Last night I found myself unexpectedly watching a documentary on one of the world’s most famous Sushi chefs of Japan, Jiro Ono. The quirky documentary followed Jiro’s life in Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant where he had worked for 75 years of his life, perfecting the art of Sushi making.
But this wasn’t what stimulated my thoughts, although it’s admirable to see a person so obsessive and enamored by their work. What struck me was the delicacy of a comment by top food critic Masuhiro Yamamoto, who commented that Jiro’s menu was like tasting the ebb and flow of a musical symphony.
Jiro’s selection of Sushi dishes is constructed so gently, patiently and considerately, like a craftsman molding an elegant vase, that his food is considered a modern-day work of art.
Such sensitivity put into making food, and enjoying food, really made me consider whether there is such a phenomenon in the Western World. Of course, we have “foodie” shows like Masterchef, My Kitchen Rules and Kitchen Nightmares, but these don’t possess the sensitive charm of a deep respect for the craft of making and eating food.
These shows, like all others in our society, are created and produced for drama, stimulation and revenue. We’re so used to being mesmerized by Las Vegas-like shows full of competitions, melodrama and money prizes, that the true delicate beauty of the underlying craft being exploited is lost.
Even the food that we feed our bodies with when we go out is often frozen, mass-produced and injected with chemicals for preservation. The keyword here is “cost-effectiveness” – what is the most cost-effective thing to do? What will manipulate people into buying more – not because they enjoy the quiet, unadulterated experience of eating a work of art – but because their bodies are addicted to all the colors, flavors and fats lurking in our products?
But I’m not wanting to write about organic vs. non-organic food today. I’m really only concerned with the experience of eating food. This is much more important to me.
Have We Lost Touch With Our Bodies?
A famous sage once said “you hear, but you do not listen”. This can be said also about food.
We eat, but we do not taste.
We squander and forget about the miracle of taste. This can be observed everywhere: the person at McDonald’s shoving down fries like there’s no tomorrow. The businessman eating his sandwich while distractedly flipping through newspapers. The woman thoughtlessly munching on her salad while texting. The kid slurping on a can of Cola while staring at the computer screen.
I bet you can even observe it in yourself if you reflect for just a moment. I can see it in myself, and it’s this precise realization that makes me wonder: why? Why do we cheat ourselves of this immense pleasure every day? Because our lives are too busy, too hectic? So what?
To truly respect our sense of taste requires nothing more than a few seconds of awareness. Yet many of us haven’t even mastered that! This makes me wonder why we were also taught algebra, biology, and physics at school – things we rarely, if ever, use in our daily lives – but were not taught the importance of tasting, not just eating?
We’ve been propelled into our fast-paced lives with merely the faint sensation of a flavor here, a taste there, but mostly our minds are disconnected from our bodies.
We perform our routines and duties like automatons with little awareness of our bodies. We have lost touch with our bodies and the miracle of taste. Like most things in our lives, food is a means to an end – i.e. to gain more energy, to make more money, to buy more things, to pay off more debts.
Also, the modern notion of being “addicted to food” is not to be confused with “savoring food”. People addicted to food aren’t simply over-zealous connoisseurs of taste, but emotionally disturbed hoarders who eat to distract themselves from their problems. This is essentially what “the abuse of food” is: using food to snuff out your problems. Food can most definitely be a drug.
Cherish Your Sense Of Taste
I wrote today, not to suggest we all eat at 5 star Sushi restaurants, or even to eat finely prepared foods.
I wrote to encourage you to reflect on your sense of taste, to cherish it, respect it, and to listen to it.
Savoring food slowly, calmly and consciously is a gift of life that we often ignore or forget.
So for today, just once, try to let the food you eat become a symphony in your mouth.