Slow

buon appetito

nutrition for our sensibilities

BY HEERA

May 16th, 2016

 

In the spiritual journey of life, eating is much more than satiating the tongue; it’s the nutritional intake for our sensibilities. An appreciation for simple foods, small portions and refreshing presentations—a reflection of inner beauty and contentment—is critical to feeling deserving of nourishing experiences. I recall two specific episodes, diametrically opposite, that enhanced my sensory experiences, teaching me invaluable life lessons.

The first experience was in East India. A young woman (incredibly lovely), employed as domestic help, invited me to her home for a festival meal. Overjoyed at the invitation, I quickly accepted. My mind went into overdrive wondering what the afternoon will have in store for me: will the young woman be wearing her special saree with a bright red blouse; will her home’s floor be decorated with rangoli [designs made from coloured rice power] and will I be treated to rice sweets? My imagination was limited—the visual narration and emotional experience extended by this young woman was far more rewarding than I imagined. The precious wonderland this young woman invited me into was a dream!

On the day of the luncheon, accepting my box of sweets with gratitude, the young woman guided me through never-ending rice fields to reach her non-descript abode, a thatched hut nestled in between fields. Unapologetic, she ushered me in, introducing me to her family. The young woman’s fullness, like her family, was reflected in her musical and uplifting welcome. The same abundance continued into a refined presentation—bright orchids accompanied subtle incense and on the spotless floor lay woven chattais [floor mats], on which we were to sit and eat. The awakening experience continued as the young woman served art like food from shallow woven baskets, moving like poetry with the gentle breeze.

The young woman’s hospitality flowed effortlessly from a deep sense of spirituality and dignity of life. That day, I learnt from this woman’s elegance based in virtuosity and was humbled by her ebullient force.

A decade later, I was impressed again, in Paris. Thanks to a friend, I was invited to the home of a Parisian woman. Once again, my curiosity was high; I wondered what the host would be like, what we would converse, her home décor style, etc.

With a bunch of flowers held like delicate butterflies, I walked up the stairs to her second-floor apartment admiring the ornate wrought iron and the old shiny wooden rail that whispered: well cared for. I threw a broad smile at my friend as we waited for our host to open the door. The anticipation didn’t disappoint; our Parisian host greeted us with an openness that expressed itself with a distinct air of surety and groundedness.

From the moment we stepped in, our host put me at ease right away, asking after my stay in Paris and showing interest in my life. Her presence of mind was quick to notice my eyes scanning the elegant décor, and as though on cue, she led me through stunning French doors to her even more impressive balcony, willingly educating me on the architectural history of her apartment. Then came the spread—sumptuous tea laid out on a vintage French country table. So at-home was I in this discerning abode, it was impossible not to accept our host’s offer of a second cup of piping hot tea and a gooey canele. Exercising self-control, I politely declined the offer for a second serving of cake—to be très elegant!

In the couple of hours, we spent in this Parisian woman’s home, my subconscious mind soaked in the details; they were a reflection of decisions taken over a while. This woman of old wealth was sharing, and willingly, the elegance with which she lived. Each spoken word and gesture revealed our host’s refinement and maturity.

 

 

East India and northern France had afforded me a full symphony—from my hosts spirit that spoke of elegance to the distinct notes that filled their homes and to the wholesome taste of food. These spiritual experiences taught me that beneath the packaging of region, language and social class, the wealth of ingredients remains the same—simmered down, the focal point is caring—to share the spaces created by these women and to ensure I feel welcome. The two women, Indian and French, extended me dignity and belonging intrinsic to their souls.

The gift of travel is invaluable; it encourages us to observe and learn from others’, on how to enhance our inner wellness and continuously evolve.

 

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