slow down

Some of my favourite memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas took place at Gramma and Grampa’s house, especially around the dinner table.  Years when the whole family was gathered – cousins, aunts and uncles – the grown-ups feasted in style in the dining room, while the kids were relegated to the kitchen.  We made our own kind of fun (like adorning our fingertips with pitted olives), but each of us waited impatiently for the year when we would finally graduate to the china-clad, big-people table.

I got the honour of sitting next to Grampa my first year with the adults.  He always sat at the far end of the table, near the cuckoo clock; Gramma would sit at the other end of the table, near the kitchen door.  The pre-meal privileges included helping in the kitchen, and I joined Grampa as he sliced the meat.  He wielded the carving knife with skill and explained why he cut the turkey the way he did — thin slices of the basted breast and thick wedges of succulent thigh.

When all were assembled we would pause and Grampa would express thanks for the gathered clan. And then the dishes, piled high with fragrant annual indulgences, would be passed from person to person around the table in a clock-wise direction — turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, beans, salad, rolls, sliced pickles and black olives.

When the plates were no longer visible beneath the festive food, we would dig in.  Before groaning and pushing back our chairs, each person would give in to the temptation of seconds.  I remember clearly that year, as I finished my second potato portion, Grampa was still finishing up his first helping.  I half jokingly told him that he’d better hurry up or there would be nothing left for him.  He smiled and told me that  he’d get there.  He explained that he chewed each mouthful as much as possible and that eating slowly was good for the digestion.

However there was more to it than just good dietary practice.  Grampa savoured every bite.  He celebrated the flavour of every mouthful.  And he ate in the same manner in which he did almost everything in his life — slowly, carefully and meticulously.

There’s something in me that has difficulty slowing down.  I take life two stairs at a time.  I have to remind myself on a daily basis what Grampa taught me so long ago:  taste and enjoy the food that is in your mouth (and swallow!) before you raise the next forkful to your lips.