These days, I spend a lot of time in airport lounges, supposedly writing speeches and creating presentations on healthy lifestyle choices. But instead I find myself studying people. To pass the time, I makeup stories to match what I see, like the little girls catching a flight today to visit an absent Dad, or the elderly couple heading off to a great grandchild's christening.
I also study body language, demeanour, habits. And if people choose to sit near me and speak overly loudly in pompous voices on their mobile phones, I will listen in. Sometimes I have to stop myself from responding, but only sometimes.
So here I sit amongst thousands of people, most of whom are mindlessly eating and drinking their time away, all waiting for flights. I've just watched whilst a fellow, who's comfortably perched on two velour cubes pushed together, munch his way through three bowls of crunchy snacks, two large handfuls of jelly beans, 6 Venetian biscuits and 6 beers, all without taking his eyes off his computer screen. His travelling partner, PA, wife, long suffering girlfriend, whomever, has hopped up and filled the bowls, or beers as required, without one word being uttered.
I wonder if he actually tasted any of that food? If he could describe to me the crunch of the first bite of Ventian Pastry, recall the tang of the sweet passionfruit icing? I wondered if he could remember the tasty spice flavouring of the crunchy pappadum type of cracker he devoured? I thought about if he looked at the colour of each sweet sugary jellybean that he threw into his cavernous mouth? I wonder if he realised the bowl was actually empty as his hand searched for more?
How many of us are guilty of that? Of being so busy focusing on something else that we eat only because we are bored, or we are in a hurry, or we throw our food down quickly before our babies start to cry. We eat almost out of habit rather than necessity or for enjoyment.
When my twins were very small and Will was just 10 months older, and the beautiful Cate 12 months younger, I remember taking up drinking hot water, because at least when it went invariably cold, I could still drink it when I had time, unlike my coffee.
Life was busy, and I learned to make our own versions of fast food. I created one pot wonders, to minimise washing up, I fed all three babies with one bowl and one spoon, usually whilst breast feeding the other. I was the Queen of Fast, home prepared but easy to cook, probably not extremely nutritious food, out of sheer necessity. I cooked fast, I ate fast. Everything was frantic!
I have learned the hard way, that mindless eating and eating quickly has an unwelcome effect. I try now to eat slowly, to taste the food, to cook with finest ingredients that my budget allows, to use fresh produce and minimise the preservatives I use every day.
I still eat at Qantas Club, I still eat the odd Counter lunch at the Star, I still have my trusty favourite foods that I can create at home in a wink of an eye, but the difference is, I'm now mindful about what I eat and how I eat. And that, I'm sure makes the difference.
One trick I've started to use is mentally describe my first mouthful of food... Is is salty, sweet, hot cold, flavoured? It makes me focus on what I'm eating and has helped me slow down, to relax and enjoy the food. And I've now stopped eating food that is boring or bland. A trip to Paris has made me realise the beauty in food, and in slowing down to enjoy the moments. It taught me to eat well. To eat fresh food, to shop daily and stop buying processed food. it taught me To laugh a lot, to love my family and the appreciate the beauty in my surroundings.
I can't wait to go back. One day, I will spend 6 months in the French countryside.
Until then, Bon appetit.