I'd never been out of the Pacific Northwest until my early twenties, and knew little about other parts of the world. I've been very lucky to have traveled abroad with my wife and kids several times the past seven years. We haven’t perfected things yet, but dining in other cultures has given us different perspectives on how meals at home can be more than just a quick refueling afterthought.
There’s a restaurant in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, called “La Gula” (means gluttony, I think). Their motto is “slow food.” From their website: “Restaurante La Gula invites you to enjoy a unique gastronomical event.”
We love the place. A unique gastronomical event isn’t bad in this case. Food is fresh and local. Even though it’s called gluttony, the portions are normal. They don’t move too fast (a challenge for the kids). They don’t bring the bill until you ask for it. And everything is about an exceptional dining experience (even though it’s 90 degrees and humid for this outdoor covered dining, they’re next to the city's open sewage canal, and are in a very average part of a very poor country).
Here’s the gist of the story, and how you can practice some slow food at home:
Practice making a meal into an event. Eat at a relaxed pace. Eating slow is good for digestion, good for engaging with others, and good manners:
- Explain that most cultures use meal-time to bond with family and friends, and that it makes for a happier life.
- Consider table conversation skills such as: Ask each person what their high and low was for the day, or “what one thing did you learn today and why is it important?”
- Consider taking extra time in between courses (to help this, consider breaking up the meal that you’d normally load onto one plate into various courses).
- The goal isn’t to make or eat the food as fast as possible, but to spend time together.
You can find this and other tips in our Kitchen Habits