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Category Archives: food for thought

a bon vivant is as a bon vivant does

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I don’t know where I first heard the term bon vivant, but I do remember thinking to myself, “Now that sounds like something I could get used to being called.”

Or something to that effect.

I do, however, clearly recall a pass-the-time bar game I played a few years back which involved me and a friend sharing our intergalactic spy credentials (don’t ask). During the round where we revealed our alter-ego occupations, I boldly proclaimed that mine was: ‘bon vivant’. To which my friend replied (actually, scoffed) “That’s not an occupation.”

I was and still am indignant about the matter. Being a bon vivant is an occupation. In truth, a bon vivant is only ever occupied by one thing. Everything else is a diversion, or an experiment that helps the bon vivant excel in her chosen profession, which is a simple one: that of living life to the fullest. The bon vivant’s trade is one that should not be taken lightly, but often is. A rare few truly commit to and excel at the task, yet the masses generally treat the pursuit of a well-lived life as much more trivial than the pursuit of money or fame, vice or romance, power or success.

And so the bon vivant that we see in literature and film is often portrayed as the wayward dilettante, or the lascivious boozer, or even the hopelessly conniving dandy. Many of those who assume the moniker in real life also assume that it affords them the right to lift their noses a bit higher in the air. In my opinion, both are miscontrued notions of the term and the persona.

In searching the interwebs for a more accurate description of the bon vivant, I came across one delightfully simple but perfectly illustrative definition.

 

“If you love good food, good company, good times and something really, really good to drink, then you’re probably a bon vivant. In fact, if you love two out of the four, then you are most likely a bon vivant.”

The above quote is from “Are You a Bon Vivant?”  on the blog, Miss Lola Says…. Miss Lola goes on to explain what bon vivants bring to the… er, table:

 

“We all know at least one bon vivant. And this is how they make our worlds better:

  • They bring the lightness of life with joy, laughter and gaiety.
  • They introduce us to experiences and foods that we would not otherwise have an interest in.
  • They help us keep the goodness of life in perspective. And we all need goodness, right?”

Miss Lola Says… features well-written articles on etiquette and common sense manners that are suitable for intergalactic spies and bon vivants alike. As bon vivants are known for their refinement, the blog should serve as a handy resource should you need to remind yourself or a less-refined associate of the appropriate behavior in any situation.

I invite you to peruse some of my favorite posts from Miss Lola:

An Excerpt from “The Correct Thing to Do, to Say, to Wear” [1941]

 

Putting on Airs

 

HINTS TO KITCHEN MAIDS by Rufus Estes

 

Tips for Riding the Elevator with Me.

 

In the meantime, I’m working on a series of posts that will delve deeper into what it means to pursue the profession of a bon vivant – including some life examples of famous bon vivants, both real and fictional. Stay tuned.

 

cheers,

 

k

photo:A Chair-i-table Event 2011 by rwentechaney, on Flickr

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giving thanks: mealtime prayers for every occasion

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saying grace

 

Even though I haven’t been to Mass in years, I still recite the Catholic blessing I learned in elementary school before every meal.

“Bless us, O Lord and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

It occurs to me that we humans are probably more disconnected from our food than we’ve ever been in our short history on Earth. We are more likely to consume our daily bread on the run, in a hurry, at a desk, or in a car than we are to slowly digest a slowly-prepared meal surrounded by family and friends. Often times we have no idea where the food we are eating came from, nor the name nor face of the person who prepared it. We may only give thought to the ingredients in the dish placed before us if there is either risk (e.g., allergy or religious taboo) or cachet associated with its presence.

No wonder then, that our giving of thanks before a meal is often overlooked or reserved for only the most special of occasions like, say… Thanksgiving.

I’ve attended my fair share of Thanksgiving dinners – with both my own family and with the extended family that I call my friends. Though the dishes on the table have varied according to the customs, traditions, and culinary skills of those present, there’s been one common trait among each of those Thanksgiving meals. The prayer before the meal.

At the assigned moment, heads bow, hands reach out to the persons beside you, a moment of silence ensues before someone – usually one of the eldest, but sometimes simply the bossiest – will appoint the prayer-giver for the meal. The newly knighted – depending on their experience with such matters – will either stumble for a few moments or leap to the charge. Soon, the prayer begins.

The rest of us listen, reverently. But we only half-hear the words. We are thinking of the sumptuousness of the food spread out in front of us, we are conscious of the feel of our neighbors’ hands in ours, we may briefly remember the faces of those who aren’t present but we wish were there, we may feel a subtle welling of emotion at the gravity of the moment. And then, it is done. We release our neighbors’ hands, and start our strategic jockeying for position in the buffet line.

