The One With Fiat Caffé – An Experiment With Food Meditation

The other day I was out dining alone. Usually when I do that I will mind my own business, but on that occasion I couldn’t help but notice something strange at the next table. Four guys were wearing the same jersey; obviously they were from the same sports team and are of around the same age. One would think they were taking some timeout relaxing with each other after a hardcore training session. Some call it male bonding. Others see it as team camaraderie.

But no. I wish they were.

No, because all four of them were glued to their smartphones. Their eyes were aglow with the light from the little screens. They hardly notice the food in front of them, never mind their friends sitting physically right across… if only they care to look up.

Which brings to mind a recent article I read about food meditation.

In this age of smartphones and uber-connectedness, have we lost the ability to fully appreciate food? Have we got so used to eat mindlessly, that such an unhealthy habit and social rudeness (if you are not dining alone) became the norm? Became the expected?

Fiat Caffé

I pondered over this as I was having a solitary lunch at Fiat Caffé, the famed themed restaurant with menu designed by the renowned Chef David Laris. Even though I was eating alone, I was determined to practice a bit of food meditation; an eating process that focused on nothing else but what you eat and how you eat, away from distractions of screens big and small.

Fiat Caffé

And so I deliberated over the potato salad with prosciutto and tomatoes. This simple dish was beautifully presented, with a mix of vibrant colours that got my appetite buzzing. As I chewed slowly, allowing the flavour to develop fully and become noticeable, I appreciated the complexity of the dry-cured ham, and the overly strong garlicky undertone. I practically blanked out everything – from the beautiful Fiat cars to the playful children at the next table to the brightly lit wall of the café – to really taste the salad. It worked.

I concluded that I didn’t really like it that much.

Fiat Caffé

A good fifteen minutes later, the main course arrived. The shrimp spaghetti with radicchio and fennel was again a dish of vibrant colours – is that a hallmark of the café? – and this time it has the taste to match. I wondered whether the peeled prawns were fresh. I questioned which ingredient was the fennel, which was radicchio (I am hopeless with names of leaves and stalks and the likes).

I resisted the urge to fire up my iPhone for an answer. Instant gratification I had not.

Instead, I opened my mind to enjoy a spaghetti that does not come with my favorite cream sauce. The portion was light, the taste was just right, and the combination of flavours was balanced. It was as if the dish was made for meditation.

Fiat Caffé

As I enjoyed my Illy’s coffee (which, by the way, was served in the cutest coffee cup I have ever seen), I sat back and realised that I really did enjoy the meal. I wasn’t stuffing myself just to convince my brain that I had enough, I kept my focus on the food I paid for to enjoy, and I kept my pace over a leisurely lunch hour very much unlike the hurried, harassed office crowd around me.

I should do this food meditation more often.

Fiat Caffé
Shops G5-6, Leighton Center
77 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay
Tel: +852 2960 9222

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