Meditative dining offers food for thought

Eating Sausage in the morning helps me “be in the moment.”

I dine at an IKEA store in Conshohocken, PA, the North American headquarters for the Swedish furniture company. It offers a restaurant serving good food for prices that beat the costs of diners and even fast food places. ( 99 cents for scrambled eggs, home fries and choice of bacon or sausage. Coffee is free from 9:30 to 10 a.m. with refills ).

I sit alone by design. I plan to focus on a Mindfulness eating technique suggested by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh.

Cutting the sausage, I take a small bite, I chew it. And chew it. And chew it.

Fifty to a hundred times. The same piece, which by now has become smaller and smaller pieces.

I close my eyes, refraining from swallowing until the count of 50 (or thereabouts; I never counted except today in preparation for this post). When I do swallow, I am passing the most liquified part of the food from the back of the throat to what I believe is the trachea.

It has now become mostly “juice-like.”

The taste is exquisite. And it lasts longer, as it slowly moves from one place to another. I am aware of only the taste as I continue to chew, grinding the solid food into the smallest particles until I have generated more “juice” by counts 80 or 90 and I swallow again.

Delicious! I taste the richness of spices and herbs unusually unique to this type of meat (bacon may be a stronger richness, but doesn’t last as long.)

By this time, I almost feel that I am making love to the food, a throw back to that “Tom Jones”  Academy-Award-winning best picture of the year with Albert Finney who, with the help of an abundantly-healthy “wench,” created an erotic adventure of stuffing themselves with chicken and helpings for movie-goers.

My eyes remain closed. I am still chewing the meat, but by now my tongue is seeking the smaller pieces that have clung to the outer teeth and the crevices between each tooth. I “mine” those pieces, capturing them, and returning them to the crunching of my top and bottom teeth, and that last movement of nourishment from the mouth to the part of the throat that sends it downward.

But wait. I am not done with what has now become a ritual. I have swallowed the food, and  I have remained entirely fixed on chewing and transferring solid foods into more liquid before disposing of it to the proper orifice. Now it is time for a drink!

A cool sip of ice water. Not Perrier Water, Not bottled water at a “buck-a-pop,” but ordinary water that IKEA provides freely through a dispenser that may or may not have passed through a purification process. The dispenser pours the water onto crushed ice, also provided freely.

The first sip tastes like it was drawn directly from a rustic mountain stream as the liquid cools my lips, my mouth and then the throat. It is only a tiny sip. I have learned to “tease” myself, allowing just a slightly larger drink seconds later, which I hold in my mouth to savor, to swash it around to perhaps pick up any remaining solid food particles.

I swallow and then take a third long draft,  almost two gulp-fills, knowing now that I will trace the water’s passage from the mouth, through the throat and into the stomach where I actually experience the coolness “hitting bottom” and begin to slowly spread throughout my belly. I have reached contentment!

I have diverted my thoughts from my mind as I try to become  aware of  nothing but the breakfast, spending what feels like extensive long minutes, but is, of course, occurring  over a much shorter time duration .

I lived in the moment!

I was in the present. In the food. In the ritual.

In mindfulness meditation.

4 comments on “Meditative dining offers food for thought

  1. Kalyani says:

    Wonderful, mindful description! Now I know what mindful eating really means. And I will try it. Thanks Michael.


    • contoveros says:

      Did I tell it it is much easier to chew with my eyes closed? Calmer too. I block out bunches of visual stimuli, making it easier for the mind to “relax.”

      michael j


  2. kim says:

    We did this exercise at class once. If I practiced it more often I wouldn’t be forty pounds overweight!

    With mindful we appreciate the sacrifice made. All vegetarians have their reasons, but for me eating meat is not about the killing of another being. It is more about how those animals are treated while raised and at slaughter, as well as respecting the sacrifice.


    • contoveros says:

      I have only been able to do it in restaurants. Not at home. Too many distractions, too many all too familiar things to draw me toward.

      Had to wait 30 minutes the other night. Bought a coffee and sat in a McDonald’s. Who cared what the young folk might have said about the guy who looking like he was “sleeping” in the booth. Simply had my eyes closed while sipping coffee. Could have meditated better if it wasn’t for that gosh-awful music played so loud. (You could simply take the ear plugs out!)

      michael j


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