Mindful eating has many meanings. Sometimes it is perceived as the opposite of distracted eating or as merely a technique to eat with awareness and all the 5 senses. Most often ‘mindful eating’ refers to an intervention for individuals with eating issues. Indeed, all these aspects can be placed under the umbrella of mindful eating. However, when mindful eating is reduced to a clinical setting or the eating moment itself, we might miss the richness of the life cycle of food. If we would shift our attention and view the world from the perspective of food, how would this particular viewpoint influence our food choices and eating behavior?
In January 2017, my husband -who is a chef- and I opened a fine dining spot in the heart of Brussels. Humus x Hortense restaurant is a culinary project (quite crazy to be honest) where on the one hand we create the conditions to explore and to savor many unknown flavors, colours and textures. On the other hand, our aim is to create a place in the bustling city where guests have the opportunity to reconnect with nature and the earth. They do not only learn where the ingredients in the menu come from but also, in terms of food waste, what happens with the food afterwards. Our guests love the concept and it is clear that there is a deep longing for more mindful living.
Worldwide, more and more people are living in cities and no longer work on the fields. Because of this disconnection, many of us don’t even consider the cycle of food. The labels on the packaging aren’t giving us more information than beautiful landscapes, slim people or cold nutritional facts. As a health care professional and eco-activist/entrepreneur, I believe that, by not knowing the origins of our food, we are experiencing a deep loss for humanity. We will miss the opportunity to nourish ourselves on a much more satisfying level than solely feeding the body.
When we pause for a moment and consider everything that is involved in the meal in front of us, our hearts are filled with gratitude. We can see our loved ones who have prepared the ingredients for a nice lunch, also the owner of the food store and the cashier, those who have transported all the boxes with food from one country to another and the farmers who have planted and harvested. We can reflect on all those millions of mothers (and fathers) in the past who have nourished their children day after day and handed down so many family recipes. All this has shaped our culinary and cultural traditions. We can also be mindful of the soil with all the microorganisms, the water and rain, the air and the use of fire. All these elements which are also present inside of us, help us to reconnect with ourselves and the earth.
When we look deeply into the meal, it doesn’t need much effort to feel appreciative for all these contributions. With a little bit more mindfulness, it is an easy step to looking into the future and seeing where leftovers (and packaging) will go after the meal. Awareness of the origins of food and the future of food waste helps us to make wiser choices about what kind of food to buy (love the ugly vegetables), who you want to support (love small scale farmers) and how wellbeing could be expressed (love yourself and your beloved ones). Awareness and compassion will not only change humanity but will all living spirits on this beautiful planet.
Caroline Baerten, Belgium