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Food and Slowing Down

Ordinary and non-ordinary tasks like going to work or picking up groceries along with commitments to friends or family, every day choices like what should I have for breakfast dinner or lunch? These choices and daily predicaments can become extremely overwhelming. Do you ever feel overwhelmed by your own brain? Or is it just life that overwhelms? What exactly is our threshold for stress and decision-making? And how in the hell does this all connect with food? I remember when I was around 19 years old and became friends with somebody a bit older than myself. We would open up and talk more about our feelings and we became close. One afternoon, she explained to me that some brains work like multiple television screens that have equally important shows playing at the same time. And that decision-making can become extremely difficult for this type of cognitive personality: choosing which screen to focus on? What is my capacity to equalize all of the screens? Well, it’s kind of impossible. This explanation resonated with me and definitely helped me understand a little bit more about how to control or at least be aware of how my inner workings operate. In 2004, I became an apprentice with the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia. This was a nine-month commitment. I moved down to the city and quickly discovered its charms, and most importantly, its markets. The markets and the overall food scene in Philadelphia was fantastic! Reading Terminal Market was only a few blocks away from my apartment. I loved it. One of the things about moving to a new city is that you don’t know anybody. I had no friends there, so I quickly became friendly with my fellow apprentices, one of which was a cute Mormon from Utah (yes, that was Scott!). Going out to dinner as a grown adult is expensive and much more expensive as a young person in a big city. So naturally, I discovered the kitchen and, using the resources I did have, would gather groceries from the markets to make meals for Scott, and my other friends. One of the memorable meals, that connected to my own sense of understanding and the calmness that the kitchen creates for me, was tackling fried chicken. Making fried chicken was actually quite affordable. All I needed was some dark meat chicken pieces along with vegetable oil, some seasoning and flour. Having read over a few recipes, I gained a sense of the process and jumped into my own interpretation of these preparations. I don’t remember how that chicken tasted, but I do remember feeling a great sense of calmness and joy in the kitchen. It was cool outside, and the window was open and the music was playing and there was excitement in the process and of course excitement for the completed meal. That was the time that I realized my love and passion for hosting dinner parties and cooking for my friends. Sometimes no cooking was involved - it was just picking up a couple bottles of interesting wines and finding prepared cheeses and pickled vegetables and fruits to nibble on while hanging out with buddies. Or sometimes it was something more elaborate, like attempting soufflé and braised brisket. It was a way to turn all of the TVs off in my brain and focus on just one. I think that elevated my dopamine levels because I could take control in trying new things in a comfortable environment. And the drug? Food! More recently, I connected with the sense of how food can slow us down at a winery in Napa Valley. Scott and I were sitting and looking at the vineyard about to enjoy a glass of Cabernet. Our sommelier came over to greet us and talk a bit about the wine. One of the first pieces of information he suggested was to close our eyes and simply breathe while letting the wine rest on the pallet. Why? Closing our eyes allows our other senses to engage more with the experience. Focusing on the breath, taking cues from meditation, allows our senses to better connect with the flavors and the body of the wine itself. Bingo! I loved that this wine enthusiast helped us enjoy the experience much more thoroughly by giving us cues and ideas about how to engage directly with what we came to do. I need this. I need reminders daily to slow down. I loved that he invited us to stop the brain while we tasted the wine. At the end of the day, I think I am beginning to learn about which televisions in my brain are really worth my attention. It’s not exactly the easiest process in the world to remove the other televisions completely. Yet having a sense of awareness has definitely helped being in control of those mental screens. This weekend in Nyack has been warm, yet also cool and crisp. It reminds me that the turn of seasons are coming soon. Taking a moment to sit on my back porch Saturday morning I could already smell cinnamon and the turning of the leaves in the air. These sensory experiences engaged memories of playing in leaf piles and opening up the lid to a crockpot at the end of the day, smelling a delicious roast and fresh rolls throughout the house. I hope that you were able to find time today to stop and smell the food, the flowers, or whatever it is that engages you with your inner cherished memories and love. Thank you so much for reading along these blogs. Sending much love for a peaceful week ahead!

We look forward to seeing you soon! Joey G & The JGNT Family

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