Eating a leisurely Italian meal is one of my favorite pleasures. Understanding how Italians eat is a great model for living a more relaxed life. Europeans in general have got the right idea as evident in their daily lifestyle. They pace their entire day just like they dine. Whether it is an afternoon siesta, or La Pausa at lunchtime, it’s a common practice to instigate a break midday. Everything shuts down between 1 and 3. Novel to American, normal to Europeans. I never understood why this custom of pause has not been adopted into American culture.
Fine dining is not only a wonderful gastronomic experience, it is indeed a well orchestrated art. There is an apparent rhythm and flow that allows you savor every flavor. No rushing, just leisure dining. Italians take their food very seriously and so eating in a traditional restaurant can easily stretch over a 2 hour period. The meal is structured into a scheduled 5 courses.
Antipasto: The appetizer that comes before the main meal. Just enough to activate the palate. ( I like to think about it like a jump start to get those juices flowing).
Primo: First course (pasta, soup, or risotto)
Secondo: Main dish (meat, fish, poultry)
Contorno: Side dishes (vegetable, potato, or salad)
Intermezzo: Not an actual course, it’s a palette cleanser. Often a refreshing sorbet to neutralize the palette. I like to think about this like another pause. Time to take a break, breathe, and cleanse.
Dolce: Dessert. End the meal with something sweet and delectable.
Even after that, (especially in Italy), you will not be offered the check (il conto) until you request one. Instead, they will continue to offer a variety of digestivo (after dinner drinks) or cafe, and allow you to just relax and digest.
Try to think about your day in this regard. Model your day after a fine 5- course meal. Remember to take breaks between courses. Can you break down your day in sections? Can you slow down long enough to acknowledge that you’ve changed gears?
Ideally, it would be great to incorporate a healthy pace into your entire life, but for now, just try to implement some intentional pauses into one single day.
Have you made time for an Intermezzo today? If not, I hope you ended your day on a sweet note! 🙂