Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The home dining experience

The sun had seriously got his hat on in London today and so I made the most of it and for the first time this year I ate my dinner alfresco on the balcony.

What I noticed, other than the people pootling by below, was that without the distractions of the tv, newspaper or whatever else was going on in the flat my pace of eating slowed right down and I just enjoyed my food at a leisurely pace. This is in strong contrast to what often happens, where I inhale my dinner as soon as it's on a plate, or more often than not out of a bowl with just a fork to hand!

For some reason, us Brits love the experience of dining out, but massively neglect our food rituals when we're at home, compared to our European counterparts. However presentation and environment play such a big role in our enjoyment of food and the pleasure of mealtimes that we should all make more of an effort to turn our home dining experience into fine dining, even if we're eating solo.

This doesn't have to mean spending hours preparing three course cordon bleu meals every evening, just a few small touches can make all the difference:

- first up, set the table, even if you're eating alone - minimum knife, fork, spoon, water glass, but the more you have on the table the more it will feel like a luxurious dining experience; napkins, flowers, candles, even just a nice salt/pepper set. And don't save your best china and glasses for christmas dinner - enjoy using them to enhance the presentation of your food every day.

- when you serve up your food take some inspiration from Masterchef and present it on the plate as nicely as possible, even if it's a very basic dish. Do the same for side dishes and keep some fresh herbs to hand to add as a garnish.

- spend two seconds creating a calm environment before you start eating - clear the pile of post off the dining table, turn off the tv/radio/other noisy distractions and set the appropriate lighting. If you do have an outdoor space then make the most of it and dine alfresco, the natural lighting and fresh air creates a much more relaxed ambiance. This doesn't have to be a costly endeavour - my super cheap fold up dining set from Argos has stood up to the extreme weather conditions on my balcony.

- get in the habit of having three elements to any meal - this keeps your food varied and interesting. It can be three courses but doesn't have to be that elaborate, for example get in the habit of serving a side salad and another vegetable side along with your main course. Or have a soup to start your meal and a natural yoghurt to end it. You can even apply this to breakfast, start with a fruit course and then have your main breakfast dish and for the third element a cup of green or herbal tea.

- pause at the end of the meal to appreciate the lovely food you've had and the relaxed dining experience. You will feel so much better than if you've eaten your dinner standing up, straight out the saucepan (you know who you are!).

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