Think back to the time when you had your first kiss with someone you really wanted to kiss. You remembered every little detail about that kiss, they way you felt, the butterflies in your stomach from being nervous and inexperienced, to the sensation of feathers dancing up and down your spine during the exploration. You instinctively knew how and when to breathe and you wanted that feeling to never stop. But it did and you remembered every single moment, yes? Well for those that had a great experience I hope it was everything and more, if you didn't have such a wonderful experience, think back to one that simply felt electrifying.
That's kind of how our relationships with food can be, and in particular what we think of as healthy food. Vegetables, fruit, lean meat or proteins. We either have fond memories of our food experiences or memories we'd love to forget. Our relationships with food are developed early on, from our mother giving us a snack or sweeties after school, or if we had a rough day and needed a pick me up. Some of us learned to eat to deal with feelings of hurt, frustration, insecurity and anger and we turned to some of the most addictive yet decadent treats we could find to ease the pain. Chocolate was the go to for some, or maybe ice cream, cookies, or cake and pies. These can be potent "drugs" that create a certain chemical reaction in the body that grant us immediate relief, no matter how temporary and guilty we felt afterwards.
Eating vegetables may have had the opposite effect, we may have felt that vegetables were tasteless globs of "stuff" on our plates. They may have been boiled or cooked until they no longer resembled what they once were and put on our plates. No longer fresh, vibrant and crisp, but dull, watery, possibly over seasoned limp pieces of mush that no longer had structure. Or how about fruit from a can or cup that is soaked in some type of syrup? There's no skin to peel, or bright vibrant color but it all looks about the same, its mushy and all tastes the same, you can't tell peaches from pears in that stuff.
That stuff isn't fruit or vegetables, it's been altered so much that any good stuff you were looking to get out of eating it no longer exists or is the water that the broccoli was boiled to death in.
So what makes food a pleasurable experience? It's got to have the characteristics below:
- Fresh - when it's out of a box/can/jar, it doesn't taste as good as the fresh version
- Texture - it's gotta be just right
- TASTE! - Don't over salt and use herbs to help enhance the flavor of your food
All Food Should Taste, Look, and Feel Almost as Good as that Special Treat, but how?
Here are a few ways to do that:
- Create a better dinner/food experience by using the "good dishes" - don't wait for special occasions to use the china - use it now, besides you can't take it with you when you're gone
- Unplug from electronics, TV, and distractions - make at least one meal per day with your loved ones without cell phones, social media, or TV. Relaxing background music is ok, mealtime with loved ones is a great way to catch up on what's going on with everyone else and allows you to fully experience all that food has to offer: smell, taste, CHEW and appreciate your meal
- Use cooking techniques that are simple, uncomplicated and allow you to taste the food without hiding it in a bunch of sauces, or condiments (try water saute, steaming, and roasting).
- Place condiments to the side and don't season the entire dish using condiments, this allows picky eaters to add what they like at the table and allows your food to be versatile enough to use any leftovers for future meals. I like the Cook Once, Eat Twice Method.
Use the tips above and practice, practice, practice - you will not be disappointed and you'll also find that you'll feel better about how you're eating.
Share your best or not so best food experience in the comments below. I'd love to hear about it!