Gettin’ on the Chew-Chew TrainAugust 17th, 2009
In 1998, I took a trip to Peru. In preparation for this trip, my boyfriend and cooking partner at the time, Howard, prepared intelligently; he took Spanish lessons and read guide books about the country. Me, I just freaked out; having been macrobiotic in a pretty clean way for 7 years, I was terrified that I would not be able to get the right foods. And it wasn't just a control thing–I was afraid of feeling unwell with a radical change of gasoline and that seemed to defeat the whole purpose of travelling. I knew that Peru was the home to quinoa and choclo (corn) but I also knew I could easily find myself diving headfirst into a picarone (donut) cart. I was stuck between my desire to stay healthy and an equally healthy desire to experience the world freely.
I fretted and freaked until I struck a remarkable deal with myself. This simple contract cast a blinding light on a chaotic, fearful situation: I could eat anything and everything I wanted in Peru, but I had to chew every single bite of it thoroughly. Like, one hundred times. EVERY single bite.
Now that might sound insane, and maybe it was, but it was also one of the best decisions I have ever made. Upon arriving in Peru, my mission began. At first, it was embarrassing and a pain in the butt. I explained myself by saying I had to chew really well because of some problem with my teeth. Ahh, white lies–So helpful! My body, used to having food-bricks launched into it, had to re-train itself to absorb liquid food, and my mouth–the lazy bastard–had to go to the gym. I sat out entire conversations, or just participated between bites… but I tell ya, I really, really tasted that food. And it was a smart decision because it took us a couple of days in Lima to get our bearings and find the one vegetarian restaurant in our guidebooks. It quickly became clear that we weren't gonna find brown rice, let alone seaweed anytime soon. In fact, I found the picarone cart on the second day and chewed the heck out of an amazing Peruvian donut!
We even took a trip to a tributary of the Amazon. It required two days on a bus negotiating fatally skinny switchbacks, and then four days in canoe-ish type things, camping in the jungle. I had NO control over the food… white pasta, Oreo cookies and tuna fish were staples. I chewed and I chewed and I chewed. Instead of experiencing headaches and depression and fatigue, I chuckled as the monkeys threw things at us from the tree tops. I lay in my tent, eyes closed and listening to a mind-blowing symphony of buzzing insects in the jungle. At night, I saw the phosphoresent glow of weird Amazonian bugs and plants on the river. I may have been eating Oreos but I was totally awake and experiencing every single mind-blowing moment of my life.
More benefits of chewing; sparkly eyes, great physical energy and co-ordination, a total in-the-moment absorbtion and enjoyment of people, places and things. An overall good mood. I started losing weight and my skin looked gorgeous. Meanwhile, Howard–who was speaking great Spanish but wasn't chewing quite as religiously–would experience dips in energy, moodswings and all the infamous South American digestion problems. I had none. Honest to God, because I kept my contract with myself, it was one of the most seamless, enjoyable, and conscious experiences of my life. All six weeks of it. Chewing is amazing.
So I'd like to start a week-long CHEW-A-THON with all the readers of this blog. I'd like to suggest that we chew each bite 50 to 100 times each. Every bite. For one week. I think we will all be amazed. You can post your experiences on my blog and I will write and tweet every day that week, supporting us all to experience what our lives are like, thoroughly chewed. I will talk about the bio-mechanics of it, the spiritual dimension of it, and give practical tips, including a chewing video!!!!
The CHEW-A-THON begins on the Tuesday after Labor Day, September 8th and goes through September 14th. And remember: You don't have to be macro to do this, so invite your friends of all culinary paths to try chewing on for size…
You might want to practice a little before then, sitting down, focusing and really masticating. Keep the back of your mouth closed and DON'T SWALLOW until you've reached your 50, or your 100. That's the key. You can do it! YAHOO!!!