Nancy Conger, CPCC

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The Great Sensuous Eating Experience

We are designed to be exquisitely, intimately involved with food. Food is more than just sustenance--it's a total sensory experience. If you perfunctorily toss down edibles without savoring them to the fullest you are missing the banana boat.

Unfortunately, the Board of Very Cranky Adults decided a long time ago on rules to inhibit our enjoyment of food. It's time we took matters into our own hands and reclaimed the right to revel in food with all our senses.

Here are new rules, created by the Committee for the Advancement of Simple Pleasures. Post them on your refrigerator. Read them before preparing a meal. Adopt them. Love them.

1. Throw your food
You never truly know a food until you've tossed it around. Nothing's better for making you notice a food's shape, texture, color and, well, aerodynamics.

Try it! Grasp the solid roundness of an orange. Finger the smooth, pocked peel. Toss it into the air and catch it, appreciating how it grows smaller as it goes farther away, larger as it returns. Enjoy the smack as it hits your palm. Feel the weight in your hand. Repeat as many times as it takes to lift your spirits. Bonus points if another person walks in and you play catch with them. When you've fully enjoyed throwing the orange, eat it (it's now more flavorful from being warmed, and juicier from gentle impact.)

2. Eat with your fingers
Children want to eat canned peaches with their fingers. Why? BECAUSE IT FEELS GOOD. People like to lick the batter bowl as much as eat the finished treat. Why? BECAUSE IT'S FUN. The touch of food on ANY part of the body can be a joy!

Try this: serve an entire meal sans silverware, giving everyone permission to use fingers, tongues, or whatever part of their body gets the food to their mouth. Here's a good menu for a variety of textures: spaghetti (serve it with your hands!), salad, bread (tear pieces off the loaf), and ice cream sundaes for dessert. You and your family or friends will never forget the tactile joy of delving hands into your food and licking fingers throughout the meal.

Bonus points for chanting, "Silverware is a sensory rip-off!"

3. Inhale your food
You know how tasteless food is when your nose is stuffed up--tuna may as well be rubber, and toast tastes like cardboard. Since your tongue only reports four tastes (salty, bitter, sweet, sour) and your nose senses over 10,000 smells, you must smell your food to get the real flavor. For example, maple sugar, white sugar, brown sugar and honey all have the exact same taste--sweet. What allows you to distinguish them is the smell, both before it's in your mouth, and after as it wafts up the back of your throat to your olfactory cells.

Make it a habit to close your eyes (you can smell better by eliminating the dominant sense) and slowly breathe in the smell of your food for a good 10 seconds. Let the rich smell of lasagna fill your nose. Enjoy the yeasty smell of bread. Be tickled by the scent of orange juice. Draw in the comforting aroma of tea. Notice the scents of foods you don't normally think to smell, like carrots, raisins or milk. The more you smell it, the better your food will taste.

4. Make noise
Groan with pleasure, sigh in contentment, oooh in amazement, burp in satisfaction, smack in appreciation. Let a taste be so wonderful you emit the sound it inspires. After all, food talks to you -- the snap of raw green beans, the clicking of pasta being stirred, the crinkly crack of eggshell, the sizzling of frying onions. Have a meal where no one can talk, only make non-word noises. You will love the freedom to make sounds that actually add to your food experience. Food is noisy---and so are you, if you dare!

5. Don't waste time on convenience
Spend time with your food. Wash and cut up your own vegetables, appreciating their bumpy, sleek, or fuzzy textures. Make bread from scratch every so often, to punch your hands into flour-dusted dough. Turn off the television and make dinner preparation a family event; some of the world's most meaningful conversations occur while making food. You don't win anything by eliminating preparation. In fact, you lose--money, pleasure, satisfaction, communion, and one of life's greatest simple pleasures.

6. Play with your food
It's okay to arrange your peas into a Star of David if you want to. Put a carrot nose on the eggplant if it makes you laugh. Find out how many green grapes fit in your mouth without breaking. Arrange red and gold apples in a centerpiece. Why not experiment with your food, play with it, get more enjoyment out of it than just the chewing?

Food is fun. Food is divine. It's a gift from creation that wouldn't have had to be so interesting and beautiful. To do it justice we should enjoy it in all ways--its looks, its sounds, its smells, tastes, and textures. Bless your food. Exult in it. And if a little lands on the walls, so be it.

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