I think the sign of a life well-enjoyed is to be able to look back fondly at specific memorable meals experienced in one’s time on earth. To me, life’s just not worth living without the utter enjoyment and savoring of food. Food sustains us, but it also can bring joy, solace, and evoke beautiful recollections of certain moments in time. It doesn’t matter if a memorable meal is an emergency soggy picnic in the car during a thunderstorm or dinner at the most expensive restaurant you’ve ever been in – the only criterion for a special meal is that it stirs up great feelings inside when you think back on it, whether about the circumstances, the people you shared the meal with, or the food itself. Hopefully all three at once!
If you find yourself unable to conjure up specific memorable meals the way I can, here’s a few words of advice on how to start making meals more unforgettable. If you go out to eat often, restaurant experiences become more habit than a luxury. Try to decrease the amount of times you dine out in order to increase your appreciation for the times you can. My family rarely goes out to eat, so when we do, we are so excited about it! The entire experience becomes something to savor, relish, and feel grateful for. When I see others who make dining out a very common thing, I also tend to notice these individuals often act more like they are “going through the motions” rather than truly enjoying themselves. This, of course, may not be the case for everyone, but when something becomes too routine, these things often become less memorable. Find a newfound excitement for wonderful restaurant meals by truly making them special occasions. (For my tips on how to dine out less, click here).
Secondly, embracing a slower lifestyle in general can help you be mindful of the present moment of your experience, particularly with dining. Whether it’s a beautifully prepared meal at your favorite restaurant or the slightly-wacky brunch your kids put together on Sunday morning, these meals are appreciated more when you have less on your plate and aren’t rushing around and multitasking. Food and eating aside, spend some time making sure you are living intentionally and focusing only on what’s most important to you, whether it’s family, career, or your health or home. Next, make sure that your time aligns with these values. So often we find ourselves doing things we really don’t want to do just out of routine or because we’ve never really thought of what life would be like without doing it. When you strip away tasks or pursuits that don’t really matter, you have time to concentrate on what really does. Simplifying your life opens up the opportunity to savor food and the beautiful experience of sharing it with others in a way you may have never considered before.
Next, practice mindfulness during mealtime and work towards using all of your senses during a meal. Shut off electronics, put away phones, and don’t rush through the food! Unforgettable meals eaten with appreciation are just not for your taste buds. It’s true that we eat with our eyes first. What colors do you notice? How are things plated? How many different types of textures are on the plate? Notice smells, scents, undertones of each item. Feel things if you want (yes, even adults can play with their food)! Be attentive to your environment, whether you’re having a simple breakfast at the kitchen table with your kids or you’re dining at a hot spot on the beach boardwalk. What sights, sounds, and happenings are going on around you that you may have never noticed before? Perhaps you and your children can spot new birds out the back window during that breakfast that will open up a new conversation about nature, or you’ll heard the crash of the ocean while cracking that crab leg in a way you’ve never quite heard before.
Finally, go into every meal without pretention or expectation. I promise this will always leave you pleasantly surprised and with great appreciation for the experience! Don’t go looking for problems with the food, and if the wait service is less than stellar, who really cares? Just focus on being grateful for the bounty in front of you, and the communion you can build by sharing it with those you’re dining with. If you go into a meal having no expectations for its greatness, you’ll never be disappointed! Rather, you’ll discover new things to savor and enjoy, and you just might be making a sacred memory in the process!