Usually, when it is late at night after a long day of work and I am sitting alone in my Tokyo apartment, I am eating from a plastic bento box with disposable chopsticks. The less dishes to wash the better. A lazy meal. The food is secondary. I just want to fill myself up so I can do the laundry and go to bed. I eat with the rhythm of someone too tired to taste.
Sitting on a table, sipping excellent Pu’erh from small tea cups, admiring the black pepper prawns laid out on a blue-and-white china plate… Something happens. Food is not just sustenance. Food is not just a poor substitute for companionship and good sleep. Food is transformed into something special, artful.
I was once fortunate enough to enjoy a ten-course Japanese kaiseki meal where each dish had its on complementing dishware. If the food was an art piece, the dishware was its frame.
Something happens when you elevate the ritual of eating to art form. You start to focus on the food. As you admire its tantalizing appearance, you give yourself time to soak in its scent. You do not merely eat, you taste. You let your tongue slowly savor the flavor, the texture. When it is gone, you recline and enjoy the aftertaste.
Maybe, then, dishware is not the most important thing. It is that, in our busyness — in the constant chaos of vibrating smartphones and flashing LED lights — we are forgetting to give ourselves time to appreciate these little details in life. Everything is turning into a blur. There is always no time, no time, no time to appreciate.
Here’s one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2014: slow down and breathe. Appreciate. Think. Recharge. Wake up the next day all the more ready to charge ahead and make things happen.
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