Mealtime–More than Food

Our trip to Scotland and Ireland earlier this summer was one of those tours where you ride a bus or ferry from one place to another. For the first few days, I noticed that people in our group were complaining that the meal service was bad–too slow.

I admit that at first, I was among the complainers. Our initial restaurant experience in Scotland was unarguably horrible. But after that, the service seemed to follow a particular routine.

It was slower than we’ve come to expect in America. But when the same pattern emerged from place to place, I realized that, aside from our initial experience, the service wasn’t bad after all. It was simply a cultural difference giving us time to enjoy the food and each other’s company.

We were Americans (for the most part) in a hurry. They were Europeans bred with the idea of not rushing mealtime.

The restaurant staff seemed to have the idea that mealtime is more than food consumption. A bit of extra time between courses encouraged us to enjoy an unveiling of the meal along with fellowship. The time between appetizer and entree, between entree and dessert, was time to get to know the strangers on the same adventure we were having.

There was a young couple apparently on a second honeymoon away from their three children, a retired teacher from Philadelphia, a couple who had traveled to Vietnam and other exotic places–two young women from Canada, a mother and four of her five adult daughters.

We ate amazing breads, drank tea, and relished unbelievable desserts. (A chocolate mousse with a honeycomb topper. (The chef mixes honey and baking soda together and bakes it–then breaks it up to adorn each dish of mousse.) The result resides on the memory of my tongue.)

We also ate a good many parsnips and turnips. That’s because they’re locally grown. We got a true sense of what it’s like to eat there–not the universal sense you get by eating pineapple in Minnesota.

Food and fellowship go together. They create bonds.

Once we got home, it didn’t take me long to get back into the habit of rushing through meals.

As I ponder time away from my habits and out of my routine, I want to slow down to savor the conversation at every meal–as much as I can.

It may be the part of a day from this summer we remember later on. Not just the baked beans, which by the way, in Scotland, come with breakfast–not with dinner.

No matter which meal you choose to enjoy your beans, linger. Converse. Savor. Remember.

Let God bless the fellowship as well as the food.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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30 Replies to “Mealtime–More than Food”

  1. Scotland is one of my favorite places. I remember similar experiences – not only what they eat (haggis, blood pudding, etc), but how they eat. The slow service did annoy me at first, until I recognized that a meal didn’t have to be rushed. We had nowhere in particular to go. I could breathe. Savor. And enjoy the beauty of people and places around me. Thank you for taking me back and reminding me of such a lovely place. Blessings!

  2. I love this. We always seem to be in such a rush in life, but when we slow down, relax and enjoy ourselves, everything truly is so much better. Great blog!

  3. Yes, when having a meal, take time to absorb the atmosphere and enjoy conversation. Rushing through a meal doesn’t give time to truly enjoy God’s provisions. 🙂

  4. I really love this blog! My boyfriend grew up in Europe and I noticed the other day that he is always the last one to finish his meal. This intentionality spills over into many aspects of his life, as he always leaves early enough to take a scenic route to church or other functions and, in general, rests when he’s at rest. Beautifully, when he is with me, he even leaves his phone at home. We Americans seem to be teaching the world about our “productivity,” but I think we could learn from our European cousins about taking our time.

  5. My husband has been to Italy and has talked about how “slow” the meals are – how the people there truly want to enjoy the time at the table. The waiters don’t rush you out so they can fill the table with more customers. I can imagine it would be frustrating at first, but a great routine to adopt in some way!

    1. So it’s a Europe thing, eh? Sounds wonderful. We do have meals like this on holidays. But perhaps we need to give every day a holiday sense and take our time. Thanks, Emily! God bless!

    1. Yes, Beth, but we’ve become so isolated–sometimes even from people we live with–that we rush through good food and miss good company. Thanks and God bless!

  6. I had a friend from South Africa who complained that Americans eat too fast rather than enjoying the food and the company. I’ve thought a lot about that in the ensuing years. We must be careful to not exchange the richness of the company for the sake of simply completing the meal.

    “It was simply a cultural difference giving us time to enjoy the food and each other’s company.”

    Yes and amen to this comment!

    1. “We must be careful to not exchange the richness of the company for the sake of simply completing the meal.”

      That’s wonderful, Jeanne! Thanks and God bless!

  7. My father inlaw used to say, “People are always in a hurry to get nowhere!” Ha ha ha… that phrase comes to mind with the American habit of rushing everything to get to the next thing. I am glad that Europeans have not caught the same “hurry bug” that we have!

  8. Ireland is my home so you brought back some great memories. I am glad you had a great visit. The honeycomb is also known as yellow man and one of my favorites.

  9. I love this, Nancy! I am afraid I fall into the category of speed dial eating. And for what? I love to visit other cultures and encounter simple, yet beautiful differences like the pace of eating. Thank you for sharing this sweet story.

  10. Yes, there’s a difference between bad service and slow service with a purpose. We are in a hurry. My nephew married a girl from England and her entire family believes this way about meals. The food is to be enjoyed along with the company. Across America, many families don’t even eat together much anymore.

    1. It’s sad that families don’t eat together. The idea that connection comes through sharing time and food is lost to too many of us. Thanks, Karen. God bless!

  11. What a delightful recounting of your trip to Scotland! The difference between American dining and European dining is rather stark. We really do gobble down our food too quickly without seizing the camaraderie involved in savoring the meal and the time with family and friends that it provides. I’m glad you could see the pattern as it repeated itself at each stop and could then relax into the flow and the timing of the experience. Your descriptions of the food are delectable!

  12. A good challenge for me, for too often I am in a hurry through meals, if I eat all. As a family, when our children were younger, mealtime was a time to linger and talk. I miss those days. I must get back to doing that again! Thanks for the spur!

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