The goal, each and every time we get up from the table after finishing a meal, should be to feel better than when we first sat down to enjoy it. And, that is how you attain true nourishment.
Sounds simple, right? Then, why is it so difficult to achieve?
One of the reasons is because many of us have and extremely narrow sense of what nourishing means and set our expectations too low. We believe that to be nourishing a meal simply must meet our nutritional needs. And, while that is certainly important, it also needs to be so much more!
What makes a nourishing meal after all?
For we humans, food is a part of everything we are and an expression of ourselves. In addition to food meeting our biological needs, to be truly nourishing is also much fulfill our emotional and cultural needs. This means the food must meet or exceed our ethical and sustainability standards, be prepared according to our traditional and/or religious beliefs, and be meaningful. In short, it must make us feel good.
There is no prescription for how this plays out – it is situation specific. Certainly, there are standards that need to be met, but they can be met in so many different ways. To illustrate this point, I want to use as examples three consecutive meals that Christina and I recently enjoyed in Norway that were completely different yet truly nourishing in every sense of the word.
Dinner 1: Restaurant REST – an incredible, zero waste philosophy
According to the Restaurant REST website,
In Norwegian, “Rest.” is not only an abbreviation for Restaurant or referring to a nice break. “Rest.” means what is left. Food waste is recognized as a major challenge in western food industry and consumerism. It raises grave moral and environmental issues. It insults common sense. And it robbes us of potentially brilliant tastes and experiences. Our ambition is to bring such experiences to you in our restaurant.
We doubt everyone wants their carrots to look like uniform soldiers marching out of an industrial plant. We detest the fact that hens are used as an ingredient in concrete once their egg production is slowing down. But most of all we marvel in the abundance of brilliant ingredients that never reach a shop or a palate. –
This restaurant practices what it preaches – through its 20 course meal (yes 20 courses) that lasted almost 5 hours, menu Chef Jimmy Øien and his team took us on a journey that laid bare many of the faults in our modern industrial food system that creates waste, mishandles resources, and has no place for off cuts of animals and “ugly” fruits and vegetables!
20 Courses for the Senses
From overripe cheese and cockscombs (the red fleshy thing on top of a chicken’s head) to by-catch from the fishing industry, all of this “waste” is the foundation of the menu at REST. Of course each course was expertly created, plated beautifully, and hand delivered by different chefs throughout the night who personally shared individual stories that illustrated the breakdown in the food system that created the waste and how they instead used it to create our dish.
The menu was well-balanced, nourishing, and informative. We left inspired to implement even more measures at the MSAK to reduce waste and incorporate even more obscure waste from the food system into our offerings. This meal nourished both our bodies and minds.
Dinner 2: Dinner with Alette and Monica, and their husbands Jan and Kakki on an island in the Oslo Fjord
The next night, we experienced a completely different, yet incredibly nourishing meal.
Monica and Alette along with her husband, Kakki, picked us up and drove us to a boat slip. There we met Monica’s husband, Jan and the six of us headed out under dark and stormy skies into the fjord to see Oslo from the water.
From the water, we saw the Kon Tiki museum, where the cruise ships dock, the old boatyard, Salt, the Opera House, and all of the saunas that dotted the edge of the harbor.
Next Stop: Dinner
Then the boat made a b-line across the fjord and we headed directly to a private island where they had arranged for an incredible meal made of local and seasonal ingredients to be prepared for us.
Snuggled in an historic building, perched on a high point of the island, around a table set with white linen, we spent several hours deep in conversation, laughing, and eating – all elements nourishing in their own way – before returning to the mainland for a good nights sleep.
Course 1 – Cured Salmon
Course 2 – Norwegian Moose
Course 3 – Fruit and Cream
It was the perfect night and the perfect meal.
It was filled with friendship, laughter, and connection.
Dinner 3: An Unexpected Hodgepodge of Local Delights
On the eve of the conference, our third night in Norway, Alette’s parents, Katrine and Eyvind, put us up in their tiny, secluded cottage on the banks of the fjord.
Christina and I arrived just before dark and, after we settled in began to cobble together a makeshift dinner comprised of food that was gifted to us from Alette, Monica, and our new friend Raymund who own a local farm, Delås Gård.
The meal consisted of:
- Local raw milk chreee
- Bunost (whey cheese made from goat milk)
- Leverpostei (pig liver pate)
- Sourdough bread
- Jam from Delås Gård
- Reindeer Sausage
Vast experience, care, and craftsmanship went into creating each component of our meal.
The baker, butcher, cheesemaker, and farmer worked hard, yet it took mere minutes for us to assemble. And, given the quality of the ingredients, it was also incredibly nutritious. Nevertheless, it was still a simple meal that fit entirely on a single cutting board. Christina and I shared that meal while sitting around a small wooden table in the tiny cottage, warmed by a wood burning stove, and looking out at the moon reflecting against the water in fjord. The meal was by no means large, but it still lasted several hours. And, throughout the entire meal, we were deep in conversation – a conversation that was only interrupted by the occasional bite of something off of the cutting board or a sip of red wine. Sure, it was nutrient dense and bioavailable. And, it was also romantic. Exactly the nourishment our souls needed!
Certainly, these were extraordinary meals and their impact magnified by the people we were with and the exotic nature of a fine dining restaurant, a boat ride, a private island, the quaint cottage on the rocky banks of the fjord, and Norway itself. But, it doesn’t have to be this extreme to be equally powerful and nourishing.
How can you have a truly nourishing meal?
We must not forget that complete nourishment is so much more than ingesting the proper macro- and micronutrients. Taking a few extra steps requiring minimal time and no extra money can make all the difference and make even the simplest of means more meaningful and therefore more nourishing.
Here are a few ideas:
- Fill the seats at the table with people you care about. I like to say, the best problem to have is a table that is too small
- Set the table. It shows intention. It conveys importance.
- Take a few extra minutes to “make it special”. Try your hand at plating the food differently, even it is the most basic of meals, you can elevate everything about it by taking the time to arrange it differently, or garnishing it, or simply pulling out the fine china that you never use can make all the difference.
- Put away the phones. We don’t have many opportunities in our days anymore to unplug. This is important enough to be one of them.
- Play music in the background. A slightly different atmosphere can set a different tone and make it more special
- Change locations – if you normally eat in the kitchen have a meal instead in the dining room for no reason, or on the deck, or even on the floor in the living room on a blanket!
- Take pictures (OK, yes, its okay to take your phone out for this). Take pictures of the people at the table, take pictures of the food (if you spent time making it – it is worthy of a picture), take pictures of the memories. Not only does taking pictures preserve the memories but it automatically makes the moment seem more special and worthy of a photo – which it is!