We’ve all heard the oft-repeated saying that variety is the spice of life. Cliché or not, diversification plays a huge role in our lives, from hobbies to reading material to work tasks to—you guessed it—food.
Whether you adhere to a strict diet of fast-food fare or an ultra-healthy routine of juice cleanses and dark greens, scrupulously sticking to either end of the spectrum will leave you feeling unsatisfied and unhappy. What you end up missing is variety: gravitating to the same restaurants out of habit and comfort rather than exploring different spots. Making eating a necessity rather than a luxury. Getting used to uniform flavours and textures. Missing out on the surprise and delight of trying something new.
This is where we can look to the foodies in our lives to learn to spice things up. Variety, texture and flavor are their passions. They tend to approach their meals mindfully—analyzing their personal preferences with every bite, and enjoying them based not on size, but on their senses. And they make their meals memorable experiences, eschewing the three-a-day monotony in favour of the new and noteworthy.
Researchers at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia found that people who take the time to appreciate the variety of textures, flavours and beauty of their food are happier than those who don’t. Also known as ‘epicurean eaters’, foodies appreciate their meals, no matter the serving size or type of food. Eating is a sensory experience and Epicureans scored higher on overall wellbeing and were less interested in large serving sizes than ‘visceral eaters’, who tend to eat purely to satisfy the impulse of hunger.
The same study also found that people who adamantly restrict food choices (diet) are much less happy than both epicurean and visceral eaters. The study is careful to note that a high level of food enjoyment is not linked to weight gain—deep appreciation for food does not correlate with obesity. For a foodie, there is little trade-off between health and pleasure.
So here’s what we can learn from our foodie friends on the secret to a memorable, joyful life filled with delicious food:
- Choose foods with strong sensory diversity: scent, sight, touch, and taste. For example, pick brightly hued veggies, from red bell peppers to collard greens. Look for grains with a rich texture, like pearl barley, couscous or smooth orzo. Cook with spices that light up your smell receptors. And identify specific favourite tastes to treat yourself from time to time, like rich, slow-cooked ribs, strong cheeses, or a juicy herbed roast chicken.
- Take the time to really appreciate each aspect of your meal. First visually and by smell—the colours, presentation, textural differences, aromas, spices—then by taste. Take in the mouth feel of each bite the way you would a sip of pinot noir at a wine tasting. Pay attention to the different areas of your tongue that may send different signals: tangy barbeque sauce on the outer edges, a hint of bitterness hits at the back of your mouth, sweet and salty on the tip of your tongue. If you’re taking a bite of a stacked juicy burger with avocado and crispy onion, or a big spoonful of rich stew with meat and potatoes, take a moment to appreciate the interplay of the various scents, tastes and textures.
- There’s no better token of appreciation to a fellow foodie than creating or enjoying a meal together.As you and your foodie friend taste each delectable mouthful, chat about what you like and dislike, and make a mental note of their preferences. Savour the time spent together and use the meal as a means of connection.
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