We spend a lot of time—I spend a lot of time—talking about food. We pick apart every morsel and molecule of our meals, analyzing the taste, texture, appearance, and of course mouthfeel.
But sometimes, my friends, I fear we’ve got this all wrong. I fear that in our endless quest for better bites, we have forgotten who eats the food.
We eat the food.
Eating is just like painting. The chef is the painter. The food is the paint. You are the canvass.
A painting is only as good as the surface it is painted on. A painter cannot render a Renaissance portrait on a fragment of Charmin, nor an impressionist landscape on the wall of a cave.
A meal is only as good as the person eating it. A chef cannot toss a masterful salad for someone who shoves it down their throat at their child’s clarinet recital. They cannot construct a sublime tuna tartare for someone who just consumed 24 chicken wings with extra sauce; nothing can taste good under such dire circumstances.
If that metaphor seems exuberant, we can use numbers instead. You are 50% of your eating experience.
So the next time you eat a subpar meal, don’t rush toward harsh judgment. Instead, ask yourself a serious question: “was I—body, mind, and soul—ready to eat?”
What does it mean to be ready to eat? Thanks to modern science, we know that a well-eaten meal requires
- mental clarity
- digestive preparedness
- controlled mouth residue
- proper body positioning.
And yet beyond this Mount Rushmore of eating strategies, much remains a mystery. The question becomes, how can we reliably put ourselves in a position to enjoy our food?
I have given this problem more careful thought than most, and I now present to you my nearly perfect method of eating preparation, a decade in the making.
Henry’s Method for Maximizing Meal Enjoyment (HMMME for short):
- The night before you eat, get 7-9 hours of restful sleep.
- Four hours before you eat, swim between 500 and 5,000 yards.
- Upon exiting your local aquatic center, eat one cup of plain white rice. Do not eat more than this, as you will interfere with important sensations of hunger.
- One hour before you eat, brush your teeth and change into nicer clothes. Lint rolling is recommended for those with pets.
- Drink 16-34 ounces of water during this preparatory process.
- During the meal, sit up straight and concentrate on breathing evenly between bites.
- Stare down every bite of food like you’re about to go 12 rounds on HBO pay-per-view. Imagine how it will taste. This will heighten the sensation of unanticipated flavors.
This method is exacting. Not even I can regularly live up to these high standards. Often, we just have to eat to keep moving. Every one of us will experience dozens of sweaty, hunched moments with a Jimmy John’s sandwich before we die.
But let this be a guiding principle, a reminder that the pleasure of food is not a one-way street. You get out what you put in. So please reserve judgment on the pita sandwich you ate in traffic. And when you have the singular pleasure of devouring a truly excellent meal, please make sure you do your part.
Image credit: Matthew Gerber