By Michelle May, M.D.
I recently learned about a beautiful word used in Spain, sobremesa, that literally translates to “over the table.” Sobremesa refers to the time after a meal when family, friends, and even business associates linger and savor conversation and one another’s company over the table while their meal digests.
Not surprisingly, in a culture of fast food, Snapchat, and 140 character tweets, sobremesa has no direct English translation. Too often we are distracted from our food, our body’s signals, and even the people we are eating with. We then rush to the next activity, which we will also likely do mindlessly. It’s no wonder that we can clean our plates and feel stuffed but unsatisfied, leaving us longing for more.
What if the “more” we are craving isn’t more food, but more connection, more sobremesa? How would it feel to sometimes give ourselves permission to slow down, linger, and connect for a while after our hunger is satisfied? Could this gap between eating and the next activity leave space for connection, curiosity, or simply being?
As I was learning about sobremesa, I came across another Spanish phrase that resonated with me, panza llena, corazón contento, which means “full belly, happy heart.” What I know through my personal and professional experience is that food eaten in haste, in secrecy, or in tandem with two or three other activities, often leads to an uncomfortable fullness and an unhappy heart.
Food enjoyed mindfully is far more likely to lead to contented fullness, leaving space for a happy heart that can only come from our connection to the food, the people, and the abundance available during this season and year around.
This is a picture of my patio, one of my favorite places in my home here in Arizona, especially during our cooler weather. It occurred to me that I love this space because when I plan to eat on the patio, I am intentionally making space for the sobremesa. And while it is not realistic or even necessary all the time, I hope that you too will create space during and after your meals to connect with yourself and those you love.
Share your thoughts and stories about connecting over meals on our blog!