Mindful Eating at Food Carts

June 19, 2013

Mindful Eating at Food Carts
[I had the pleasure of enjoying lunch with our guest author and we discussed mindful eating. A guest post from Sam 'Gentoku' McCree, Founder of the Mind Fit Move]

When most of us think about mindful eating, we think of a quiet room, with a lit candle, and a bowl of chocolate covered strawberries. Not midday on a street corner with cars rushing by and strangers yammering on their cell phones. But when you're a food cart connoisseur, that’s exactly the environment you eat in.

I recently had the chance to check out some local carts with Brett of FoodCartsPortland.com and together we tried to answer this question: Can you eat mindfully at a food cart?

The first cart we went to was Graffiti at the corner of 48th and Woodstock. They serve a variety of delicious sandwiches inspired by both street food sensibility and big city savvy. We ordered the Da Nang Pork sandwich, a tasty looking creation with pork meatballs, Vietnamese slaw, cilantro, Sriracha mayo, and hoison peanut butter.

Before chowing down Brett demonstrated the fine art of food porn photography. I watched as he took only a few seconds to lay out the sandwich in all its decadent glory. The brief photo shoot gave us the chance to appreciate the beauty of the dish, something we often take for granted. I took in the soft brown shades of the pork contrasted with the vibrant orange and white of the coleslaw and onions.

Often when we eat, we only focus on our mouths and stomachs. But mindful eating is about nourishing all of our senses. When we take the time to look at our food, to smell its scent, to feel it’s texture, and even listen to a crunchy bite, we become aware of how amazing the eating experience can be.

Now with the photos taken, it was time to dig in. As we ate, we talked about mindful eating. Especially about the practice of taking one bite at a time, chewing, tasting, and then taking another bite, only after the first one is finished. It’s a simple practice, but can turn any meal from a food blitz into a decadent taste expedition. After a few minutes, Brett asked me what I thought of the sandwich. I closed my eyes, took a bite, and focused on the flavors and sensations. This is another way of practicing mindful eating. Closing your eyes, chewing slowly, and tasting as a wine connoisseur does, brings out many layers of texture and taste.

At the beginning of the bite, I felt the powdered flour on the bun pull the moisture from my lips. Next, the essence of sweet, savory pork seized my attention. Then I heard the crunch of the coleslaw as the subtle qualities of the cilantro and onion grew in my mouth. I noticed the difference between the crisp texture of the coleslaw, the soft chewy bun, and the pork, which seemed to melt with every bite. What surprised me most was complexity of the peanut butter and hoison sauce. It brought back fond memories of pad thai and sweet and sour pork. But it had a character all its own.

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This is what mindful eating is all about. When I focus on just eating, I’m able to notice things I would normally miss. Before, I was eating a good sandwich, but when I slowed down and paid attention I began having a religious pork experience. As we finished our meal, I was reminded that, “Mindfulness is the best seasoning.” It doesn’t matter if you are eating a decadent sandwich from Graffiti or gnoshing on a generic falafel. Mindfulness makes the experience more vibrant and satisfying.

In addition, by tuning into my body’s signals I’ve learned how to be satisfied. Which means I can eat less, but enjoy more. An important lesson if you want to sample all that Food Carts Portland has to offer. Whether you're an old-time foodie or a food cart neophyte, mindful eating brings out the rich nuances of every bite and can help you tune into the full spectrum of your experience.

Next time you're out for lunch, take a minute to slow down and really taste your meal. It may very well change the way you look at food.

You can learn more about Mindful Fitness at Sam's Website - Mindfitmove.com
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