When I was growing up in Singapore, I was constantly exposed to the explosion of cultural flavors in this bustling multi-cultural country. My family, like all Singaporeans loved to cook and loved food. If you’ve ever been there or maybe watched Anthony Bourdain’s culinary travels to the region, you will know exactly what I mean. Being subjected to the wide varieties of cuisines from all the cultures that reside there and her own authentic cuisine which could comprise of any combination of the cultures, along with the influences from her recent colonial British past, I guess I was encouraged to embrace food of all flavors along with their enticingly odd textures and sometimes even questionable aromas. I mean the notorious stinky fruit Durian could only be a heavenly scent to a native-born Singaporean!
So since facets of my own cultural heritage is ingrained, you could call me a foodie. Food being still today Singapore’s favorite past-time, here is a nation of foodies that existed long before the term was even created. Which brings me to my point, experiencing food on a multi-dimensional level need not be exclusively part of your cultural background, it can fortunately be learned and acquired.
Whether you are a professed foodie or better described, an epicurean or whether you are someone to whom food is a source of nutritional necessity, you will come to be able to elevate your own food experience into something phenomenal to your senses.
Conscious eating is more than just eating slowly, chewing your food and digesting well. There’s something more to this being in harmony of mind, body and spirit. When we use our palates to the utmost advantage and connect with our visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory and kinesthetic senses, we also gain a heightened sense of taste, smell and texture beyond the tangible acts. By practicing the art of distinctively understanding the uniqueness of each food and adding these sensorial layers, you will actually come away with an entirely new experience of the foods you eat.
In other words, say you’re about to enjoy a spicy dish of Lamb Vindaloo. If you’re not a fan of Indian cuisine, just play along. How would you make this come alive from your plate to your palate and in the process liven up all your senses? When you savor every morsel how do you do it? Does the steam emanating carry with it a whiff of spices? Can you smell the pungent heat from the chilli? Does the deeply vibrant color make you salivate? Will it trigger other memories for you? When you taste it, do you first feel the temperature? Do you taste the tangy lime? Or maybe with it, you taste the sweetness in the fragrance. Is the meat tender? Firm? Is it falling apart and melting in your mouth? Now what if you added a side of rice to it? When you combine the components can you feel the textural difference on your tongue? Are some of the components to the curry still sizzling in your ear? Does the sound of this add to the heat of the chilli? Does the heat make you sweat? Now wash that down with a swish of that cold, bitter, foamy, golden and perhaps fruity beer!
You have now re-created a past experience or perhaps you have just created a new one by adding other perspectives. Remember to do this with any food that you enjoy– like the decadence of a molten chocolate cake, a colorful salad or your favorite soup. Remember to behold the colors and textures, the aromas, the steam, the frost, the sounds associated and the kinesthetic feelings you get with the whole experience. And when you taste, add sensory dimensions, layer them, make them distinct, enjoy the combinations and what they imbue on their own. Cheers to your next meal!