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Eating Outside

(post, Caroline Ford)

Living in Alabama, I am overjoyed with the arrival of warm weather and all that it signals. I am a little sleepy this morning thanks to the clocks springing forward an hour last night, but the sun is shining and we are well on our way to a 75-degree day! I don't know what it is, but the first thing I want this time of year is to eat all my meals outside.  I sipped my coffee on the back porch this morning, and I plan on eating on the patio the rest of the day. 

I was able to enjoy a delicious meal outside Friday night as well. The restaurant's indoor seating was empty as all of the diners filled the tables along the sidewalk in a quaint, local neighborhood. Yesterday, I attended an annual chili cook-off fundraiser, and I could not have been happier tasting chili, drinking beer, and listening to live music all day long in the warm sun. It seemed everyone felt the same way; the event had a record-breaking crowd. (Apparently our skin was not so happy, indicated by the sunburn my roomies and I all have today!)

What is it about dining al fresco that is so appealing?  People gather in yards for grilling, head to parks for picnics, and flock to the restaurants with patios or sidewalk cafes- places that provide a unique atmosphere in addition to a great meal.  The combination feels so.... right.
I think that we are more connected to our basic instincts, more aware of nature and the plants and animals that sustain us. Feeling the sun and breeze, hearing birds and bugs, seeing trees and flowers, I simply feel more at peace than I do when I am inside many restaurants. Not to mention I hate eating while shivering in a place with the AC blasting.  Above all else, for me, dining outside transforms the meal into what I think eating should always be about- a pleasurable experience. I want to truly taste the food and to enjoy the company I am with.  I feel healthier and more satisfied when I eat this way; I'm not just consuming to fill my stomach.  I think of so many countries and cultures where a meal is an important event everyday- family and friends gather for hours to talk, eat, and drink. In the midst of our busy lives it means we have to SLOW DOWN, and I think that is something we can all benefit from.

I've made plans for happy hour after work this week with some friends, and I can guarantee you we will be going somewhere with a patio! For all the places in the country where winter weather is still hanging on, I am sending warm thoughts your way.  I hope we can all slow down and savor a meal outside this spring.