Charcuterie is a big deal on the restaurant scene.  More often you’ll find this “meat board” on the menu at finer establishments and the experience is nothing to balk at. Charcuterie is a menagerie of meats (and sometimes fish) and served with pickled items and a condiment such as spicy mustard. If it includes cheeses you call it a charcuterie and cheese board.

I first discovered this gastronomical feast about two years ago. Our selection of meats ran the gambit from smoked duck to pork sausages. The board also was adorned with pickled onions, gherkins and a variety of cheeses. It was heaven on a wooden plate. And the best part about a charcuterie feast or any food related banquet is enjoying it with friends.     

On a recent trip to NC a group of friends gathered in our hotel room before heading to dinner. Lo-and-behold one friend plops down a charcurterie board (actually it was the tray that holds the ice bucket) layered with all kinds of goodies. We all sat around, made jokes and nibbled on salami, cheese and crackers before heading to the restaurant. I think that was even better than eating out.

Speaking of friends, without them I’d be a sad sack, devoid of love and left to drown in my pity pool. Studies show being connected to others can relieve stress, make you happier and even have fewer health problems. In fact, studies have shown a lack of strong relationships can increase the risk of premature death.  

Working under stressful situations can get you down, raise blood pressure and produce cortisol, a hormone that can wreak havoc on one’s health. According to the Mayo Clinic, cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Maybe that’s why I heal pretty quickly after gashing my knee from running into a table.

Cortisol also alters immune system responses and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system and growth processes.  I don’t think it works to suppress my digestive system. I can eat non-stop without a worry. But it’s when stress is continual we run the risk of health problems such as anxiety, depression, sleep problems and so on.

I’ve been experimenting with different stress relievers. About two years ago, I took up yoga. I did it my way, on my terms and on my time schedule. It worked fairly well but as with everything else I do, fading interest dampened my enthusiasm. Breathing is another coping mechanism but I have a hard time sitting still long enough for it to do any good. I also get dizzy from all that deep breathing. I imagine falling down when I get up from my desk, which would be hard to explain to my boss if suddenly I busted my head on the floor for no reason whatsoever.

So now I’m back at square one and that’s where friendships come in. It’s been a long time since I had the pleasure of being surrounded by so many fun people. I had a great time but it was the role they played in my wellbeing that surprised me. Studies show older adults with great social connections may live longer than those with fewer. My connections will always be appreciated more than they will ever know, especially when I recall that hotel style charcuterie board.

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