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Polish Coffeecake – Taking Mindful Eating to a New Level

What better surprise could there be on a cold winter day than a a package from my twin sister, Barbara!  Inside was a small piece of our childhood food, a family tradition, a beloved dessert…. a slice of Polish coffeecake!  No note, but knowing my twin well, she simply wanted to share.

Yes, I poured a cup of coffee immediately!

Since my packaged delicacy was cold and I wanted to savor it, I sliced it into three pieces  and heated up one in the microwave for 10 seconds.  I served it to myself on an antique china plate, bearing an old stamp that read “Czech. Slov.”  Since my father was Czech, and my mother was Polish, it seemed fitting.

Before I ate it, I simply looked at it.  Memories came flooding back of my mother and my aunts as they made this wonderful dessert for holidays, for brunches, and for no reason at all.  Even though all of these women have passed on, the memories are vivid.  The best were when my aunts gathered together to bake.  I can still hear Aunt Liz chasing us out of the kitchen when she would see us snitching pinches of the brown sugar crumble as it sat in the mixing bowl, waiting to be placed on top of the dough.

Coffee-cake making was a magical process – rolling the dough, layering the poppyseed mixture, rolling it up ever so carefully, then patting it like a baby.

I reflect on the conversations around the dining room table once the coffeecake cooled and we were able to pour the coffee and share this wonderful delicacy.  I hear my mother and her sisters’ laughter, I see eyes looking deeply at each other, I see hands touching, I see hearts reaching out in the sharing of a sad story.  No cell phones back then to wreck the mood of a family brunch, all eyes were up – not down, and brought together by the baking of a Saturday morning poppyseed coffeecake.

As I take a bite of my twin sister’s coffeecake, it’s more than food.  It is a memory, it is my heritage, it is my family.  And that’s why I had to divide it into three pieces, so I can go back again and again.

When we eat, if we want eating to be meaningful, it has to be more than just putting food in our mouths for entertainment while we watch TV.  It has to be more than grabbing “something” to fill that empty hole that missed lunch or possibly breakfast.  It has to be more than “fast food”and dashboard dining.

It is best as slow food,  memorable food, noticeable food, nourishing food.  Real food. My serving was small, but it was satisfying in so many ways, I didn’t need anything else.

How about you?  Could you take portion control to a new level by seeing food this way?  It’s more than mindful eating. It’s eating with appreciation, remembering where we came from, and being true to ourselves. It’s recognizing where food comes from, how it is made, and what efforts go into creating it.  Side effects would include less overeating, less unconscious eating, less food waste, less global hunger, and maybe a better world.

And Barb, if you are reading this, please know your coffeecake is as delicious as Mom’s.

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Thanks, Norman

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