Friday, May 13, 2011

Surprising Benefits of a Two-Hour Lunch

One of the most dramatic changes in my lifestyle revolves around lunch.

Here in Argentina's interior, where life is slower, folks stop working by 1 pm and go home for a hot lunch.  No eating at one's desk.  No drive-thrus.  No ordering pizza for delivery.  Not even Campbell's soup or Ramen noodles.  Gone are my days of going out with colleagues for a quick bite in a trendy bakery or cafe.  (Sniff...)

The "two-hour lunch" has taken new meaning.  It takes about that much time total, I'd guess, when I figure the total prep, eating, and clean up time for lunch for me and Roberto.  Luckily I work in my home office, so when I take my 11 or 12 o'clock break, I can do a little prior prep, then go back to work, and just check on things periodically.  Beans can simmer, bread can bake, or chicken or pumpkin can roast away, filling the air with delicious aromas.

Sitting down to eat leisurely at the dining table with my dearly beloved is now one of our most entrenched rituals.  The place mats and cloth napkins come out of hiding, and today we even used candles as the sky is very overcast.  Much of the year we can transport all this outside and eat under flowering trees.  We conclude the meal with a small coffee followed by a quick clean up and back to work.

At first I adamantly resisted giving any importance to the midday meal, but over time I have come to appreciate its many benefits:

1)  Better Nutrition.  I am eating healthier food (chef salads, savory vegetable soups, well balanced overall meals).  We eat almost no processed foods, except canned tomatoes and jams.

2)  Quality Couple Time.  Roberto and I enjoy quality time with each other, sharing news, stories, and small pleasantries, while savoring the taste of each dish, and at times doing the preparation and clean up together.

3)  More Daily Grace and Beauty.  The beauty of the table and setting themselves put a smile on my face.  (What a treat having a partner whose sense of aesthetics extends to choosing complementary colors for linens and dishes!)

4)  Greater Perspective.  It puts work in perspective by giving me a solid break.  Interestingly, it allows for some incubation as well as input from my very well read out-of-the-box thinking husband.

5)  More Energy and Focus.  Given the good nutritious lunch, I'm seldom tempted to snack in the afternoon, except for a late day smoothie (okay, and the occasional brownie) and can work with good focus.  I have plenty of energy for the rest of the day.

Argentinians do know how to eat leisurely (if not always well).  As the menu of my favorite local restaurant, the Savelli, says, "Those who knows how to eat know how to wait."  And I'd add, "and they know how to savor a meal slowly."

And I'm really glad that my Argentine husband will eat anything I fix and has become quite the international breakfast and dinner chef himself.  Plus I never have to call him twice to come to the table!

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