Important Lessons from Italians, #1: Setting the Table

Yoga with a view: San Gimignano

We recently finished our 2019 yoga retreat season with our Yoga & Vineyard Tuscany trip. Yeah I know, you missed it. It was fabulous, even without you. But here’s the good news: we still have a few spots left on our October 2020 Yoga & Vineyard Sicily! So, plan ahead to invest in yourself next year with this amazing retreat that spotlights balance: in our yoga practice, in enjoying our wine, and by taking a look at how we eat. We love following this theme throughout the retreat, and have concluded that Italians are the best teachers. Retreat leader Caitlin is launching a series here to give you some lessons in la dolce vita, perfectly timed for the holiday season. 

The book “How to Eat” by Thich Naht Hahn is a lovely little book in a series of others like “How to Love”, “How to Relax”, etc. During our Italy retreat, participants were gifted this pocket-sized book of beautiful, short reminders. Each morning before yoga, I chose a page from the book and asked everyone to reflect on it for the day. After a few days, I realized that Italians could have written the whole book. They have perfected the art of cooking, eating and appreciating every piece of culinary goodness. Even the airport food was beautifully prepared and delicious. Here is one of my favorite takeaways from the trip. 

Dinner time at Villa il Leccio

Set the Table 

More often than not, I make a quick dinner, put everything into one bowl, grab a fork and eat it at my coffee table (or in the car with my knee on the steering wheel on the way to teach yoga), in 5 minutes. It creates less “mess”, less time for doing the dishes, and less energy into dinner. It allows for getting dinner done quickly, and putting food in my body because I need it. Something I noticed in Italy was that each meal we had was eaten at a beautifully set table, even if it was just a quick lunch at a cafe. Each table had a centerpiece made from flowers, candles or decorative vases, and each part of the meal was served separately. The soup was served in beautiful little bowls, with a separate tiny ceramic dish for parmesan cheese. Even yogurt for breakfast was served in glass containers with small spoons just for yogurt. The cheese had its own knife, and the wine was in a decanter to allow it time to breathe for the perfectly poured glass. Paper plates, eating straight out of the packaging, and plastic spoons are unheard of. Italians are just  as proud of the way they present their food as they are of cooking it. 

I am challenging myself now that I’m back home in the US to set my table before I eat. Instead of eating soup straight from the can (I can’t be the only one…right?), I’m going to take time to heat it up on the stove, pour it into a separate bowl, sit down and eat it with an actual spoon. I will pour my La Croix into a glass instead of drinking it from the can. I know what you’re thinking…”But it’s so much extra to WASH.”

Yes, but Italians have taught me that presentation, mindful preparation and setting your table creates a more enjoyable, satisfying dining experience. And even dishwashing can be a form of meditation, too.

Try it. I’ll check back in with you soon to find out how it’s going, and give you the next lesson. Namaste and Cheers! 

Our amazing dining room, Villa il Leccio