Many people think the start of summer is Memorial Day weekend. The ‘official’ start to summer is the day of the Summer Solstice, June 20. For others, it doesn’t really feel like summer until the Fourth of July weekend. Whatever you think, summer is now in full swing.
Summer means getting outdoors. Even though we have beautiful weather all year in San Diego compared to the rest of the U.S., the longer days and the relaxed attitude combine to draw us outside for more activities. One of those is cooking. Even someone with limited kitchen skills can turn out a great meal on a barbecue grill. You can’t deny the fun factor, too.
You don’t have to cook the meal yourself though. Picking up your favorite sandwiches or fried chicken or burritos and taking them along to the beach or the park gets the job done too.
Everyone I know including me can remember at least one memorable meal eaten outside. During my recent trip to Europe, I visited Lake Koenigsee in the Berchtesgaden National Park along the Bavarian/Austrian border. In the little town where we boarded the tram to take us up to the resort area, I picked up a sandwich to take with me on my outing. Since everything was in German, I just pointed to a meat, cheese, and bread combo that looked good to me.
Once the tram took us up, my kids Ted and Allie, Ted’s girlfriend Maddie, and I took off hiking up the trails along a beautiful stream. While my kids decided to go to the top, I decided to follow my own prescription by going into the forest and doing my own version of “forest bathing.” By following the trail along the stream, I eventually reached the area where the stream became a stunning waterfall. Along the route, I could see the stunning blue lake below me.
I enjoyed being surrounded by the magnificent trees and seeing pretty flowers peeking out in a few spots. There were also little shrines along the way all over the place. I didn’t know what they were for, but I got a kick out of seeing these too.
One and a half million people visit this park every year. I eventually came to a bench overlooking the lake. For the next half hour, I didn’t see a soul. This is where I sat down to enjoy my lunch. Without a doubt, it was the best sandwich I ever ate in my life.
When I got home, looked over my photos and reflected on the experience, I wondered: Why does food eaten outdoors taste so good?
Once with a group of friends at an impromptu beach picnic, we used the food items among us to create potato chip sandwiches. They were outstanding.
Is there any better dessert in the universe than s’mores after an outdoor cookout? Don’t tell me there is.
The truth is, it’s not about the food at all. Outdoor cookouts are really about being out in nature, relaxing and enjoying the food as part of the greater experience. And we have science to prove it’s true!
When we immerse ourselves in nature, the rest of the world slows down and falls away. You clear your mind, and you can use your senses to take in everything around you. If you’re using all five senses at once, you can be completely present in the moment.
When you’re eating outdoors, you eat more mindfully. You take time to observe and taste, and tap into those engaged senses. Eating mindfully in nature: double benefits!
According to the Institute for the Psychology of Eating (yes, such a thing), evolution has programmed people to relax in nature. Our nervous system calms down, and the more time we spend in nature, the more we relax. Our “fight or flight” reflex fades away, and our “rest and digest” parasympathetic system gets in gear. When we breathe, slow down, and enjoy our food, it tastes better.
Once again, it’s all about our biophilic connection to nature. What a change from the usual eating on the go – shoveling in lunch at your desk during the workday, dashboard dining as you rush from one place to the other. We were not built to eat like this.
You can’t enjoy a mystery Austrian sandwich at a perfect mountain lake every day. But you CAN take yourself outside and stop multitasking during meals. Or at the very least, put more natural elements around you in your environment and home or at work. Add plants, flowers, and natural light and views where possible. In San Diego, there is no excuse to be eating in a windowless, gray environment.
If Good Earth Plant Company can help you engage with nature without having to go on a European vacation, get in touch with us at 858-576-9300 or firstname.lastname@example.org We’ll bring the s’mores if you ask!