How I approach a normal restaurant meal:
- Order a water
- Get the water and immediately guzzle the whole thing
- Order something vegetarian that comes with fries
- Pee because I drank too much
- Arrive back at table right as meal arrive at table (score!)
- Eat the entire meal in 20 seconds flat without saying a word to whoever I’m eating with
This method has worked pretty successfully thus far. And by “worked pretty successfully,” I mean that it has contributed to a large amount of bloating and overeating. Yesterday I visiting Newport, Rhode Island. Wait. Let me pause this discussion of food and just say that Newport is breathtaking. To prove my point, I will provide some photographic evidence of my experience.
If you don’t think those pictures are beautiful (especially the one with me in it), you don’t have a soul. Now that I’ve called some of you soul-less, let’s get back to the important part of this post: food. While I was in Newport I only had two goals: eat delicious seafood and ride on a sailboat. So, I made a reservation at The Mooring, a restaurant that I read about in almost every article about Newport. There was mention of lobster doughnuts and I was sold. The restaurant is right on the water (or wharf?… but I don’t actually know what wharf means) and it’s a quick walk from all the public parking lots. I walked in and I was greeted by a gentleman in a nice outfit and some smiles from the young ladies around him. I asked for an outdoor table with a great view and they delivered. The hostess walked me over to a nice two-top and pulled out a chair for me so I could face all the boats that were all about 20 yards from me. At this point, I was in Heaven. I didn’t even need to eat because I was already content with my visit. Wait. Who are we kidding? THE DOUGHNUTS! I needed to eat. I picked out a glass of white wine, read over the menu, and decided I was going to go all out. And I mean ALL. OUT. I asked my waitress, Callie, if I would be overdoing it if I ordered an appetizer of the Bag of Doughnuts (Lobster, crab, and shrimp fritters with chipotle-maple aioli… STOP) and the Seafood Pasta (Lobster, shrimp, sea scallops, tomato-garlic butter sauce, fresh herbs, angel hair pasta… PLEASE stop). Without hesitation, Callie said that she thought I could handle it. I love someone who doesn’t underestimate me (or who relies on tips for a living and hoped for an extra few dollars). After I ordered, I had some time to reflect on the food-sperience that I was about to have. And all of a sudden, it felt different than any other restaurant visit. I felt calm. I wasn’t guzzling down my water or asking for bread. I was enjoying the view and getting excited about the lush meal I would soon be enjoying. A server came by with my bag of doughnuts. And this is what was placed before me. Prepare yourselves–the image you’re about to see is freaking delicious.
Normally, I would grab those suckers with my hand, rip it in two pieces, dip a piece in that sauce, and eat it in one bite. But something in me wanted to really enjoy this meal. And for some reason that translated to eating slower. And IT. WAS. AWESOME. I placed a doughnut on my side plate, cut it open, cut it in tiny bites, dipped it ever-so-slightly into the sauce, patiently brought my fork up to my mouth, and took a beautiful bite of the warm, crunchy goodness. It was one of the most wonderful first bites I’ve ever had. I continued to eat slowly, intentionally even. I felt like I was connecting with the food on my plate and, beyond that, with each of the ingredients in it; with the chef who prepared it; with the server who delivered it. For the first time ever, I fully appreciated a meal. And not the type of appreciation that lends itself to me eating the food so quickly that I am actually sad when it’s over. This was the type of appreciation that turned the meal into an experience rather than just food on a plate. As I finished the last bite of my third doughnut, I decided to stop. Callie kindly wrapped up the other three doughnuts. I later gave the leftovers to the parking attendant, who was grateful and willing to take food from a stranger. Then an angel approached me with a plate of delectable treats. In reality, the angel was a server and the treats were the contents of the Seafood Pasta. Allow me to bestow this image upon your eyeballs:
I thanked the server for delivering my new best friend. I mean my food. I tried to play it cool, I really did. But instead I was a complete food nerd/noob.
To everyone around me, it probably looked like I had never seen food in my life. But in my little world, I was building a connection with the food I was about to consume. I looked at it from every angle; took time to appreciate the deep colors and variety of yummy things; took some photos (such a millennial thing to do). And you know that thing that good servers do when they approach you a couple minutes after you get your food to make sure it’s alright? Callie did that and I still hadn’t taken one bite of it. So, naturally, I lied and said it was amazing because I had no doubts that it would be.
My prediction was correct. Every bite was mouth-watering goodness. The food was cooked perfectly–it wasn’t too salty or too oily, or too anything other than delicious. I took my time, really paying attention to each bite. It was one of the most glorious meals I have ever consumed. And even though I can attribute that mostly to the wonderful service, flawless view, and delicious combination of yummies, my approach to eating was also a huge part of it.
I can’t wait to eat more intentionally more often. Food has always been such a big part of my life. It brings my family together, it sits in the center of my living room when I host friends, it keeps me alive. But now it has a completely new dimension–it can be an experience worth savoring and slowing down to enjoy.