The Pleasure of a Meal

When my sister came to visit me from overseas, I told her I would treat her by taking her out to eat.  She begged me to stay home and cook.  "I don't want to spend the time it takes for me to dress for a restaurant, " she said, "and then spend half that time gulping down my meal so I can be pushed out to make room for the next group."When one dine out in Europe or most other countries, the restaurant fully expects  you to be there for the evening.  The courses are served at a leisurely pace, and there is no sense of hurry to make room for the next group of diners.  The 45 minutes or one hour reservation allowed by any restaurant in the United States, whether upscale or not, deliberately create an atmosphere of , "we need your table for the next round of people," that you see standing in the lobby waiting for a table. We Americans, on the other hand, have made rushing through a meal a part of our national culture.  We have become taxi drivers for our children who seem to be involved in more activities than we have the ability to drive them to. We are too busy to prepare a meal at home or even to enjoy it if we do manage to take time to prepare it.  We are hooked on fast food restaurants, or on pre-packaged meals, frozen or otherwise, that are "nuked" and that are gulped down so we can get on with whatever else we do for relaxation and entertainment.  We think nothing of spending two or three hours surfing the Internet, twittering, or watching television, but we have lost the practice of taking time to enjoy cooking and eating a well cooked meal.  There are other benefits as well to slowing down for our food.  We can, heaven forbid, even spend some time during a leisurely meal to talk with each other.  It might even be fun to get acquainted with each other as a family.Very frankly, I look forward to visiting my parents in Syria, where the art of preparing a meal is an entertainment itself.  My mother, sister, and even my brothers, cut, chop and slice to loud music that has us all dancing while we're cooking.   We gossip, argue politics, and tease each other while cooking, all of which is part of the meal itself. Eating the meal takes nearly as long as its preparation, and though we've forgotten to turn on the television, we end the evening totally relaxed and happy, and without question looking forward to the next meal where we can enjoy each other along with the food.If your work schedule prevents you from slowing down for the pleasure of a meal, try it on weekends.  You might be surprised and even begin to enjoy the health and the pleasure of a meal.American Let us go back into cooking.Lentil Saladserves 42      cups cooked lentils1       cup chopped Italian parsley1       cup chopped scallions1       cup finelay diced celery1/2  red bell pepper, finely diced4     tablespoons olive oil1/2  cup lemon juice1/2  cup crumbled feta cheese-Toss all the ingredients together except for the feta cheese.-Spoon the salad into the serving bowl.  Sprinkle the feta to top and serve.