At its most basic, the act of eating a meal is a purely physical experience. But a brief moment of reverence before consuming the first bite, can transform the act of eating into a kind of sensory meditation.

 

“Food is divine, a gift from God. With deep respect you eat, and while eating you forget everything else, because eating is prayer. It is existential prayer.” ~ Osho

 

At Thanksgiving, the before-meal prayer is a symbolic act that says, ‘this moment is special’. It reaffirms our connectedness to others, and makes us pause to think about what we are about to put into our bodies. And though most pre-Thanksgiving prayers are offered to a divine source (a fact that even my most atheist friends will let slide for Thanksgiving), mealtime prayers need not be religious, nor do they need to be reserved only for ‘special occasions’.

Here is a collection prayers, sayings, and meditations that can be said before meals:

 

Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.

 

May this food restore our strength, giving new energy to tired limbs, new thoughts to weary minds. May this drink restore our souls, giving new vision to dry spirits, new warmth to cold hearts. And once refreshed, may we give new pleasure to You, who gives us all.

“The Quaker tradition of “silent grace” before meals also works well for a dinner party with people of diverse religions and beliefs. All present join hands in a circle around the table, and are silent for half a minute or so as they collect their thoughts, meditate or pray. Then one person gently squeezes the hands of the people seated adjacent; this signal is quickly passed around the table and people then begin to eat….” from secularseasons.org

God is great, God is good.
Let us thank him for our food.
By his hands we all are fed,
Give us, Lord, our daily bread.
Amen.

 

For the meal we are about to eat,
for those that made it possible,
and for those with whom we are about to share it,
we are thankful.

We celebrate this occasion
with food from the earth.
May it fill us with fellowship
and add to our mirth.

 

What before-meal words of thanks do you give? Do you save mealtime prayers for special occasions or are they an everyday ritual?

cheers,

k

photo: A serious moment by angelina_koh, on Flickr

amuse bouche: stay flexible

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Cat stretch Nov 2005

Learning how to deal with tough times and uncertainty can be difficult. But adaptability and flexibility certainly help. That’s the reason why cats always land on their feets – they have flexible spines. People who always land on their feet do so because they have flexible mindsets and attitudes. Instead of getting stuck on one way to do something, one way to learn, one way to be, flexible people arrange the pieces they’ve been given in each situation to create an optimal result.

cheers,

k

the machine is us/ing us

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I still have a hard time explaining the concept of Web 2.0 to folks. Which is why I really dig this video by Dr. Michael Wesch of Kansas State University’s Digital Ethnography project.

Take a look:

cheers,

k

what's twitter and why you should (or shouldn't) bother

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twitter-redclouds

Imagine this. You arrive at a bustling, networking event and casually walk into the center of the very large, very crowded room. All around you, groups of varying sizes are engaged in lively conversation. From where you stand, you can catch snippets of every discussion, and a little smidgen of what each person is saying. That guy over in the corner is the promoter for that hot new nightclub downtown, and he’s offering all of his group free admission this Friday. The young lady a few feet away from him is happily sharing small business marketing advice and is giving a referral to a friend of hers who provides half-off discounts to the best restaurants in the city. The guy standing next to her isn’t saying as much as everyone else, but when he does, it’s the wittiest / funniest thing you’ve ever heard! And the woman on the far side of the room looks like Erykah Badu. No, wait…she IS Erykah Badu! As you stand there and listen some more, hundreds of other useful tidbits buzz by your ears. It’s hard to keep up with them all and you’re worried that you’ll never have enough time to meet and connect with all of the cool, funny, interesting, and helpful people in front of you. Plus, you’ve got valuable information and witty repartee of your own to share… but how are you ever going to be able to engage with everyone?

Just then, Rod Serling magically appears at your side, and says, “There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call ‘The Twitter Zone’. ”

Suddenly, the room goes dead silent. Everything begins moving in slow motion. When the next person opens their mouth to speak, you see their words appear written in a little bubble over their head with a time and date stamp on the end of it. You – and everyone else in the room – can go around and literally cherry-pick out of the air those bits of conversation that are interesting to you and put them in your book of acquaintances. Every time you open your book, you’ll have a growing history of everything those people said since you picked them. Those you don’t pick, won’t show up in the book. And because of the time / date stamp, you can see how long ago the words were said. Likewise, anyone who’s put your name in their book, will be able to see everything you’ve said. “Wow” you think to yourself, “This is pretty friggin’ amazing!” “No,” says Rod Serling, “This. Is Twitter.”

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