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|May 29-June 4, 2008
• A vegetarian venture
Leaf offers an original shade of green
by Clay Fong
• Surfer sorts out syrah, shiraz
by Fred Tasker
Life in the slow lane
Author Carl Honoré puts on the brakes
by Erica Grossman
I awoke at 7 a.m., and chronically hit the snooze button until it the last possible moment. The kettle screamed, and I dumped hot water into my mug, threw in a couple caffeinated tea bags and raced out the door. Sometime around 10:30 while sitting at my desk, hunger pains kicked in. I went down the stairs, ripped open a package of instant oatmeal, added hot water and trekked back to my desk. Spoonfuls were heaped absentmindedly into my mouth as I stared at my computer screen, working on various tasks amid text messages and emails. The next time I looked down, my oatmeal was gone.
At around 2 p.m., I called international best-selling author Carl Honoré in London. That’s when things started to slow down.
“I think that when you eat in a Slow way — that is with a capital S — you realize that when you put something in your mouth that there is a whole story behind it,” Honoré says in his mixed-accent voice. “We’ve lost all of that back story to our food that’s been shorn away in this fast-forward culture. I think that creates this sort of weirdly meaningless and deracinated food that we tend to eat nowadays. It is food that has no anchor, that has no meaning, no connection with anything. It’s just there.”
Sounds a lot like my breakfast.
Carl Honoré is the author of In Praise of Slowness (HarperOne, $14.95), a book about how people got stuck in a fast-forward world of instant gratification and short attention spans, and what we can do to alter that. The book points to what is known as the Slow Movement, an international attempt to address what the official movement refers to as “time poverty.” In essence, we rush through our existence to the extent that we are out of touch with the natural harmonies in life.
The Slow Movement is quite encompassing: everything from retail to education to sex are re-evaluated in a way so as to make a connection with our lives and return to a calmer existence.
But one critical part of the movement is food. Fast-food franchises flourish as individuals race to feed themselves and their kids in between work, drum lessons, deadlines and homework. Even when people do cook, many purchase pre-packaged ingredients and individually sliced meats and cheeses. It’s not something to eagerly admit, but I often do the same.
And like everyone else, I justify my reasons as an amalgam of work, family and social responsibilities that fill out the time slots in my daily planner. There’s a want and desire to be able to harvest our own food and slow-cook it to perfection, but time seems to dictate otherwise.
So what are we supposed to do?
Well, for starters, change your outlook, says Honoré.
“People tend to view slowing down as an all or nothing thing,” he says. “You’re either doing what you’re doing now, which is racing around eating out of a microwave, or every meal you do has to be a four-course handcrafted marinated extravaganza, which is ridiculous.”
As it turns out, eating slow is not simply a luxury of the wealthy, or those with an abundance of time on their plates. Even the busiest of individuals can create a tie to their meal according to Honoré. And as a busy writer who handles international press interviews, travels the globe lecturing on a variety of topics and lives with his family in London, a city he refers to as “volcanically fast,” he should know.
“Slow food comes in so many different shades. Slowing down with food at one end of that spectrum can be an incredible 5-course meal, but you’re not going to do that two times a day, seven days a week — that’s just crazy,” he notes. “That might be something you do once a month or once every two weeks for friends and family on a Sunday afternoon. The rest of the time there is a sliding scale of slow food, all the way down to throwing store-bought pasta into a pan, boiling it up, chopping up some tomatoes, throwing in some fresh basil from the market, or even from the supermarket, and some garlic — very simple stuff like that.”
In other words, it’s a matter of creating small steps that will help you to create a story around your food. You can, for example, take one day out of the week to cook up a five-serving meal that can be reheated on a whim. Each time you eat that meal, you will have a larger portion of the story behind it than if it were prepackaged, a story that will hopefully plug you back in to the slower moments in which the meal was created.
“These things are all connected. They influence our mood in ways we maybe don’t even realize at the moment or we don’t detect… but if the food has a story with it, you’re almost absorbing that story as you eat it,” Honoré states. “It’s the difference between Chef Boyardee microwaved at your desk at work versus a little minestrone that you made while your girlfriend was over and painting her nails on a Sunday. [When you eat the minestrone] that thought comes back to you. Food is such a wonderful vessel for more than taste, texture and nutrition. It’s a vessel for meaning and social connection.”
And aren’t those social connections the ones that we seek to ultimately support through our unending efforts? Slowing down for human connection is something to strive for, and food is an excellent place to begin. Even when time is not on our side, we can benefit from small adjustments not in just what we eat, but how we eat.
“Instead of balancing [a meal] on your lap in front of Desperate Housewives, you sit at the table with your partner and have a conversation with your family or your friends,” suggests Honoré.
He likens those moments of culinary communication to the ancient phrase “breaking bread together.”
“The word companion comes from the words ‘with bread,’ and that’s because, in some ways, we’re never more close to each other than when we’re eating together,” he says. “There’s something so simple and so pure about people sitting around the table together and breaking bread and chatting and arguing and laughing and coming together that is wonderful and universal. And that is what slow is about bringing back.”
Later in the evening, I reflected on these words while watching pots of boiling water bubble over the stove. My friend and I sat on the porch and chatted in between bites of cooked vegetables and rice. It was a dinner that didn’t take long to make, but somehow it felt a little slower.
Carl Honoré will speak at Organic Orbit (1200 Yarmouth Ave., Boulder) on Thursday, June 5, as part of the restaurant’s new Dinner Series. Honoré’s presentation will be accompanied by a three-course dinner, two glasses of paired wine and a complimentary copy of In Praise of Slowness. The cost is $65 per person. For more information, contact Organic Orbit at 303-440-8348.
Carl Honoré will also read from his new book, Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting at Boulder Book Store (1107 Pearl St., Boulder) on Wednesday, June 4, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 303-447-2074.
For more information on Carl Honoré’s books and lectures, visit www.carlhonore.com. To help participate in building a hub for the Slow revolution, visit www.slowplanet.com.
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