“The commonest thing is delightful, if only one hides it,” wrote Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray. Perhaps this is why illicit fridge grazing – that slice of ham folded swiftly into the mouth and washed down with a glug of juice, straight from the bottle – is such a delightful pastime. “Don’t pick,” my mother used to tell me, shooing me out of the kitchen. But I live for picking – a habit that inspires disgust and irritation in equal measure.

When I cook, my chef’s tasting gets out of control because snatched morsels and licked spoons are too tempting. Everything tastes better in a sneaky forkful, consumed when passing the stove, fridge or cupboard. Entire jars of peanut butter can go in my house without ever seeing a slice of bread. And it’s not just about having an empty tummy. Even after a vast roast dinner I loiter in the kitchen, pretending to wash up, so that I may pick the carcass.

Eating out of context

Kent Berridge, professor of biopsychology at the University of Michigan, hazards that “perhaps being out of the context of sitting down to table, lets one focus with more awareness on the sensory treat. Being out of context makes the food taste more new and vivid, perhaps raising hedonic experience.” Indeed, common sense surely dictates that knowing that you have a single mouthful rather than a whole plate is going to make you savour something more. For instance, the pleasing contrast between the smooth part of crunchy peanut butter, and the chopped-nut contingent, can become an all-encompassing distraction while I wait for the kettle to boil. If I had spread it on toast, I wouldn’t be experiencing it nearly so intimately. It would be diluted and I might take it for granted. Some might dismiss grazing this way as dangerous, mindless eating, but I would argue that the experience of eating the food is quite the opposite: mindful savouring (although mindful eating practitioners might have something to say about this).


Read the full article "The joys of grazing" at The Guardian.