Jewish Philosophy

 
The Art of Savouring
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Thursday 15th May 2014

By Rabbi Josh Zaitschek, former US Rabbi

Think about the last meal you ate. Where was your attention after you took the first bite? Was it on the next bite? Or did you start thinking about all the things you had to do that day? Did you really enjoy the meal as much as you could have?

Having trained as a chef in New York and working in the catering industry, I have learned that to enjoy food to the utmost, one must try to savour and appreciate all the different tastes and textures.

Savouring is usually applied to food. How does one savour? For example, take a single square of dark chocolate and put it in your mouth, but don’t chew or swallow it. Let it sit there, notice the hints of citrus and the richness of its texture as it melts ever so slowly in your mouth. You swallow it almost regretfully after letting it linger, fully appreciating the deliciousness of it. You pause to think about how the beans were grown, who roasted and grinded them and who hand-crafted them into this square of joy.

Let’s look at what lies behind this experience:
You slowed down. You paid close attention – the closer the attention, the more you got out of the savouring. You didn’t rush to the next thing. Rather you stopped and gave some space to the activity. You were not worried about what you did earlier or what you have to do later; you were fully enjoying the present.

Savouring food is just the start: you can savour anything, and you should. It changes everything, but it takes practice. You can do it right now, wherever you are: pause and look around you and savour this very moment. Even if it doesn’t seem to be special, savour it. The temperature in the room, the chair you are in, the people around you…
Rabbi Avigdor Miller (d.2001) was known for his emphasis on appreciating the beauty of nature and the vast wisdom of the world that G-d created. This story epitomises his constant focus on appreciating G-d:

A grandchild visited Rabbi Miller at his home and was puzzled to see his grandfather with his face submerged in the sink. After a few moments, Rabbi Miller stood up, and breathed deeply. “The air is so wonderful,” he said.

His grandchild said, “Zeidy, why was your face in the water for so long that you couldn’t even breathe properly?”

Rabbi Miller replied, “On my way home, someone remarked to me that lately, the air has been polluted. Not wanting my appreciation of G-d’s air to lessen, I decided to deepen my appreciation of air. After depriving myself of air for just a short while, I am now even more thankful to that we have such wonderful air!”

Savouring helps us to live in the present, to fully enjoy the gift of each moment that G-d has given us, to give that moment the space and attention it deserves. It takes practice, but it is a delicious experience.