If your mother ever told you to stop inhaling your food, she was on to something — slowing down and savoring flavors makes for a better meal.
“There’s a whole movement now of people eating slow and getting into the food,” said Edward Aloise said, chef at Republic in Manchester.
Aloise recommends going for the full experience to get the most out of your meal. Start from scratch by buying your ingredients, make your own broth (nothing from a can), turn on the music and invite loved ones to help make dinner.
“Make the experience complete. It doesn't take a whole lot of time,” he said. “It takes a little bit of effort, and I mean just a little bit of effort, to make that time special, whether at home or going out.”
Merrimack’s Homestead Restaurant chef Brian Murray advocates for a more elaborate sit-down meal as well.
“It’s a different pace. You’re not just eating for sustenance, it’s an experience,” Murray said. “In a way its preserving tradition of sitting down with family, and enjoying the whole experience of sitting down and conversing with friends and family with food as a the focal point, which just makes for lifted spirits and makes people happy.”
The fundamentals of the slow food movement is all about cooking from scratch, taking the time to prepare your food and then taking time to enjoy it, too.
Aloise says knowing the story behind your dinner (not just letting it appear in front of you) will connect you to the chef and the producer or farmer where those ingredients originally came from. He noted his recent drive from the farm where he sources his pork to the smokehouse in Canterbury that helps make the ham at Republic. For Aloise, that product isn’t complete until it reaches the table.
“You’re looking at a connection between a farmer a chef, a smokehouse and a guest. When I serve that dish, it’s like a closed circle. Not only that; the person that’s eating it, there’s a story to it and they can feel just as connected to that circle,” Aloise said. “There’s more of a human connection and more of a human experience in it.”
Of course, good food and great flavors will make us happier, too (because burnt toast just doesn’t cut it). You don’t need to be a five-star chef to create delicious mouth-pleasing flavors. In the culinary world, the phrase “amuse bouche” applies to a type of appetizer, a bite that literally translates to “happy mouth.” Chefs aim to please our palates by using unique and layered flavors.
“As a chef, you want to satisfy and you also want to surprise,” Aloise said. “You got them visually, and next thing you know they take a bite. I think it's equally as satisfying when they take a bite and it doesn't match what they thought and it tasted good, or it tasted exactly what they thought.”
“When I was in college, we were always preached at that food was a celebration. It's a celebration of different cultures,” Murray said. “Preparing my favorite foods, that’s easy. Indulging in the different layers that you bring to different recipes and the contrasting flavors, just kind of making the most of the meal time.”
Add company to your meal
Of course, no one likes to eat alone. To get the most out of a meal and to find happiness at the table means inviting friends and family to join you.
“One of the reasons we designed both Republic and Campo Enoteca the way we did, some people might say it’s crowded, we say its intimate,” Aloise said. “It’s based around food and based around community and sharing a connection.”
Aloise said that it’s common for diners to lean in and comment on a neighboring tables’ dish and for strangers to start conversing at the bar. Many of his customers come to the restaurant knowing their neighbor always comes in the same day, or that a certain server or bartender they met the previous week will be there that night. Aloise said this community feeling brings even more joy to a meal.
It’s not all about dining out, either. Inviting friends and family over to enjoy a meal can make for a great evening. Murray said that frequently he experiences moments of bliss when cooking. To find culinary pleasure, try cooking from the heart.
“Quite often, actually, I do have those moments when I cook something and it just comes out. When it exceeds your expectations, when you’re blessed to work with some of the quality products that we’re able to source out and get a hold of — it’s a treat,” he said.
As seen in the June 5, 2014 issue of the Hippo.