Monday, April 26, 2010

The Food Experience

I've been blogging a lot about food - the buying of food, the cooking of food, the research of food and the finding of really good food, but what of the truest of all things that come to mind when we think of food - what about the consumption of food? The actual act of eating the food? Have I lost sight of what this is all about?

The simple answer is: no. It is simply that I believe that for most of us this is where our focus has always been, leaving us nearly blind to all of the other facets of food. It was my feeling when I began this blog that I did not need to worry about the consumption portion of the conversation, because that was something that I simply had already mastered and understood so completely - there was no need for any reflection. I was wrong.

I had an epiphany of taste today and it came from, if you can even believe this, an English muffin.

Let me back up for a moment to contextualize this conversation before I go any further. I have been home sick since last Thursday as a result of one of the worst Ileitis/Crohn's disease flare ups I have ever experienced. I have been a slave to the ever so bland "BRAT diet" (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast) for five days running. I have, in my kitchen, waiting for me (and so far still safe to consume since being purchased Tuesday night): organic potatoes, a head of cauliflower, fresh asparagus, baby spinach, red tomatoes and, lord help me, they look amazing - fresh red strawberries... but I can eat none of them. I can eat only the BRAT. Needless to say, I ran out of BRAT supplies quickly, so, yesterday, after coming out of the hospital with a discharge letter saying: eat BRAT and see your GI ASAP, my husband took me over to the supermarket to get more BRAT stuff. As I was grabbing a loaf of white bread, I had a stroke of inspiration - English Muffins are just like toast, so I grabbed them. Which leads us back to today...

The English Muffin Moment - A True Food Experience

Thomas' English muffins are not organic, they are not fresh, and I did not, unfortunately pick them up at a local bakery or market straight from the baker's hands... I bought them at King Kullen. Their list of ingredients is also not something I would shout from the rooftops as an exemplar of the untainted foods I am on a quest to find to nourish myself with on this "Search for Sustenance" I have set forth upon. However, today, this morning. no one could convince me of the virtues of any other food stuff outweighing that of my luscious english muffin.

I woke with, yet again, an unsettled stomach - waging war upon itself over issues no soldier in the battle could even remember - and feeling as though I had been beaten before my day even began, stumbled into the kitchen. When I entered I noticed my husband had left out the toaster for me, a glimmer of hope for a day filled with small serendipity. I clambered to the cabinet, grasped the familiar orange and white box set inside a clear plastic bag and fumbled for a muffin. After forking the muffin in two, I placed each piece (one always smaller than the other!) into the toaster slots and waited.

When they popped, I was already taken a-back at the beauty of my English muffin. I thought about taking a picture of the toasted masterpiece because it looked just like the commercial. I almost grabbed my phone to take a picture, but my stomach lurched and I knew not to break the cardinal rule of English muffin consumption - eat while still warm! I put a hint of butter on each muffin half, stacked them on top of each other to contain the heat and melt the butter and brought the muffins back to bed (I never do this, but my tummy was making the rules).

I sat down, put the covers back over me and closed my eyes. I wanted to get through eating the muffin without any stomach interruptions...

With my eyes closed, I bit down and my other senses took over. I could smell the warm muffin with the hint of butter as it passed under my nose to my lips. I could feel every nook and cranny gently scrape the roof of my mouth as the grains on the bottom of the muffin half rolled along my tongue. I could hear every crunch and crackle as the nooks and crannies burst in my mouth to reveal their soft inner, un-toasted, yet still warm, muffin yumminess. And I could TASTE , of course I could taste! - the butter, the muffin, the toasted outer parts, the warm insides - so DELICIOUS. And with every bite I repeated the same ritual.

I found myself chewing longer just to savor the experience, listening closely, recognizing that even sound plays a part in the true food experience! It was fantastic, it was wonderful, it was sustenance not only for my stomach, but for my soul and my sanity. I had been going mad with blandness and limitations - sure that I could never, in fact, get better without sustenance.

The whole experience called to mind a book I picked up some months before I started losing my vision called The Flavor Bible. It was one of those books that I planned to read over a long course of time, perusing here and there as the mood strikes, instead of reading by brute force cover to cover. Well, I recall, in the beginning of the book, the authors began to discuss the many levels and aspects of taste - calling in all of the senses and even emotion/sentimentality. I am paraphrasing because I, of course, do not have the book in front of me, but I imagine that if you have the opportunity to flip through this book or decide to buy it (I think it might be worth it!), you might see the true validity and possibility in the mundane English Muffin becoming quite so spectacular for me today.

I challenge you to have an epiphany of taste. Eat quietly, eat purposefully and enjoy the experience. Yes, we need food to live, but let's really think about that we need food to LIVE. What if the food experience defines our living - not just by what we eat but also by how we eat it? This is something to think about when we are rushing in a breakfast or lunch while juggling all types of life things around at the same time! This is definitely something to think about when eating dinner in front of a television or over a pile of work...

Well, if nothing else (I am really sorry, I can not avoid this pun), it is food for thought.

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