Savoring every minute, starting with a real lunch

One of the most ironic axioms during the span of my life has been the notion that you don’t really value time until you’re running out of it.

Time seems to become a more valuable commodity when you reach an age north of 40. You want to make every millisecond count and so you begin to live life as if it were the last two minutes of a basketball game — except, unfortunately, we are not afforded any time outs.

I recently decided to pause from my frantically paced, rollercoaster life and take stock of what adjustments I could make in my break-neck routine so as to make my time a bit more enjoyable while continuing to satisfy the monstrous workload we often times place upon ourselves.

One element that was missing from my routine was a natural respite in the middle of a hectic day. That “break” used to be called lunch, though I hesitate in characterizing the way many of us have been hurriedly ingesting our midday meals as a proper lunch.

As I evaluated my work week routine, I realized, that, like many of you, my days begin earlier each year that goes by. My days consist of nonstop work until I call it quits at the end of the evening — only to bury my head in a pillow to begin the same hamster trail routine the following sunrise.

I decided to make a conscious effort to afford myself a midday pause, attempting to bring back the lost custom of lunch.

In my redefinition of the midday ritual, hurried business lunches do not count as a respite — quite the contrary. Few things are more stressful and less enjoyable for me than sharing a meal with someone over proposals, contracts and spreadsheets.

When presented with these opportunities I opt to eat light — simply because there is no more sure-fire cause for indigestion than a bad business lunch.

Disagreeable profit margins can make the most spectacular lobster bisque taste like a can of sardines leftover from Hurricane Andrew.

After hundreds of these underwhelming, pressured meals it only stands to reason that one would choose to eat at one’s desk more frequently.

The other popular reason for dining in front of one’s computer screen is to erroneously attempt to accumulate valuable minutes as if they could be stored in an account to be used at a more enjoyable time.

“I feel like everything is rushed these days,” commented famed chef, host of WPBT 2’s Check Please and Miami home girl, Michelle Bernstein. “People would rather work through quick meals at their computer or on cell phones; I even know some people who even prefer the temperature of their food to be cold so they can get through it faster,” she added.

This week I ventured out to begin implementing my new lunch resolution. I contemplated meeting up with friends but decided I would enjoy my first distressing midday meal by myself — which admittedly can be a bit odd given the social norms of restaurants where everyone is sitting across from someone.

The first thought that came to mind was a lunch counter. The type I haven’t sat at since I was a kid and my father would take me to the original Latin American restaurant on Coral Way. I remember being dazzled by the sandwich maker as he wielded his knives cutting up the ham and pork for media noches.

I decided to find a modern interpretation of the old lunch counter and I discovered the perfect spot.

I visited Bread and Butter, a new “gastro counter” in Coral Gables. Chef Albert Cabrera who coined the term, if not the concept, described his establishment as “a cross between British gastro pub and Cuban cafeteria.

“The majua con pan (smelt sandwich) and cortadito afterwards hit the spot but culinary delight aside, my lunch outing provided the relaxing, pleasurable break I was seeking and made the rest of my double-parked, overbooked day tolerable.

Read more Joe Cardona stories from the Miami Herald

A young Celia Cruz in the 1940s in Cuba before she made it big.


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Miami Herald

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