Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Slow Food

Do you eat fast or slow?
I eat slow. I'm not boasting. I'm not trying to say that taking time with a meal is more genteel. I don't like it, in fact, if my food cools off when I'm only half finished with it.
But I can't eat fast. Especially when it's a special meal, fraught with formality, expense, expectations. Too much tension, and I tense up.
Last holiday season I ran into trouble, twice, while trying to eat fast. Both times I got a chunk of meat lodged halfway down my esophagus that took a couple of minutes to get completely swallowed. Both times, the meal was important. And both times I was in the company of fast eaters, so I was trying to keep up.
I don't try to keep up anymore, for obvious health reasons.
But I wonder why I ever tried to keep up at all. I like eating slowly. I like chewing each bite (and I mean bitesized bite, not one of those huge folded planks of protein fast eaters cram into their mouths; ooh, sorry — value judgment). Yet I've always felt pressure from the fast eaters at my table, as if my slow meal were going to interfere with, I don't know, their pleasure? As if I would be delaying dessert?
Well, last night I threw down the figurative gauntlet, while still managing to daintily clutch my literal steak knife and fork.
Cranky was tearing through his meal. I know he was mainlining comfort; he's been under some stress, and going out for a steak dinner was therapeutic. But, mygaw, he was robotically sawing and stuffing, sawing and stuffing. Couldn't have been much fun. I caught myself fretting because I couldn't eat fast enough, and then I stopped.
"I'm not going to eat as fast as you," I said. I didn't ask him to slow down; I didn't criticize his manners or give him the canned speech on the pleasure of a leisurely meal. I just announced my own plan.
He slowed down. Cranky is a polite boy, and he realized he was nervously wolfing. He snapped out of his foodbot stupor and timed the rest of his meal to keep pace with me.
A fantastic thing happened. I finished my meal (well, not all, but as much as I wanted to eat), and I felt comfortable. Comfortable enough to order a selection of cheeses to nibble on, which rarely happens for me at a restaurant. Usually I'm too rattled and queasy.
And it wasn't until I typed those words just now, "rattled and queasy," that I realized why I hate eating fast so much.


Monkey Gland said...

Coming from a family of heavy set men who love food, you learn to eat fast lest you don't eat at all!

Katie said...

I am always trying to slow down!
Part of the problem is I'm always starving, then I eat too fast and too much, which causes starving the next day which makes....
Maybe I'll try small bites....
One should always have room for the cheese!
Childhood blessing:
In the name of the father, son and holy ghost, who eats the fastest gets the most....Yaaaay God!

Sam said...

I used to get a clip round the ear for being so slow at the table.

SOmetimes I would spend all afternoon eating a meal. Maybe I took it too far.

That is the lasting memory of me at a dinner table - ask my family - they'll all tell you I am the slowest eater they have ever met.

That's because we haven't eaten a lot of good food together. I hated food when I was growing up. When food is good (and it always is these days), sometimes I am the first to lick my plate clean. If my mother is with me - she certainly raises her eyebrows.

Kevin said...

I eat fast. I think a lot of that is because having grown up with three siblings if you didn't eat fast you didn't get seconds and because my mother didn't encourage snacking we needed to stock up at mealtimes.

El said...

I like the bite-chew-listen, think-chat-expound-drink of a great meal SHARED. Stories told, food considered, know. UNAmerican eating. The best meals I have ever had have been drawn-out affairs usually in Italy or France where you can't feel your a** for sitting so long. (Or drinking so long, come to think of it...)

Life's fast, so slow down and enjoy some good victuals and bevvies, I say!

Stacie said...

thanks for the reminder! i spent years touring in a band of all guys. the would chow down every meal, and then start in on mine if i wasn't deligent enough! those were lean times, and in order to get enough sustanance, i had to learn to keep up. now i eat with toddlers, talk about a nervous mess! egads!

plentyo'moxie said...

I hear you! I am the slow eater in both my husband's and my family - my husband also a fast eater. At family holidays my husbands family will just *stare* at me while I chew. But I am a tough cookie, and have never really felt the pressure to speed up - it just seems impossible, as you have said.

kudzu said...

You didn't eat your carrots ---- tsk!

I was thinking of this slow-eating subject over the weekend when I was involved in a ravioli session that required us to make allowances for things: spelt instead of regular flour and two kinds of filling (regular ricotta and Bellwether sheep's milk ricotta) and it took us forever and then when we served it everybody just sort of --- inhaled it. I always eat slowly and like to talk during a meal, and sometimes find myself the last to finish. But I bet I'm more content.

PS I know where you were!

Dagny said...

