With any luck, you’re still holding on with the no-fast-food part of boot camp. If you slipped up a day, no worries – read this, and rededicate yourself to doing what you can to avoid the fast food. As we move into week two of the Clean Eating Boot Camp, you’ll keep on avoiding fast food… but we’re going to also tack on something new, too.
Today’s topic, for me, is something that even I still am working on. It’s the concept of “slow food.”
If fast food is a restaurant’s streamlining of processes in order to produce a few dishes very quickly, slow food… is anything but.
I have fond memories of dinner as a young girl. We used to sit around the table and laugh at whatever culinary tragedy my stepfather would come up with. I’m serious – this man tried to think of thirty different ways to get me to eat liver. He’d call it everything from “salisbury steak” to “chicken a la king” to whatever other random name he could pull out of the sky, so long as I never realized it was liver.
At the dinner table, we talked. We laughed about our day, laughed at each other’s day, talked about how to make things better, talked about what was needed to do a little bit better in our days, talked about the news, talked about the neighborhood.. we talked. It was our time to grow closer considering how, as a family, we spent the majority of our day apart.
My stepfather’s culinary prowess was… questionable. I’m being generous – his cooking was pretty awful. That’s probably why we did more talking than we did eating at the dinner table. I’m serious. I still have nightmares about that “chicken a la king.” The food, as bad as it was some nights, didn’t change the fact that he put time into cooking dinner, put his foot into the dinner (maybe even literally, considering that taste), together we set the table, sat down together, “enjoyed” our meal together, laughed at our meal together, talked together and were absolutely better for it.
This… is slow food. The concept of “slow food” negates the idea that a “fine dining experience” can only be had and enjoyed at a “fine dining establishment,” complete with $36 salads and wine sipped from Tiffany’s glasses. “Slow food” is taking the time at home to foster a cozy environment where stories and steaks can be shared at the same time. The same table where kids learn social graces and basic manners becomes the same place where a family can spread a little love across a table.
For me, cooking is cathartic. Thinking of what I can cook takes about two minutes. My daughter comes in the kitchen, stands beside me at the counter, and enjoys naming the veggies as I prep them for the dish. I’ve actually grown to look forward to her tugging my clothing and asking me to let her sniff whatever herb or spice I have in my hand. Together, we sit at the table and eat together and talk. I always beam with pride whenever someone comments on my daughter’s table manners, because I know she’s had lots of practice.
Cooking is how I wind down a long day. I look forward to playing in the kitchen after spending all day being all stuffy and serious. I enjoy experimenting on my guinea pig– er, I mean, daughter to determine whether or not my dish was a hit or a miss.. and if it was a considerable miss, we skip dinner altogether and I make a nice fruit-filled dessert, instead. Either way, we always eat together.
Conversely, fast food undermines that experience. It’s an order that begins usually away from home, and often eating begins away from home, too. Think about it – how often is it that people set a table by placing little individually-wrapped pieces on plates? Giant 30oz cups instead of regular glasses? Because fast food simplifies eating, it simplifies dining. If dining is about ambiance, experience, enjoyment and pleasure derived from the company (even if the only company is yourself)… fast food, again, undermines that entirely.
I haven’t even gone into the biological reasons to have an enjoyable and leisurely dining experience at home. It takes a long time to eat. That’s right. It’s beneficial to you to take longer to eat your food. To keep it short and sweet, it takes about 20 minutes for your body to realize that enough food has entered the digestive system, and that it can turn off the desire to eat. If you’re quickly scarfing down food that already breaks down easily in the system, you’re only going to keep filling your tummy and stuffing your face until you realize… “Ohhhhh, I ate wayyy too much.”
If you are someone who realizes that they’re starrrrrrrrving during their ride home, you’re likely to pull into the next drive thru that appeals to your appetite.You’re in and out of that line in maybe 10 minutes, if it’s rush hour. You might even scarf down your food on the ride home… and that might take you ten minutes. In under 20 minutes, you let your hunger dictate to you that you need to rush to get food, you probably ordered the “most appealing” thing on the menu (which is usually the largest, most fatty, oversalted, probably unhealthy item there is…then again, they all pretty much are), and scarfed it down in less than 20 minutes. Congratulations - 1,000 calories later, you’ve ingested more than you would’ve had that food been sitting on a table in front of you on a plate and enjoyed with company.
This week brings about a new challenge. As we prepare to embrace the slow food movement (a big part of clean eating), this week’s challenge is to dine at home. Every day. No matter what the circumstance… eat at home. If friends are eating out at a restaurant, try to dine at home first. If you break the rule… feel guilty about it. No TV dinners, no processed meals..nothing. If you still have it in the house and don’t want to waste it, go ahead and eat them for dinner… but feel guilty about it and prepare yourself for grocery shopping for next week.
Learn how to cook. Laugh when you mess up, and keep the [slightly- okay, severely neglected] recipes section of this site on hand if you need a little help. But it’s time to start truly detoxing from outside food sources, and beginning to focus