Is your food quiet or loud?
“Um, what? Do you mean the way I chew?”
No, not that. (We’ll save the problem of noisy chewers for another day, but they do really annoy some folks!)
Recently, I was reading this interview with New York University food studies associate professor Krishnendu Ray (author of “The Ethnic Restaurateur”) and he made this observation: “We’ve developed this hyper-attention to loud food, to food that preens, like a model on a runway.”
Loud food. Think about that in terms of daily competition for your time and attention. Some food does sort of shout for your attention, doesn’t it?
In a loud world, we are constantly bombarded by ads, colors, sounds, and the rising volume of a continuing cacophony of calls designed to grab your attention so you buy this food or that “food product” or this meal. Even the touting of the latest “best” restaurant or the hottest chef or the most popular cooking show comes at full volume.
Loud food. Food that yells at you, and so you eat it. Food that dominates your mental sphere. Makes sense now, doesn’t it? The volume of food has been turned way up in our modern society.
In the restaurant field (the subject of Ray’s book), the greatest attention is paid to the top chefs, the excesses, the cutting edge. (Not unlike sports, literature, business, and pretty much everything in our modern society. Our attention is captivated by extremes.) So, it’s easy to see how loud food has come to dominate the social sphere.
But that’s also advertising and hype, not everyday life. What about you and me? Do we normally eat loud food?
Nope. Not me. And I’m guessing not you. And probably not most of us in the fitness and paleo worlds. We’re probably standing firmly over in the quiet food realm.
Sometimes, we might eat at a fine restaurant (or a late night fast food place—don’t act like you’ve never done that!) but the majority of our food is quiet food, isn’t it? Decent, reliable, whole, healthy quiet food. Food that nourishes, sustains, and helps us to grow in the right ways and not the wrong places. Food that has been conscientiously sourced, organically produced, and/or humanely raised. Food that makes us happy and fuels our performance, and doesn’t always occupy the center of our attention. (Except when we’re “hangry” and then all bets are off. Or when we’re salivating over someone’s delicious food photo on Instagram.)
But, mostly, we eat quiet food. And that’s not just okay, that’s GREAT! Quiet food sustains us every day of our (hopefully long) lives.
When you think about it, the relationship between loud food and quiet food is not that unlike the relationship of Games athletes in the CrossFit realm and everyday people who CrossFit. One group gets most of the attention (example: Rich Froning at the CrossFit Games), while the latter is the larger group (you and me and most people we know), going about their training day to day, not making a ruckus but quietly creating results they need and want for the rest of their lives.
So, why are we talking about quiet food? Because, in this noisy world, it’s important to refocus sometimes: To listen to what we do, to tune into ourselves, to tune down the noise in our hyperdrive world and settle into ourselves for a moment. To appreciate the silence.
The famed violinist and conductor Isaac Stern once said, “In music it’s not about the notes, it’s what happens in between the notes.” Some people say that a good conversation depends on the silence between the words. And so maybe a good meal is found not just in the loud food, but also in the quiet food, and the food you chose not to put into your body.
So, pay attention because it is in the quiet where we find ourselves again, not amidst the noise and the lights. Like Patrick Cummings said in “Stillness”: “I want to hold the hand of my attention like we were fifth graders.” Do that.
Because, in this ever-increasingly noisy and discontented world, maybe it’s time we appreciate and celebrate being outlandish everyday rebels simply by closing our eyes and chewing our quiet food.