One of the greatest transformations living on a farm, and really beginning to claim the title of farmer, has made on my life is the way in which I see the food on my plate. It has a story. Every. Single. Ingredient. It didn’t just magically appear on my plate or grow on the grocery store shelves, not the fresh veggies nor the processed potato chips. All food has a story.
We share a lot of our meals via social media – mostly the ones that are Pinterest perfect or Instagram worthy of a hashtag, but that’s not all we eat. Sometimes it’s a frozen pizza for our family pizza and movie night. Sometimes it’s take-out, my favorite is Chinese! Sometimes it’s even ramen – please don’t judge, my kids love it! Regardless of whether it traveled a few feet from our garden or much further through a journey that placed it on the shelves at the grocery store, it has a story, a story worth knowing, a story worth pondering, a story worth giving thanks for.
This has been the inspiration behind our line of Mealtime Blessings we have shared the past two weeks on Sundays via the Bowers Farm Facebook and Instagram page.
Growing up, a blessing before dinner was part of our family routine. It was like tying your shoe, it was rote memory. Often, but not always, it was my dad who said the blessing or at least started us off. He might first make a joke and say something like, “Good food. Good meat. Good God let’s eat” or maybe "Rub-a-dub-dub thanks for the grub." Which got a giggle from myself and my three older siblings, but also got a stare, you know the kind I'm talking about, and a firm “Richard” from the other end of the table coming from my mom. And then we would proceed and might recite together the very well known blessing, God is Great or Come Lord Jesus. As an adult, I am so thankful my parents insisted on a blessing being said before we would begin eating our meal. I’m honestly not sure if this was just a part of the way they were raised, something that was part of their pattern of life, like putting one foot in front of the other, or from a deeper desire to intentionally give thanks for the gift of the food before us, my guess is a combination of both. There were times when it was a deep gratitude and times where it was just part of our family’s pattern. Regardless it was a gift and something I held onto and have wanted to continue.
And we have, but it's changed just a little in my mind. As I reflect on my childhood and my disconnect from my food and the story it told, the blessing has seemed like a natural place to both model for my own children and encourage others to think about encompassing and naming the hands that played a part in the meal we are about to enjoy.
I think it really started at congregational meals when, as one of the staff members present, I was often asked to say the blessing. I would be sure to add lines like “For the hands that grew, harvested, and prepared this meal, we give thanks.” People would approach me afterwards and comment on and give thanks for my inclusion of those pieces of the journey and the people into the prayer. It then became a regular part of any meal blessing I was asked to give, which was and is a lot.
Well, over the summer, I had this crazy idea! What if we created mealtime blessings for different settings and types of meals?! From a deliciously fresh and locally sourced farm-to-table meal to take-out. From a meal where there is an empty seat at the table to a meal from a fast-food restaurant. All of these meals, all of this food, all of the people who had a touch point to these feasts, are important and worthy of thanks.
Throughout the weeks to come we will continue to post a variety of mealtime blessings. Some are childhood favorites, some may be familiar to you, some are creations of our own for different types of meals, but all invite us to remember and give thanks for the food on our plate and an acknowledgement of the story it tells.
As a leader in a Christian denomination, my thanks is directed at my understanding of who God is, but I am hopeful that many of these mealtime blessings can be part of tables from different belief systems and prayers to the creator or higher power we each believe in.
Small caveat: I see, hear, and experience the beauty of a young child having a prayer they have memorized and desire to recite at mealtime. Our daughter has one she learned at her school over two years ago that she is often insistent on reciting (actually singing). We love it! What an amazing way to instill the habit of giving thanks for our food. Maybe some of these mealtime blessings can be a regular, memorized, and recited prayers at your family meals, but also, maybe they’re a one-off, an every once in a while prayer to make us think a little differently about the food on our plates.
Whether your dinner is from the frozen section or left-overs or eaten at a restaurant, there are farmers, truck drivers, assembly line workers, grocery store clerks, chefs and so much more to give thanks for! How differently would we look at our food, how much more would we respect aspects of the food industry, how much more deeply will we see each ingredient and marcel of food as nourishment to our bodies, if we saw them all as something to give thanks for. No matter how small, no matter how fresh or processed, let us give thanks for the story on our plate.