWN, eat it, and enjoy it,” he would say. I think many people just shovel it in so they can move onto something “more important” or because they’re afraid someone will take it away before they’re finished. Is that something you do?

 

Food is to be enjoyed. Do you savor the flavors and the tastes of what you are eating? If not, you’re missing out. I savor every bite! I am in love with food… everything about it. I love the colors, textures and tastes. I even enjoy grocery shopping, taking the time to pick out the ripest melons and other fresh fruits and vegetables. Doing this is an acquired skill and my other grandmother (who I called nana) taught me that. She would spend hours picking out the perfect melon. I mean hours! And now I have the skill to pick out the best melons myself, which makes savoring them that much more enjoyable. What are your experiences and memories with food?

 

As I continue to get older, my memories still revolve around food.  I look forward to having a family dinner every night, because I loved our conversations at the table growing up: about what we did at school, my new friends, my art class and what ever else had transpired in the day.

 

I recently read a Harvard study on family dinners, stating that children who regularly sat down for dinner with their parents did better in school. The study said that many went on to lead successful and healthy lives. I believe it! Everything stems from food: the nutritional value, the experience, the love that goes into cooking, and the warmth that the connection people can share with food. I felt so connected to my family when we were eating.

 

I lived with an Italian family a semester abroad in Florence, Italy. Everything was about the food, and was it good!  I felt so connected to them when we ate. It was such a warm experience. They were life lessons; what it means to come together to eat a wonderful prepared meal. This only made my desire to eat with my family regularly even greater.

 

There is a wonderful documentary entitled “Jiro Dreams of Sushi.” It’s a delightful film about the most famous sushi chef in Tokyo. His name is Jiro Ono, an 85 year-old man who dedicates his life to the craft of being a sushi connoisseur. He works day and night perfecting the craft of making sushi: picking every piece of fish and meticulously training his sons and employees. His restaurants only seat 10 and there is a waiting list for months. He has won the 3-Star Michelin Review, making him the oldest Michelin chef. The really poignant part of the film was the love he had for his two sons. He was tough and really strict with both of them but he wanted them to learn for themselves how to survive in this world and to master their craft. The film expresses the beauty, perfection and love of food. Food is a universal love for all of us.

 

Maybe now you can start to appreciate and enjoy what you eat. Create and look at food from a different perspective. Take time to relax and enjoy a meal with a friend and/or your family. If you must eat alone, don’t distract yourself with Television, the computer or even reading. Just relish each bite and experience the Art of Food!

Written by: Betsy Karp

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