One of the most captivating scenes in the new film “Eat, Pray, Love” consists of a woman sitting alone at a table in Rome savoring, slurping and smiling over a plate of spaghetti. No voiceover, no dialogue, just Julia Roberts as Elizabeth Gilbert immersed in a sublime moment of satisfaction. Roberts’ Gilbert describes this kind of pleasure “il dolce far niente,” the sweetness of doing nothing.
This Italian ideal, or in the exact verbiage of the book, “il bel far niente,” the beauty of doing nothing — is a concept foreign to most Americans. Living in New York City for the past six years, it’s an expectation that one is constantly doing, going and seeing. On Monday mornings at the office, the question “how was your weekend?” feels as though you must regale coworkers with tales of adventure. When I lived with a roommate, she often had friends come to visit and stay in our tiny, fifth floor walk-up apartment. While the group of girls explored the city for all hours of the day, I sought nothing more than to have the apartment to myself and just relax. I found out later that a friend asked my roommate once, after seeing me vegging out on the couch, “Is that all Jenny is going to do today?”
The truth is that sometimes I enjoy doing as close to absolutely nothing as possible, whether that be by wandering my city with no destination in mind, taking the time to truly experience my surroundings, or by vegging out on the couch. For me, there’s no better way to explore the sweetness and the beauty of doing nothing than by eating. So many of my posts are in regard to restaurants because I find the purest pleasure in good food. To truly enjoy a meal with all of the senses is one of life’s simplest yet profound experiences. Ask yourself when was the last time you could clearly recall the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the world around you. Then stumble into a restaurant, order by instinct and challenge yourself to experience it all, down to the very last sweet, beautiful crumb.