Slow Down...

Allan Gardens Conservatory: Toronto

Allan Gardens Conservatory: Toronto

It was Valentine’s Day and my yoga class ended with a guided meditation about chocolate. Unorthodox you say! Actually, you can easily find chocolate meditation “scripts” online (example) – so maybe it really is a thing.

Bringing attention to the chocolate, to the look, the shape, the feel, and then moving on to taking a bite, the taste, the mouth feel… then taking another bite… 

Let me pause to say that every chocolate I eat gets at least two bites – it is important for me to “see” the filling inside. I happen to know someone who eats a chocolate in one bite. I have never approved.

I may as well add at this point that during the chocolate thing, I meditated on my water bottle. I was doing an Elimination Diet and chocolate was a “no no”. The Diet? Will tell you more about that one day.

Back to the chocolate. Some serious time elapsed before that "yoga chocolate" was consumed. And that’s how it should be for many reasons.

As empty-nesters, I am astonished at how quickly Mr. KB and I consume supper. Whether the meal has been slow cooking all day, or a 30-minute miracle – it tends to disappear in less than 10 minutes. We sort of laugh at that, and reflect on how we eat restaurant meals much more slowly.

There are a lot of good reasons to eat more slowly. Two that are most important are that slow eating preps our digestive system for optimal functioning, and makes us well-positioned to receive the message our brain will send us about being full. (Before I continue, I must declare that I have no expertise in nutrition or biology, so I'm counting on you to correct me if I’ve misunderstood any of this…)

Many will say that digestion begins in the mouth, but let’s not overlook the phrase “mouth-watering”. We all want to cook / eat mouth-watering meals. Food that looks so delicious – with or without fancy plating – that our mouths literally “water”, filling with saliva. And guess what! Saliva is important – containing enzymes important to the digestion process. Fortunately, we produce an average of 1.5 litres of saliva per day! [Source]

Restaurant meals often encourage salivation by presenting us with an amuse bouche, and we may also order an appetizer – habits not often replicated in home dining. As such we are trampling the science of the first stage of digestion – the “cephalic stage” (which is followed by the gastric phase, and intestinal phase – taking from 24-72 hours in total.)

In the cephalic stage – before food hits our stomachs - we can ramp up our production of saliva – and slow down a meal – by chewing each mouthful longer. Many of us have heard this since we were kids and it turns out there is some science to support this. How many chews per mouthful? Some say 20, 30 – or chewing until the food is totally minced. [Read more here or here.]

Slowing down mealtime not only sets the stage for optimal sensory experiences and pleasant conversation, it buys the time we need to realize when we’re full. It can take 15-20 minutes for our brains to get the signal that we are full – a signal we miss if we eat a mountain of food in 10 minutes! Mind you, even at the best of times, we don’t always listen to our brain. Sadly, much of our eating is routine, maybe even mindless, and triggered by context and time of day. In fact, the goal of some diets is to put us back in touch with the sensations of hunger and satiation.

I’ll take a pass on attempting to summarize all the (sometimes conflicting) tips on how to optimize digestive processes – other than to say “ginger tea”. [Source]

No piece on slow eating would be complete without mentioning the Slow Food Movement – which began in 1986 partly as a counter-balance to fast food, which (despite some criticisms) aims to “defend regional traditions, good food, gastronomic pleasure and a slow pace of life… (and has evolved) to embrace a comprehensive approach to food that recognizes the strong connections between plate, planet, people, politics and culture.” [Source]

There is an even broader Slow Movement with many facets of culture and human activity focusing on slowing down the pace of life and change - there's even slow schooling! Busy, working parents of young children may yearn for “slow” while suffering in the fast lane of life. One of my favourite books is “In Praise of Slow” – by Canadian journalist Carl Honoré. His “slow” epiphany was linked to a story about one of his children and he followed up his first book by a second on “slow parenting”.

Since first reading that 2004 book, I am now retired and can more easily embrace “slow” – though in this life chapter there can be negative connotations to being “slow”. No matter – I have lots of time to slowly chuckle at that.

Readers who are fellow bloggers, may be surprised to know that there is a “slow blogging” movement. Averaging only one “story blog” entry per month I suppose I am an honorary member. This NYT article refers to BC’s Todd Sieling’s “Slow Blogging Manifesto” which can still be found at this site - and he's not the only blogger who has taken a stand. [Example]. I’ll share snippets from Kristen Doyle (visit her to site to see more):

"The Slow Blogging Movement is to Me...
Less about ambition, more about balance.
Less about page views, more about connection...
Less about quantity, more about quality.
Less about the hustle, more about happiness.
Less about social media, more about a social life.
Less about climbing to the top, more about rocking the middle.
Less about following the path of other bloggers, more about creating your own path."

Odd that I am writing about “slow” at a time when the “Instant Pot” is all the rage. One by one, I see fellow bloggers cave in to the temptation to acquire one – mind you, since it’s a Canadian invention, perhaps it is one’s civic duty to do so. I keep resisting – mainly because I have absolutely no place to store it – and… I am in no hurry.

I link every blog story to a recipe. What should it be this time?

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The “slowest” recipe I have posted so far is for Almost No-Knead Bread which has an 8-18 hour first rise. That gives you lots of time to get that saliva working!

Or try Afternoon Tea Scones – they don’t take long to make – but if you sit down with a friend, and pour a cup of tea and savour the scone and the cream and the jam… and the friendship... well, that’s a great way to slow down. 

Would love to hear your thoughts about “slow”. Click on the word "Comments" below. No rush, take your time – I will wait to hear from you!