by Kay Baumhefner
To Best Serve Our Individual and Collective Purpose
What of real value can we truly bring home from a holiday besides that mother lode of memories? Perhaps taking the time to mine them for a reflective evaluation of the choices we normally make every day, no matter where we are, and how they either support or undermine the life we want to live. Having so recently returned from the land of joie de vivre in la belle france, this recurring theme has not only taken over my mind and heart, but is also something I have no intention of letting get lost.
Tacked to the bedroom wall when I was still in my early twenties, was a golden-hued poster of Gandhi moving through his own vision of the awareness that “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” Clearly that insightful quote of his has stayed with me all these years for a good reason, and I’m currently wondering when the French (and other surrounding Mediterranean cultures) first embraced that shared sensibility as a core belief they were willing to support and exemplify. Because it shows up in so many ways.
There’s the non-negotiable reality that except for restaurants, almost everything in France closes at noon and stays shut for at least two hours, often three. So you are not only free but encouraged to truly enjoy the preparation and eating of your lunch in good company (and perhaps still have time to take a walk and/or rest in the middle of the day). On mange a midi — one eats at noon — that’s the golden rule. And it’s firmly in place out of respect for the fact that there’s more to cooking than fast food can provide, and there’s more to a meal than just wolfing it down. There’s engaging all our senses for maximum anticipation, creation, nutrition, appreciation, connection and satisfaction. There’s also thinking, talking about, gathering for and engaging in the whole process throughout much of every day.
Eating answers a primal need, but cooking is the cultural touchstone. How we choose to do both either opens up or closes down so many of life’s most precious possibilities. No matter how old or young, anyone can benefit from this realization. Even my husband, who claims he wasn’t actually raised with any of these guidelines, but just grew up. Talk about a delicious lesson in learning to pay attention to what actually matters most!
It doesn’t end here. No, this is just the beginning — and most of it boils down to common sense. I hope you’ll come back for more.
Bon Appetit! Kay
Originally published November 12, 2015 on Come Home to Cooking.