I talk too much to complete a meal quickly.iqt

Dagny said...

Please ignore the last three letters on the previous comment. I'm in need of dinner.

KT said...

In junior high I ate lunch with more than 400 other kids and I was ALWAYS the last one to finish. My English teacher (also a lunch monitor) said, "You'll live longer than everybody else here." That was more than a hundred years ago... perhaps she was right! Arf arf!

Chris said...

Guilty - fast eater! When I was teaching in the classroom - we had a 19 minute lunch period. So, by the time I got my hormonal 8th graders seated and eating, that left me with 2.2 seconds. (I don't know why they called it a class period - it was really a drive-thru!) Now that I am not in the classroom and I can actually slow down - I am not sure what to do! It's sad, really. The other day I sat with some teachers in the cafeteria and had crazy flashbacks. Ugh -

Anonymous said...

Too funny. My husband also tends to eat faster than I. We used to split a large order of fries until I confessed that I'd get so stressed out that I wasn't getting my 'fair share'.

I tried tricking him by asking him open-ended questions to keep him talking while I enjoyed my meal. Now I just tell him that he's making that weird sound that his dad makes (the strained growl of trying to swallow a not-enough-chewed bit of food).

Good for you taking your time and good for him for slowing down with you :)

Anna Haight said...

Hear Hear! Stress does speed it up, but regrets afterwards.

Beccy said...

Sam, I ate good food growing up, you just ate most of yours when it was cold and congealed.

CC, I think some meals should be eaten slowly whilst others are there to be wolfed down.

Just my opinion.

drbiggles said...

Hey, where do I go for piggies on my plate?


ChrisB said...

CC only some of what sam says is true. I am never going to live down the bad cook image am I. But now she's matured her tastes have changed. I still don't know how to feed her when she visits (such stress)!!

beccy on the other hand just got on with eating with little argument or fuss.

Greg said...

My eater I am. Learned that habit in boot camp. The drill sergeant whould yell Move it gentlemen! Put the food in your mouth and chew it later. Thanks Uncle Sam.

tammy said...

I'm in your camp, CC. I'm the slowest of the slow. Always the first one at the table, and always the last one left. The sensitive tummy won't have it any other way!

cookiecrumb said...

Well, see? It's mostly a men vs. women thing. Men want to grab your food as soon as they've cleaned their own plates. Women just look on, horrified, and failing to digest properly. Vomiting, some of us.
I wonder what that's really about. Do the men really need the extra protein? Calories? Are we depriving them of needed nutrients by dividing up our rations equally? I know I'm smaller than Cranky, but I've always allowed him proportionally larger servings.
So why does he eat so fast it scares me? It scares me to the point of queasiness. Is that evolutionary?
Men. Hmmph.
No nookie for him.
No Nookiecrumb.
That oughtta fix your evolutionary yearnings, ya bastid.

kudzu said...

Wowzer, Cookie -- Mustbe that big bright moon out there that's driving your passion!.....So you really get nauseous/queasy? I just get very, very annoyed. Yet I never thought of it as evolutionary (cave man gets more meat, cave woman gets scared and throws up).

cookiecrumb said...

Kudzu: Yeah. It makes us so much more attractive to cavemen. Urp.
I agree with Beccy that there are some foods that deserve a quick gulp. Hot dogs at a game, or (if you're one of those people who does this) tacos over the kitchen sink.
And in a way, I admire you few women who have had to learn how to down a meal in a hurry.
Of course, eating too slowly is a real drag, eh, Sam? Cold and curdled... And if it entails the rest of your party waiting at the table, no fun for them, either.
As for you speed-eaters, it does break the host's heart to see her food inhaled without a thought.
Biggles: Piggies on the plate (kudzu knows) are at Left Bank.

lime_n_lemon said...

I am exactly the same!
The only problem is with my family when we eat im the slowest there and my family do that thing like 'wait till the last person is finished' it took me over an hour to eat a bit of chicken pie and some small veggies! I was so embrassed and it was just so nerve wrecking!

cookiecrumb said...

Lime: You probably can't change. I've tried, and it hasn't worked for me. Enjoy your slow food.

Anonymous said...

Ive always been a slow eater. Thats never going to change. But I guess my moms getting irritated with it because she says I have an eating disorder. She also has siad shes going to put me in a clinic because of it! When I heard this I was really upset because no matter ho hard I try to eat fast it never works and i always end up with the "chip monk" (what my dad says when my cheaks are full).

cookiecrumb said...

Ashley: No fair! Your parents are ganging up on you and that just makes it harder.
By the way, don't worry. There aren't clinics for "eating slow." It's not a problem.
Good luck.