Zen and the Art of Conscious Consumption

satsumasI’m in the process of trying to learn to be more mindful: about my eating, but also about my consumption in general.

And in the process, I’m redefining what it means, for me, to be a foodie.

I used to think being a foodie meant eating anything and everything. Trying everything. Going to every restaurant. Tasting every dish, every cocktail, every ingredient. It meant cooking the “right” recipes, eating at the right places, drinking the right locally distilled alcohol.

It was all about more.

My job as a restaurant critic encouraged this. Being the only person on the food “beat” for my magazine, I felt like I had to know everything, be everywhere. The restaurant scene in Boulder is so vibrant, I could barely keep up with the new restaurants, let alone visit all the old standards that longtime residents already knew. And forget Denver. It was all I could do to keep on top of what was happening in one town, let alone the entire metro area.

I continued feeling that pressure when I started this blog. I felt like I needed to be everywhere, know everything. I was the “expert” after all, the author.

It was exhausting. And a bit demoralizing for this perfectionist. I simply couldn’t know everything and be everywhere, so somehow that meant I had failed.

But as I work towards being more mindful with every bite, I’m coming to redefine my relationship to food and food culture. Perhaps I don’t want to be a foodie, with all the urgency and feigned mastery that implies.

Maybe I want to be a gourmand.

Slower. More elegant. It’s about savoring one thing rather than trying everything. It’s about taking deep, slow pleasure in a single bite of food, rather than worrying that this bite might not be as good as the one you did not order or cook.

I’m reading a new book called The Joy of Half a Cookie, and in it, the author talks about nurturing your inner gourmand as a path to mindfulness — and eventually better health.

And I love it.

I love the revelations I’m finding.

One blueberry tastes just as incredible as an entire mouthful. Maybe more so.

I can feel full after one delicious slice of pizza, and not crave more.

A few bites of cheesecake may be all I need to satisfy me, rather than downing the whole slice.

It’s not automatic yet. It’s not even at every meal yet. But I’m savoring these moments of clarity and success the way I might savor a perfect bite.


Shopping used to be a hobby for me. I’d go to the store and buy a shirt, a pair of pants, a dress, a pair of shoes. Even if I didn’t need them.

Now I’m trying to be more intentional about my purchases, my wardrobe. Fewer clothes, but better. I’m a little put out nowadays when a t-shirt only lasts one season. Or when I forget myself, buy something on a whim (or on sale) and realize after a few wearings that it doesn’t really bring me joy.

I’m finding the same is true of grocery shopping.

A full fridge used to make me feel rich.

Fill those shelves with beautiful ingredients — rich cream and cheese, beautiful jewel-toned vegetables, baskets of succulent berries, farm-fresh eggs. That, to me, was true riches.

Now I find I’m savoring the spaces in between. The shelves that aren’t crowded with boxes and jars. Actually being able to see what’s in there.

And I’m savoring the seasons. Rather than feeling dissatisfied with a strawberry in February, I’m embracing what comes naturally.

Right now it’s citrus.  From early season satsumas and mandarins (don’t offer me a “Cutie” in March), through to the gorgeous Cara Cara oranges and blood oranges, all the way to the juicy Rio red grapefruits I avidly await from Texas and the Meyer lemons with their incomparable smell.

I bought a pound or two of satsumas at Whole Foods this week with their leaves still attached, and I’ve been savoring every one. Their season only lasts a few weeks, and their flavor is possibly my favorite.  I eat them morning noon and night.

But in another week or two, they will be gone. And that’s ok. They might lose their preciousness if I could buy them in a big five-pound blue box any week of the year.

One final lesson I’m teaching myself, day after day: I don’t have to try to cling to any one thing, when the next amazing thing to savor is right around the corner.

Promotional consideration provided by Whole Foods Markets.

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