Have you ever had a meal that’s left you feeling perfectly satisfied? If so, have you paused to consider what made it so perfect? I had one such meal recently, and I quickly realized that the actual food was only a part of my enjoyment.
This was my situation. I’d been stranded unexpectedly in California, not far from San Francisco, because major storms resulted in almost all flights to the east coast being canceled or overbooked. I’d only just figured out when I’d be able to go home, allowing me to finally relax and enjoy myself.
For me, that meant going for a nice ramble through the Farmers’ Market, followed by a lovely walk in a nearby park and along part of the Iron Horse Trail, soaking in the sun and delighting in the 70 degree weather, a far cry from the single digit or sub-zero temperatures at home. I wore a hat for shade rather than warmth, gazed at flowers instead of snowbanks, and walked with free strides, not worried about ice.
Then I started getting hungry, and I knew exactly where I wanted to go for lunch: the Counter, a built-your-own-burger place literally around the corner from where I was staying. I’d noticed them first because of their emphasis on humanely-raised, antibiotic and hormone-free beef (I’m picky about my meat), but also because they had allergy-friendly fixings.
I’m happy to say I wasn’t disappointed. I had a burger in a bowl with vegan cheddar cheese (dairy allergy) and roasted red peppers, resting on a bed of quinoa (gluten allergy – though they also had gluten-free buns), baby spinach, sprouts, tomatoes, cucumbers, and green beans with a Dijon balsamic vinaigrette on the side. I ate outside, getting in as much fresh air as I could, looking at the mountains climbing against the clear blue sky. The burger itself tasted rich and flavorful, well-done with a slightly pink center, a bit of smokiness from the outside char contrasting nicely with the creaminess of melted cheese. The salad complimented it nicely, being lighter and giving me some crunch. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Yet at the end I still didn’t feel quite satisfied, though not because of anything wrong with my meal. The warmth of the prior few days had left me with a hankering for ice cream, a desire sharpened by the heat and exertion of my morning walk. I had seen a place called Cream the day before, and I made my way there, all the while arguing internally with myself. I really wanted ice cream, but dairy makes me congested, and I’d already been sneezing and sniffling a lot, a worrisome trend considering I’d been stuck in an office for three days with sick people.
Imagine, then, my delight when I arrived and saw the note: “Soy ice cream available.” When I asked about flavors, I couldn’t help but smile when I found out they had my favorite mint chocolate chip. I splurged and got two scoops instead of one, then returned outside to savor the mint creaminess and crunch of chocolate.
By the time I headed back to the apartment, I felt perfectly satisfied, on every level. Neither hungry nor full, I enjoyed knowing I had not only been able to get what I wanted but in a form I could eat without allergic reaction. My contentment also came from the meal capping a perfect morning, and with my appetite sharpened by true hunger, I could enjoy the food that much more, being mindful of the meal but also the beautiful surroundings. After a week of long meetings, working lunches and dinners, and worry about getting home, it was exactly what I needed, and I couldn’t have been happier.