Professional food developer Barb Stuckey’s book, Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good, is all about how to enjoy food more. And among the smorgasbord of fun facts, surprising science, and try-at-home exercises she dishes out, one idea stuck to my dirty mind like al dente spaghetti flung against a wall:
Enjoying food should be like enjoying f*ing.
She puts it more tastefully than that, but that’s the gist. And once it was in my head, I couldn’t help but notice the parallels. I also couldn’t help but drool at the thought of trying it at home.
Speaking of which, enough foreplay. Here are the four steps to treating every course like intercourse.
Feel free to undo your top button to make some space, but please keep your pants on.
Step 1: Pick the Right Partners
Set High Standards
Cheap and easy, but mediocre food throws itself at us with sexy packaging and seductive advertising. It’s hard to say no to, but not impossible.
Set your standards higher.
Rather than settle for subpar plate partners that leave you feeling dirty immediately afterward and empty inside not soon after, put in the effort to get it on gloriously with a ten out of ten meal. Ok, realistically, a seven out of ten.
And brag to your friends about it. A bit of healthy competition can lead to healthier eating habits for everyone.
Cut the Quickies
Meaningless quickies throughout the day cause eating to lose its luster. Try limiting yourself to two or three meaningful meals a day to keep things fresh.
Step 2: Set The Mood
Do It Where it Belongs
Nobody wants to see you do it on the subway, in your car, or on the sidewalk. So aside from a few kinky exceptions, resist temptation until you’re in an appropriate environment: sitting at a table. It’s more comfortable there, anyway.
Relish the Ritual
Researchers have found rituals help us enjoy food more. They’re the foreplay to eating.
- We enjoy cake more when we sing happy birthday before and wait for the birthday boy or girl to slice it and dish it out.
- We enjoy coffee more when we measure the beans, grind them, then carefully brew them.
- And we enjoy our Chipotle burritos more if we have a particular way of slowly unwrapping them and adding our sauces.
Step 3: Extract Maximum Enjoyment
Don’t Worry About How Long You Last
Shoving it in emotionlessly, finishing quickly, and moving on with your day—maybe after a quick nap—isn’t the healthiest way to eat.
We all know this.
And every diet guru, doctor, and Cosmo magazine article says to do the opposite.“Slow down and chew thoroughly to give your digestive system the chance to tell you it’s full.”
Makes sense. But good luck heeding that advice when you’re ravenous.
Instead of worrying about how you last, focus on enjoying your meal as much as possible.
Switch Things Up
We tend to have a one-track mind when eating. We go hard on one part of the meal, finish with it, then move to the next.
This may be the most efficient way to eat, but it’s not the most enjoyable. It leads to what scientists call sensory-specific satiety, where each successive bite is less remarkable than the last.
To extract more from each bite, don’t leave any partner on your plate spectating from the side for too long. Take a bite of steak, then one of veggies, then one of potatoes. And keep switching it up.
And switch up what you put on your plate. Experiment with different flavors and cuisines. Food doesn’t get jealous, so spread the love.
Share the Experience
Eating, like sex, is best practiced with others, not all alone on your computer or phone.
But unlike sex, it’s not awkward or mood-killing to talk about—emotionally or analytically—while you’re in the middle of it. It’s the opposite. So exchange your experiences as you eat with others:
- Share what you’re liking and disliking.
- Dissect the individual ingredients and the recipe.
- And swap bites if you’re eating different things.
Step 4: Do It Well
Work On Your Skills
Nobody’s born a Don Juan of dining or Aphrodite of appetite-quenching. As with any ability, honing your perception and appreciation of flavor takes training and practice.
- Learn about the myriad factors that affect taste perception.
- Do blind taste tests.
- Develop your vocabulary to be able to better describe and process your experience.
- Hone your sense of smell to pick up on things most people are too stuffed up with busyness to notice.
- And, as mentioned, practice with others.
The more you appreciate the nuances of the food, the more you enjoy it. Plus, the practice of improving your ability to eat becomes pleasurable in itself.
Get Your Hands Dirty Sometimes
Every once in a while, set the sterile silverware aside and enjoy the raw sensation of digging in with your hands.
It adds an extra touchpoint to your meal, allows you to be extra precise with what you include in every bite, and restricts your hands from moving toward your distracting devices.
Have a Fantastic F’ing Feast
Next time you’re feeling hungry, give these four steps a try: Pick the right partners, get in the mood, extract maximum enjoyment, and do it well.
And if you want more help and inspiration from an expert, consider reading Barb Stuckey’s book: