11.10.2008

So this is what it means to really eat

Lunch today may have been the most satisfying meal that I have ever eaten.

That is a big statement to make, but it is hard to feel completely satisfied with food when you have a history of overeating, as I do -- when you are one of those people who always wants more, more, MORE! It still takes some effort for me to stop at the end of a meal and not feel saddened by its demise. So lunch today was notable because, as I ate, I could only think about how good, how absolutely satisfactory, satiating, and satisfying the food was. And I left it at that. I enjoyed the fifty or so bites that were my allotment, and I moved on.

What was this lunch? you may ask.

Beef stew and biscuits. Plane Jane American food (or Irish or French, if you look a little deeper). Leftovers, to boot, from a party last night. The beef stew wasn't my own making, but precious leftovers that were foisted upon us by the host. She used the best short ribs that she could find, and the depth of the meat's flavor transformed the simple potatoes and carrots that accompanied it into the best stew that I have ever eaten, bar none. I rarely get so excited at leftovers, but if you can believe it, I think that the stew was actually better today than it was last night; overnight, the flavors melded together and the flavor became meatier, the tendons softer, the vegetables heartier. And this is what I made my lunch with today!

The biscuits were my own making, and they were everything that biscuits should be: light, flaky, butter, and herbacious to boot. I adapted a Gourmet recipe for sage biscuits by substituting dried Herbs de Provence for the sage, and they were quite extraordinary. I don't usually think of biscuits as interesting in their own right -- too often they serve as backdrop for more interesting stews and gravies -- but these biscuits could hold their own and then some. A slab of home-made butter was the finishing touch. It has been too long since I have eaten biscuits with butter. Too long since I ate with my fingers. Too long since I loved food so much -- or have I ever loved food so much as I do today? I am finally freed from its obsessions and free to take it for what it is: the most essential substance of our lives, the source of flavor and joy and communion and satisfaction. Food.

What more can I say about lunch today? I ate it slowly like the simple meal it was, now using my spoon and now my fingers, alternating between beef and biscuit, juice and crumb, bowl and plate. This meal was more mine than any meal that I have ever eaten. I ate it in complete awareness of every bite, of every flavor. I ate it in gratitude for the mere fact of food, and in gratitude to the animal who fed me. I ate it alone but happy in this complete meal, a bowl and spoon and plate and nothing else.


3 comments:

Katharine said...

I am going to make the biscuits right now. You made them sound so fantastic!

Carrie Arnold said...

Wow, YES- this is what it means to eat. To enjoy what is in front of you.

I have a lentil bacon stew I've been meaning to make, and I might not have time to make it until the weekend, but I must make it!

ania said...

Dear Ai Lu,

I feel so calm reading this.

I find beauty in your notations and highlights.

And, I am happy for you.

With warmth....