Friday, October 03, 2008

Life Plan: What's Your Pleasure?

The cold air has gotten me thinking of the pleasures of the changing seasons, and other pleasures. The fall and winter menus -- stews, casseroles, baked goods. I've been thinking about what we eat ... and how we eat ... and the pleasures of eating. There is a great deal of pleasure in eating, I won't deny that, but once again, thinking of balance and moderation, I have to ask myself, is most of the pleasure in my life happening at mealtime? We better talk about that.

One book in particular, French Women Don't Get Fat, brings this idea front and center. If you haven't read it, read it, it's about so much more than diet.

The author, Mireille Guiliano, makes a good case for how food is one of the many pleasurable things in a French person's life. She suggests that the French find satisfaction in many areas, not just the table. They know about pleasure. And she's a girl after my own heart when it comes to moderation -- making a good case for enjoying lots of little bits of different types of food, drink, love, life, experience and beauty. I don't want to damn Americans and praise the French here, but we can get so caught up in being perfect little machines in our worldview and forgetting how to relax and enjoy the good things in life, you'll find it hard to argue with Mme. Guiliano. She has a fascinating attitude about our frantic and frenetic working out at the gym all the time ... she thinks it's crazy.

So many diets take the camera lens and focus only on food and nutrition, while this book makes the camera pull back away from plate, table, room, house, village, city to show you a whole way of living with appreciation for all the fullness of life. Very French. Just their insistence on buying fresh food at the open air market and their pleasure in enjoying the changing seasons on their menu -- strawberries in early summer, plums in fall, squash in winter, berries in spring -- teaches you a lot about a big picture focus on life balance and the seasons of your life.

But back to pleasure in your life. Take a small and informal inventory of the pleasures in your life -- the non-food pleasures (we'll get back to the foody ones later). Make your list. Jot things down fast -- pleasures old and new from any area of your life. Here's some of mine: dancing, writing letters with a fountain pen on paper, listening to opera, drawing, reading old English novels, cooking, making collages, riding my bike, rollerskating, walking in the woods, going to museums, swimming, lighting candles on the table before a meal, kissing and other related activities, using certain sentimental dishes and glassware I've had a long time, going to bed early, wearing stupid-looking or cute hats, cashmere sweaters, getting new socks and throwing out the old ones, watching certain silly TV programs (like 6 episodes of ANTM), taking a long time to enjoy my tea brewed in a teapot, wrapping Christmas presents early, like in October.

Did you make your list? Now circle the pleasures you've been neglecting. Ugh ... I have to admit there are a few I've been forgetting to do. Please don't forget the many pleasures in your life, and do me a favor, add a few back in this week -- just one a day. You might notice as you build your "portfolio of pleasures" that eating and food become less important.

Photo Credit: Twig Inclusion Candle, Crate & Barrel Isn't this a pretty candle? It looks like they've trapped a fall forest, full of fog, all in one simple cylinder of wax.