Last night we met dear friends for dinner. The restaurant is in a charming old house in a little town about 45 minutes away. None of us had eaten there before but we had heard great things about it.
We had a truly lovely evening. The restaurant was very cosy and personal. The food was delicious and the server was a very sweet young girl. My only complaint was something I encounter way too often in American restaurants – we were rushed through the courses.
The men had finished their salads but we ladies were still eating ours when the main course was brought out. The table was small with no room for extra plates so our salads were whisked away. And then later, with fully half of my food still on my plate we were asked if we’d like dessert.
This was not a busy chain restaurant with a line of people waiting for a table. In fact, there was only one other party of diners in the restaurant at the time and we were at least 2 hours from the stated closing time. As I mentioned, the waitress was truly sweet and I honestly don’t think she was trying to get us to hurry up and leave. On the contrary, I think she was just trying to be very attentive.
Let’s contrast last night’s dinner (and the vast majority of my dining experiences in the United States) with our experience in France:
In France it is expected that a table is yours for the entire evening. There is none of this business of quickly turning tables throughout the evening. Part of that is the fact servers are paid full wages in France and tips are not an expected part of their compensation. But even more so, the French take dining seriously and cannot comprehend why one would rush the process.
One of my very favorite parts of my time in Paris were the leisurely meals. Most were served in at least three courses and never once were we brought the next course before we had completely finished the current one. In fact, there was usually a delay of several minutes between taking away one set of plates and bringing out the next. And never once was David’s empty plate removed until I was through as well. I’ve been a slow eater my whole life and I cannot begin to tell you how uncomfortable it is to finish my meal after everyone else’s plates have been removed. It’s so awkward. Sometimes I’ve had David purposely leave at least one bite on his plate and hold his fork so a server won’t take his plate until I am done.
And being asked if we want dessert when only half way through the main course? One of my biggest pet peeves. How do I even know if I will want dessert at that point? Last night I actually spoke up and politely told the server that I’d like to finish my meal before we decided about dessert.
This post isn’t a diatribe about American restaurant service, though. It’s really a much bigger issue. Our society is in such a rush about everything. We want what we want immediately and never want to wait for anything. Any sort of delay is seen as a waste of time.
But what would happen if we slowed down a bit
and actually savored not only our meals but our lives?
Last week I had reached my limit of overwhelm and decided to take Friday off. I planned ahead so I had very few things I had to do that day. Instead of my usual lengthy to-do list, I spent most of the day doing just what I wanted. I slept about 30 or 40 minutes later than usual. I read from a couple of books and enjoyed thumbing through a magazine I had bought a couple of weeks ago yet never looked at. I played the piano. I fixed myself a nice lunch and enjoyed it at the table instead of in front of my computer. I fixed a delicious dinner and we didn’t go anywhere. It was a beautiful day and a reminder of the importance of slowing down and simply enjoying life now and then.
Rather than rushing from one activity to the next what would happen if we purposely set aside time to just “be”? To sit on the porch and listen to music. To take 20 minutes in the afternoon for a cup of tea. To look at the stars before going to bed.
I know we all have busy lives but perhaps it’s time to rethink our obligations and our approach to live. We need to give ourselves some breathing room. Take some time to do something we enjoy. Or maybe just sit, stare off into space and do absolutely nothing.
I’m no longer even surprised when I receive confirmation of something I’ve been wrestling with. I already had today’s post planned when I received an email with the link to this podcast this morning:
Become a Lady of Leisure by Tonya Leigh
See? The “Universe” just served up a little a little reminder that I’m on the right track. Life is too short to spend it on a hamster wheel of activity. Every once in awhile you simply must hop off and allow your spirit to be revived.
Ways to Slow Down and Savor Life
You already know some of my favorite ways to do this:
I’d love to hear from you. What are some of your favorite ways to slow down and savor life? Leave me a comment and then give yourself a little time off…just for you.