Friday, February 01, 2008

The Slow Movement

The New York Times has an article about "The Slow Movement". (Note: you have to register with them to read the article, but if I remember correctly, they don't ask for your whole life history.) Essentially, it's about slowing things down in opposition to our fast food culture. I think it's interesting that they likened our life to fast food more than to any other measure of speed they could have used, such as the computer industry's never-ending quest for faster, particularly when it comes to the Internet.

There's a woman in the article who knits rugs from the wool of sheep she's met. She uses three-foot long knitting needles. I admit I want to try that one, even if I don't get to meet the sheep or make my own yarn. The rug is absolutely gorgeous. There's a picture on the left sidebar of the article.

But I digress from my original thought. It occurred to me that food is really the ultimate speeded up part of life, and I often wonder if that's not to our detriment. I think we'd all be better off if we took the traditional Italian way of eating to heart. Fresh, real food, made from fresh ingredients cooked properly, which rarely can be done super fast, microwave ovens notwithstanding. Take time to eat the meal with family and friends, focusing on the meal and the company, not on the gazillion things we think are so important that we must forego soul-satisfying meals to do them. Or, if you're eating alone, still setting a pretty table and enjoying good music and your own company.

A lot of people have posited the theory that our large food industry with its faster to prepare, ready-to-eat, chemical stews that pass for food are behind the rampant obesity in our country. I'm pretty sure that's a factor because it was with the rise in prepared foods and fast food restaurants and cake from a box being called "from scratch", and a true cake from scratch, made with eggs, flour, sugar, milk, vanilla, etc. being considered old-fashioned, too difficult to do well, and too time-consuming to make. People cook for fun, not as a routine part of life to feed themselves and their families.

I can't help but wonder if there's another factor in the obesity thing that's directly related to the whole fast eating. I don't eat in fast food restaurants because I always eat way too much because the food doesn't satisfy me. If I'm out with other people and we go to a fast food place, we eat fast and get out--no lingering over conversation. That's the whole point of fast food-the whole experience is fast. Ditto for microwaved frozen dinners. They don't satisfy, either. And they mostly are eaten alone because it's when the family is all scattered doing their own things.

All of this lack of strong social structure to our meals could be one reason people overeat or eat to fill the gap left by unsatisfying meals eaten quickly so you can get on with other things. I wonder if we made an effort to make time to cook good food, make the dining room or kitchen table or wherever we eat a pleasant place to be, put on some quiet music, and gather family and friends for that Italian-style focus on the food and the people we love whether some of those emotional needs we eat to fill might not be filled. I also wonder if filling ourselves with freshly cooked food wouldn't satisfy us before we'd overeaten.

I don't know if that's true, generally. I do know that I tend to eat less when I'm eating really well-prepared food. I know that I eat less when I'm not feeling rushed. Although I talked about family and friends, this is true for me if I'm alone, too. If I prepare a nice meal and eat it without rushing, I still eat less and enjoy it more.

In a more general sense, I admit that part of what appeals to me about this whole idea of slowing down, as opposed to just slowing down with regards to food, is that I've always hated being forced to rush through things. I like being busy, but not to the point where I can't take time to "stop and smell the roses". I want to enjoy what I'm doing, not rush through to get to the next thing that I rush through to get to the next thing and before you know it, I have no idea where the time went and I hated every minute that's now gone.

I think that's why I'm working on being more thoughtful about how I spend my time. I've been doing too little cooking and too much eating out and quick pickup meals. Part of the problem is other people demanding things from me without advance notice. I know the answer is to say no, but sometimes I can't because they're things that have a time limit.

I'm hoping that by being more thoughtful about how I spend my time will help me focus my attention on the things that matter the most. We'll see if that turns out to be true as I take steps that will allow me to do that, mainly using my calendar more to keep track of the things that matter to me and doing those before the rest of the stuff that often just fills up the time.