Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Lunch Manifesto

And now for a little divergence.
We're nearing our 3 4 year anniversary of LUNCH - that's almost 2000 posts, over 330 different lunch spots and more than 2 dozen different food ethnicities eagerly consumed. When Nicole Twilley, the new Food Editor at GOOD, asked us to contribute to this week of thoughts on food writing, Food for Thinkers, we thought there could be no better time to explain why we, two architects, decided to chronicle our every lunch and dessert. We’ll call it the Lunch Manifesto.

A drained brain needs nourishment.
It begins with a physical remove from the workday surroundings. A recent New York Times article suggests that the brain is better able to retain information when the context in which you learn is varied. Changes in the physical environment enrich the brain's ability to make associations with new pieces of information. As sitting at a desk facing a computer drains the brain, leaving the office everyday for lunch gives the mind a break while recharging its capacity for retention.

Not only does removing the physical self from the office for lunch encourage the brain to switch modes, it also provides a break for the body. Getting up from a desk, walking outside and breathing fresh air may be the only opportunity in a typical work day to engage in mild physical activity. Don’t underestimate the mental and physical benefits a brisk 10 minute walk or a longer stroll can bring.

In a work day that is filled with routine, taking a break for lunch might provide the only moment of creative divergence. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you go or what you eat, only that you leave the office to do so.

Lunch is a great opportunity to meet new people or for the exchange of ideas. It provides fodder for conversation, when the senses are fully engaged in the food before you, it frees the mind. There is a reason people naturally congregate around kitchens at parties.

Eating lunch is a right we should all demand.
Ultimately refueling the body and intellect are just side benefits for the true raison d’etre of having lunch every day. The real reason we have lunch every day boils down to the fact that we love the physical act of eating. Eating is a visceral experience. Enjoying food need not be an intellectual activity; it can be an instinctual act with pleasure to be found in the cheapest of street carts to the most refined restaurants. Devouring, contemplating, ruminating and purely enjoying what you eat is an undertaking that should be freely and daily exercised. It is not necessary to restrict lunches to the same lame salad from the corner deli. A mindless lunch means you are not feeding your mind enough inspiration.

Enjoying local flavor is the mark of a responsible citizen.
Globalization is making our world a smaller place, everything can be found anywhere and if you can’t find it there, it can be found over the internet. Food remains one of the few lingering things that possess a mark of a place. Whether its local ingredients, the hardness of the water, the history of its inhabitants or their cultural preferences evolving over time, making food is very much tied to the place where it is being created. Spaghetti with tomato sauce in Ethiopia can never be replicated anywhere. The preparation of a meal is still local, its enjoyment very much localized. That experience and satisfaction cannot be duplicated.

Lunch = good.
Leaving the office to have lunch every day will not only increase productivity in the work place, it can bring unfettered happiness to your day. It’s possible that in a day filled with the typical automations of work, experiencing a satisfying lunch might be the only moment of pleasure.

The mindfulness of eating food.
Prior to blogging, we had always taken the time out for lunch, but now we’re sharing our meals with the public. We’ve always believed, and continue to believe, that lunch is an essential part of our work day, and we want to encourage everyone to feel this way too. It’s possible that everyone making more concerted efforts to leave their desks for lunch would leave to a more productive world, and one with a better competitive edge. At the very least, it would lead to a happier world. Taking that break between morning and afternoon nurtures our entire selves, and not just the part that goes to work every day.

At the end of it all, we're actually not writing about food or even critiquing it, we're sharing the virtues of the mindfulness of eating, the enjoyment of food. There is a much larger picture to this as well. Being conscientious about food leads to a more informed, curious and hungry consumer. Options increase along with a growing awareness of food politics. Where does what we eat come from, who is it prepared by, why is it made this way and what effect does our consumption have on the environment – these are all questions that may result from finding an interest in and caring about the food we consume.

The medium makes the message.
The internet is a wonderful thing in that it allows us an easy and quick medium for disseminating information. Without it, we would still be relishing in our every lunch. With it, we hope you too will find inspiration in the simple act of leaving the office to eat lunch. At the very least, we hope it encourages you to contemplate a little about what it means to eat.


Andrew in Alabama said...

Nice read. This brings up some ideas that have been ruminating in my head for some time.

I think the concept of "Lunch" is symbolic of the larger concept that we as humans need a variety of stimuli to be at our best and maintain health. Enjoying a variety of foods and dining atmospheres is a readily accessible way for most of us to quickly and easily "mix it up."

Too many of us fall into the trap of routine. While routine is comfortable and easy, it is not the most healthy way of living. "Healthy" in this context means physical as well as mental health.

"A mindless lunch means you are not feeding your mind enough inspiration."

Agreed, and I am as guilty as anyone of occasionally feeding myself a mindless lunch while performing mindless tasks. But I am getting better about it and this blog is inspirational to me in that respect.

Front Studio said...

Andrew, as always such a thoughtful comment! It's not so easy to change routine, and I suspect we tend towards comfort and ease just as much as anyone else. The most we can do is try. We shall prevail!

Cali said...

Happy Anniversary to The Ladies Who Lunch. Cheers!