Thursday, November 12, 2009


Squirrels abound in the autumn months, searching for buried treasure under oak trees. Bears fill up on deer and fish, readying their bodies for a long winter's nap. Animals know that fall is a time for preparation, when harvest comes to a close and winter's chill approaches. They seek out nourishment, collect food for the long winter to come.

We human animals have long forgotten what it means to rest and nourish the body and soul. Modern life has taken from us the rhythms of the seasons, of sunup and sundown. Instead of resting during the dark months, we trudge on, up the ladder, through the walls, in spite of our bodies begging us to slow down, pause, to stop.

While most of us can't make our own schedules, we can make changes that will help us take back, bit by bit, the natural way of things. The way our bodies, on a primitive level, need, long for, and desire.

Over the past few years, I've been researching slower cultures. There is no perfect place on this planet, this is a fact. But I believe that older (and wiser) cultures, which have the benefit of thousands of years of trial and error, have a lot to teach our young and perilously impressionable nation. As an amateur (and hopefully, one day, professional) cultural anthropologist, I am fascinated by every culture, moved by some ritual or some tradition that seems to project a slower, gentler time. They can all teach us something valuable about live, about ourselves. But the one culture that has resonated with me is that of Europe, especially of the United Kingdom, France and Italy. I love the rural countrysides, the old-world cities, the accents and whirlwind of the old colliding with the new. But what really has captured my attention is their culture that revolves around food.

I've been wanting to do a series centered around food and culture for quite some time now. What better time to begin the slow resurrection of the senses than autumn? Especially with Thanksgiving two weeks away and Christmas around the bend. I have grown weary of fast food, thirty minute lunch breaks and haste in every aspect of our day to day lives. I know there are things that must be done, I understand that we can't all determine our own hours. But what we can do is take the time to prioritize and make an effort to better fuel our bodies while also fueling our souls. I hope you'll join me as I ramble through the woods and fields, the farms and villas of an old world that has captured my imagination and my heart. I hope to do them justice. I hope to learn from them and integrate traditions and menus into my own, harried life. And I hope to have some friends along for the ride :)

Do you have any "slow down" traditions of your own? Have you, too, felt a tugging in your soul to slow down and rest, to follow the rhythms of the natural world? What have you done to rejuvenate your own weary body and mind? I'd love to hear from you on this!


*Click on photo for original location and photographer credit*


  1. I have to admit that is easier to a certain degree to live slow and mindfully, now that my children are a little older. But we certainly are a stop and smell the roses family. I wholeheartedly embrace my husband's Italian heritage and my love all of things from scratch , when it comes to cooking. Lingering over the meal isn't always a possibility though. And for a few years I tried to be really keen and make everything , buy local etc and that just didn't work out for our family.
    I am so lucky to be home for the most part, and able to get a large pot of soup simmering . I think this mindset spills over into other parts of our days.
    sorry for the long comment.... great post and great idea! Looking forward to this.

  2. we try once a month (we should do it more) to eat our dinner at candlelight. it quiets and slows things down

  3. Hey Deb! Don't ever worry about leaving me too long of a comment. There's no such thing :) I'm so glad you are able to be home most of the day. That's such a blessing! I'm looking forward to when I'm able to work from home. Then I'll put a pot of soup on and finally use my bread maker!

    Speaking: That's a wonderful idea! What a way to slow down and be mindful of what you're eating and who you're eating with. I love candlelight!

  4. we have been a memeber of slowfood usa for quite some time now, so we slow down with that aspect......but we also do not watch tv - and that really seems to slow things down...mentally at least - but it leaves room open for so much more work (lol)

    you are the sweetest you know that? I really like your visits.......super sweet!

  5. btw.....I totally like your picture - of the canoe - did you take that?

  6. Beautiful post on the art of slowing down. Something I long to do more often. One thing I do to slow my self down is stay home one entire day at least three times a month and just relax, read, bake or simply sit in front of the crackling fire while I reflect and pray.

  7. Excellent post, Jen. I am routinely struck by how many elements of our lives differ today from those of nearly all who came before us (save for the last hundred to two hundred years, and even then in many cases, life is still more hurried today than it was say 75 years ago). Gone (by and large) are evenings spent on the porch listening to the melodic tune of grasshoppers, as one chatted well into the night with relatives, friends or anyone who happened to mosey on by. Instead we text, email, leave Post-It notes, forget to stay in touch entirely...

    We rush so very much through nearly everything we do these days, which honestly troubles me. I believe there is something deeply important about taking your time and savouring life. I certainly rush at times in my own existence, but I try to slow down by doing things like eating supper at home (almost) every night at the table with my husband, writing "snail mail" letters, doing handicrafts, and cooking/baking the majority of our food. These time honoured practices help to connect me with the linage of our human past while also reducing the hectic pace of modern life if only for a little while.

    Thank you dearly for your lovely comments, Jen. I hope you have a deeply tranquil weekend.

    ♥ Jessica

  8. Hi Jen, wonderful post. I'm not really living a fast life at the moment while I'm home full-time raising my young daughter. But I know what you mean about the way we live compared to cultures where people are not compelled to cram so much into a week, let alone one day.

  9. Hi Jen,
    My first visit to your site and I am fascinated with your post. I am looking forward to following you as you seek to discover the foods and traditions that keep the Europeans so grounded and so able to enjoy life at a slower pace. Thanks for your visit to FK.

  10. Funny that you wrote this now as I dragged my unfinished quilt out of the closet today. Winter is my time for quilting, taking the slow time to hand quilt a large throw. Yes, I could rush through it and quilt it on the machine, but I choose not to--instead, I have a beat-up forefinger that is tender to the touch from that first day of needle pricks.

    So, yes, I guess the answer is to your question. I slow down in winter to set a bit, and try to quilt some too. That and my one week in Kentucky for vacation each year. It is good for the soul (and your body) to slow a bit.

  11. Anne Marie: I have just been reading about the Slowfood movement. I am very interested to know more. Sadly, no, I did not take the picture of the row boat. The link should be at the end of the post. Isn't it lovely?

    Brilliant idea, Flourchild. I would LOVE a day each week to be still. A new years' resolution worth keeping.

    Your concerns are mine as well, Jessica. I have been doing a lot of research on food and culture and the general American ideal of faster is better has had a detrimental effect on our food consumption. That will be part of my new series I hope to start on Thursday.

    Hi, Rowe! So glad you are able to stay at home with you daughter. I think that's wonderful :) I admire those who are able to do what they desire to do. Thanks for stopping by!

    Welcome, French Kissed! I'm so glad you stopped by. Glad you enjoyed this post :)

    Lin: Isn't funny how things coincide? I have been stumbling across new bloggers who post about slowing down and longing for the old world ever since I began my research into slow food. Just a little help from above :)

  12. Most Excellent post! Not for a moment do I regret leaving corporate behind and returning to slow living. Sometimes, even my slow life becomes too fast and I need to slow down yet more in order to find balance and grace notes in my life.


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