Can we really adopt a simpler lifestyle merely by changing our habits and attitudes toward our food? Robert Arbor, an emigrant from France, currently a chef and owner of two restaurants in the United States, wrote Joie de Vivre to share how North Americans can learn a “simple French style for everyday living.”
Much of that simple style is based on how we approach each meal. As I read this book, I began writing down some questions that I believe he tried to answer in order for us to experience what he calls “Joie de vivre” – that love of life. How we answer the following questions may be clues to what is hindering us from saying each day, “It doesn’t get better than this.”
Do you make time to sit down and eat your breakfast? Do you see breakfast as your “gentle boost that’s like a pat on the back as you go out the door?”
2. Do you have a special mug to drink your coffee? Arbor believes that “the breakfast bowl (is) one of France’s great achievements.” He explains that a “A bowl may get chipped or cracked, but it has to break into pieces before it is replaced. I know of people who have actually glued their favourite bowls back together after these unfortunately breakable objects have suffered sad accidents. A French person gets very attached to his or her familiar breakfast bowl.”
3. Are you growing something, if not a garden, at least a pot of herbs sitting by your kitchen window? Arbor exhorts his reader, ” If you just have one rosemary plant in your kitchen window, take time to smell it and clip its branches for your roast. . .. Because as you complete the basic tasks of planting, watering, weeding, and picking, you always have in mind that you’re going to enjoy the goodness of things that you have grown yourself. And that is yet another part of bringing joie de vivre into your day to day life.”
4. What are you doing to make grocery shopping enjoyable? Arbor maintains that ” a “big part of comprehending joie de vivre is understanding that enjoyment in day-today life is the true key to happiness.”
5. Is your kitchen a pleasant room where you not only do your cooking but it is the hub of activities and good conversations?
6. Do you take time to stop and have lunch? “For the French, le dejeuner is a time to experience the pleasure of eating and a chance to be together in a relaxed way. Food and friendship go together, and looking forward to the lunch hour each day is a wonderful way to add joie de vivre to your workweek.”
7. Between 4 and 6 p.m, do you acknowledge your need for a “pause gourmand” and give yourself a small treat? “This pause gourmand is a perfect solution to the afternoon blahs. . . . First of all the pause allows busy children and grown-ups to look forward to an afternoon break and treat. Secondly, a bit of food and drink helps to refuel the body for the evening hours. And lastly, a treat is a treat – it is fun, it is uplifting, it is a mood enhancer., and you learn how to be good to yourself from an early age.”
8. if you do not live alone, do you make time to sit together for dinner? Robert Armor suggests that it could be beneficial to have a later dinner like the French. “When you eat at 6 p.m., you are still wound up from the day; a later dinner gives everyone more time, so that they can be fully relaxed by the time that the napkin goes on their knees.”
9. At the end of the day, do you take time to reflect and consider all the good things that have happened today? “As I go around the house turning off all the lights, I allow peace and calm to grow so that I go up the stairs in a relaxed a state as possible.”
These questions seem almost too simplistic to actually provide answers to our happiness. Yet, that is exactly what Robert Arbor is trying to tell his readers: simple and easy changes can help us live our lives with purpose, passion and fun. For starters, I think I will go and find a special bowl or mug or cup and saucer and begin a new ritual as I drink my cup of tea in the morning!