By Veronique Cardon, MS, Suppers facilitator
This experience is meant to help people relax, enjoy and become one with the food they eat by focusing on their senses. We want people to use smell and taste, enjoy the whole experience of masticating and feeling the food on the palate, being a detective in analyzing textures and finding out what it is they are eating. This experience of course does not allow the participants to know the meal in advance (as a facilitator, expect that you MUST check for allergies prior to finalizing the menu), prepare the meal, serve it, etc. You need to find a way to do it as secretly as possible by even hiding the food when they arrive. It is recommended somebody helps you.
As we all know too well, we have a tendency to eat too quickly or mindlessly with our stressful lives. This experience will allow us to become more aware of what food does to us in a very nurturing way and how wholesome and natural food impacts our wellbeing. The exercise will also focus on chewing slowly, eating with our mind in the moment. The blindfold will encourage true focus on the food and not on your neighbor and mindless chitchat.
Most of the experience will be done in silence but after each course, the blindfold will be taken off and people will be encouraged to share their own impressions and feelings, discoveries and guesses on what they ate. The facilitator will have prepared all the food and plated it and it will be served once people are seated after a few minutes of meditation. Make sure you have asked all participants about their allergies once more prior to serving. Do not serve huge portions as it could take too much time to eat.
Step 1: Prior to the meeting
- Have masks ready for all.
- Make sure you know exactly what ingredients are in what you prepare and have this ready when you engage in the table conversation.
- It is recommended to have a variety of textures, hot and cold courses, spicy and not, liquid and solid, etc. I personally have a starter (smoothie, soup or salad), a vegetable dish, a protein and a carbohydrate. Dessert is also possible but may be a lot of work.
Step 2: Opening and relaxation
- Guests sit down. Their masks can by their sides for now. There is nothing on the table except water and silverware.
- Read aloud the Suggested Leader's Script (includes the opening).
- Read aloud a relaxation exercise:
- Close your eyes and breathe in, breathe out slowly.
- Exhale your daily stress.
- Inhale slowly the beauty and joy of the experience to come in wonderful company.
- Feel a moment in your life where you were really serene, happy, content, joyful, at peace with yourself. Visualize this moment. If you do not have one, create one. It could be looking at a beautiful sunset with your beloved one on the beach, a unique experience climbing a mountain, serenely kayaking on a golden lake, embracing your children. Visualize this moment. (Pause)
- Make the colors, smells, visions come to life and be vivid.
- Remember the sounds like the wind gently going through the leaves of the trees in a forest, the smells like the iodine salty odor created by the sea waves crashing on the beach, the distinct perfume of a flower. It could be the pleasure of biting into a ripe peach.
- Bask in that moment. You are not here anymore but in that moment.
- Squeeze your thumb with your middle finger (both hands) and become one with that moment. Relax and continue to breathe slowly.
- Imagine what this moment does to your brain, your body, your health. Imagine all the happy neurotransmitters you are creating that are filling your mind and body with happiness. (Pause)
- Now, prepare for the joy of this dinner.
- Think about the creaminess of the avocado ripe from the sun, the freshness and life in a beautiful leaf of green kale, the delicious crunchy walnut, the refreshing sourness of the lime on your tongue. (Pause)
- Be ready to embark on a journey that will honor your body and your mind.
- Think about the love we put in everything we prepared today and that the ultimate goal of all this food is to sustain you as a human being.
- Come back and open your eyes again. Feel how refreshed and in the moment you are.
Step 3: Blindfold and first course
- Ask people to put on their masks, and then serve the first course. Ask guests to wait until everybody is served until they start eating.
- Ask them to eat in silence (nobody can talk or share anything as it could sabotage other people’s experience).
- Have them smell the food first, then chew very slowly while they focus on enjoying the food.
- Ask them to analyze the texture, the components, the spices if any, the sensations, etc. Do not speak too much as a facilitator during this period.
- Once everyone is finished the meal, they can remove their blindfolds.
- Go around the table: Guests should share feelings, emotions and findings. Make sure everybody has a chance to speak.
Step 4: Continue with each course in the same manner
- As they taste different types of food, ask them what they liked or disliked, what differences they observed. They may have guessed some of the food based on the smells when you cooked. If you do not get enough participation be ready to ask questions (example below).
- Probe with questions related to food -- examples:
- Did you feel the crunch part of the soup? Did you guess what it was?
- Did you taste that there were some herbs?
- Did you guess about a spice? What did you like most in that soup, the creaminess, the different textures? How about the flavors? (You can share the ingredients at this time.)
- Probe with questions related to feelings -- examples:
- Did this remind you of a past experience when you really enjoyed eating?
- How did you feel eating so slowly?
- How did you feel eating in silence?
- How did you feel being blindfolded? Did that change the way you experienced eating? Did it enhance the flavors? Did it make no difference?
- Will this change the way you eat in the future? Will you try this with your family? Ask guests to report back at the next meeting.
Step 5: End of the dinner
- After the closing, everybody must help clean up!