Just like everything else we do, how we eat a plateful of food is part and parcel of our personality. The idea for this column was born when I wondered aloud for about the thousandth time during our married life, why my husband eats each of the different foods on his plate one at a time. This has puzzled me forever, as I am just the opposite. I tend to think that many foods complement each other and I like the interplay and subtle nuance of each flavour and how they combine to create a palate pleasing experience. As you can rightly divine from this admission, I watch the Food Channel too much.

With an eye to finding a source to back up my private assertion that my way of eating is the “better” way I Googled the subject and came up with an article by Vicki Santillano called, “Eating Habits and Personality: A Surprising Connection” on the Divine Caroline website. I do not really know what qualifications Ms. Vicki has, but since she quotes Juliet A. Boghossian who is a behavioural food expert and the founder of Foodology, I will grant her findings some grudging credence even though they do not back up my theory.

Anyway, Boghossian believes that our “food habits are one of the most instinctual habits we have” and reveal a great deal about us. She says, “You can fake a food habit … but eventually, the instincts will kick in,” uncovering the “real” you. So do you want to know how she believes the way we eat reveals our traits? For argument sake I am going to provide her “scientific findings” in a nutshell. What she reveals about me though is not very complimentary.

I am both a slow eater and a person who mixes my food (these are her categories, not mine and I have a bone to pick with her assertions.) First I will tell you what she says these two traits tell about me: I am wed to routines and stubborn. Apparently I make a point of savouring my food which indicates that I try to get the “most out of every experience” (which does not seem like a really bad thing to me). BUT she says that I am also more likely to put my needs before anyone else’s, and make myself the priority of my life.

And people who mix their food rather than eat one at a time? They “can take on a great deal of responsibility efficiently, but have trouble deciding what is the most important to accomplish”. To add insult to injury, apparently those of us who like to mix our food also “have trouble concentrating on a particular task”.

Now those of you who eat fast get off a little easier. While Boghossian believes that you “show a lack of balance when it comes to priorities”, apparently you are nicer than slow eaters as you tend “to put others before yourselves”. You are also “productive powerhouses and excel at finishing projects.” People who eat foods one at a time are, according to the one who knows all, “task-oriented” and “methodical in approach” but “less flexible when it comes to fitting into situations that deviate from what they’re used to”.

Poppycock, I say to most of these findings, foremost because they cast me in a rather dubious light. I do not really think I put my needs first (I am a mom after all), but I must admit that the word stubborn has been thrown my way (a lot). I am not wed to routine although this is something I could pick up on to advantage. Also, there is no real category for people who take a bite of one food on their plate, then a bite of another food and do not really mix them on their plate.

In light of these findings (which I do not necessarily agree with) I probably should start eating a little faster, so I will “excel at finishing projects” but if I choke on my food I hold Boghossian wholly to blame.

I took a tally of my family, just out of interest and we are two for two. My husband and youngest son eat their food one at a time, and I and my eldest son, take varying bites out of the food on our plate. I must note though that when I asked my eldest, he was not totally sure and said “it depends” when I asked him how he eats. Then when I broke it down to a roast beef dinner with potatoes and corn, he told me that he eats bites of each and not one food all at once. I guess he needed context.

I do have a burning question: How do people who eat one food at a time eat stew or chili or pizza or any one of the many dishes that are made with different foods already mixed together?

Published in: on March 12, 2016 at 4:02 pm  Comments (6)  

Monkey Mind Defined and Tamed

I have been remiss of late–this is my weekly column for the newspaper:

I want to share a book I finished reading a few weeks ago with you but my “monkey mind” is racing in all directions. I must focus. I must write this, my weekly column. And it has to make some sense, and satisfy the reader to some extent. But my “monkey mind”, defined by Wikipedia as “a Buddhist term meaning unsettled; restless, capricious; whimsical, fanciful; inconstant; confused; indecisive; uncontrollable” is attacking me.

Compartmentalization is one of the ways that I deal with “monkey mind” and it is surprisingly efficient—along the lines of Gone With the Wind’s Scarlett O’Hara declaring: “I won’t think about that now. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” I put things in their own little boxes, but sometimes they escape, get muddled, and I have trouble sorting them out.
In a Huffington Post article by author B.J. Gallagher, she tells us that Buddha has monkey mind all figured out. Titled “Buddha: How to Tame Your Monkey Mind”, she says that “The Buddha was the smartest psychologist” she has ever read. Calling him a wise teacher with keen insights into human nature she disavows that he was either a god or messiah, but someone who learned by observation and meditation.

He apparently described the “human mind as being filled with drunken monkeys, jumping around, screeching, clattering” and “carrying on endlessly.” Dozens of these little critters clamour for our attention all the time, but “fear is an especially loud monkey, sounding the alarm incessantly, pointing out all the things we should be wary of and everything that could go wrong.” This particular monkey is both irritating and a life saviour. Admittedly, sometimes we need this little guy so we will not step out into traffic—but when he stops you from getting on with life, he is getting a little out of hand.

Gallagher sometimes engages Fear “in gentle conversation”. She says that this little tete a tete can sometimes calm him down. Here is a little peek into her conversation:

“What’s the worst that can happen?” I ask him.
“You’ll go broke,” Fear Monkey replies.
“OK, what will happen if I go broke?” I ask.
“You’ll lose your home,” the monkey answers.
“OK, will anybody die if I lose my home?”
“Hmmm, no, I guess not.”
“Oh, well, it’s just a house. I suppose there are other places to live, right?”
“Uh, yes, I guess so.”
“OK then, can we live with it if we lose the house?”
“Yes, we can live with it,” he concludes.
And that usually does it. By the end of the conversation, Fear Monkey is still there, but he’s calmed down. And I can get back to work, running my business and living my life.”

Gallagher’s other advice for dealing with “monkey mind” is to meditate, and this she bases on the teachings of Buddha. She says it works. What doesn’t work is trying to banish the monkeys from your mind as “that which you resist, persists”. For me the jury is out regarding meditation. But I do find that having a “worst case scenario” conversation does calm me down. While sometimes my worst case scenario conversations do not have a happy ending—at least no one has died.

Oh—and the book I was going to tell you about? It is written by Ruth Reichl and called “My kitchen year: 136 Recipes that Saved my Life.” What does the book have to do with “monkey mind”? Well Ruth cooked and wrote a book to get rid of her monkeys. She lost her job as the Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine and was at a loss as to what to do next. She was in danger of losing her vacation house (oh, to have her monkeys!) but her anguish was real to her.

Reichl tamed her monkeys by getting back to her roots and cooking—something she had only written about for years. By chronicling her “kitchen year” she survived what she called her “difficult year”, and came to the realization that it is the simple things that make life worth living. At one time she was caught up in the whirlwind of a fancy life where she spent piles of money to “sit surrounded by strangers.” Now, she could come home, fix a quick and satisfying meal and have a quiet conversation with her husband, and be wholly content.

This mini review does not give the book its full due. It is honest, lyrically written, and has recipes to boot—there is not much more I could ask of a book. Oh—and the photography is awe inspiring. The book is a treat for the senses.

Do you ever suffer from Monkey mind? How do you cope?

Published in: on March 11, 2016 at 2:13 pm  Comments (9)