I think sometimes when I’m around other people I eat like a squirrel or an inmate. If I’m at a gathering, a party or a wedding or a cook-out for instance, and there’s a buffet where guests can “fix themselves a plate” (isn’t that the best expression?), I have a inclination to take mine off to a corner alone, if at all possible. Especially when the food is really good. I see squirrels do this all the time; they grab food and run away a bit, behaving as if someone – perhaps even the kindly person who might have given them the food – is going to take it back. I don’t know that I think somebody is going to take back my plate if I don’t keep a close eye, so much that, in part, I want to be one with my meal. I really don’t like it if I have to balance food on my lap or worse, stand somewhere – that takes away from my enjoyment.
It’s not that I can’t dine with a group of others around a table – eating & talking with an interesting companion is one of my favorite things in life – it’s that I know oftentimes I’ll be distracted and not give the food its due. I’ll look down and my plate will be empty and I won’t know where the food went or have appreciated it the same way (as if I partook like the squirrel in the corner). Pretty much the opposite of mindful eating.
I also occasionally catch myself “guarding” my plate when dining, arms flanking either side protectively. What is that?? Am I going to stick my fork into the hand of someone who looks like they might try to take a morsel off my plate?! Maybe it goes back to inherited DNA from primitive ancestors, who really would stick somebody who tried to mess with their meal. Or maybe it’s just from growing up in a large family where it was necessary to make sure you got your fair share of the vittles. Still, I want to be a nice member of society, so when I notice I’m doing it, I try to make an effort to bring my arms away from my plate and act like a civilized person who wouldn’t knock silly any hapless person getting too close to her food.