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saying “grace,” or “centering” before a meal

Posted by on Apr 28, 2011 in Blog Posts | 9 comments

Yesterday morning, while watching Madeline cartoons, I overheard this as the little girls were around the table:

“We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all we love each other.”

I love that! I think it will replace M’s standard, “Bon appetite, you may eat!” As often as I can remember to, we try to say a little “grace,” or take a moment before a meal to slow down, take a deep breath or two,  connect and make that transition to meal-time. It’s also something I often recommend to my clients. The day can feel very hectic and taking a moment to pause from the craziness of getting the meal on the table, or rushing in from work helps on many levels.

  • centering breath (with my adult clients I also couple this with explicit permission to eat. To eat what tastes good, what appeals and in satisfying amounts) That breath, pause, grace, prayer, whatever it is serves many purposes:
    • it helps to calm and center (for many, the table has been a place of guilt, conflict and anxiety. This is a concrete way of changing that.)
    • it helps you tune in to hunger and fullness cues
    • it helps connect you with yourself or family (holding hands is nice)
    • it makes it feel special
    • you can instill values, such as gratitude and appreciation for the cook, the farmers etc. if you wish.
    • it slows the pace
    • if you are in transition from  control to a trust model of feeding, this is a very concrete way of signaling to the family that things are different, a way of calling truce if you’ve been used to battling at the table over who is eating what or how much
    • can pass on family traditions (grampa’s funny grace?)
    • starts the meal with focus and quiet, then you can get down to the business of passing plates and serving little ones who can’t serve themselves
    • can transition nicely into conversation, “what was the best part of your day…”

What are your favorite pre-meal sayings or grace? Do you do it, why or why not?

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  1. Jess

    At my son’s German pre-school they hold hands and say “Piep, piep, piep, wir haben uns alle lieb; nicht schlabbern, nichts verschütten, Guten Apetit!” Losely translated it means: “Peep, peep, peep, we all love each other; eat tidy, don’t spill, bon apetit!”

    At home we say this, or just “Guten Apetit”– strange how there is no equivalent expression in English, other than to say “Bon Apetit” which many Americans adopted as their own due to Julia Child saying it on tv for decades.

    Also, my husband invariably thanks me for preparing the meal (and my son, if he helped) and occasionally we discuss where the food came from and all the people that might have been involved in its production; I think that’s a nice touch and it creates awareness and gratitude for the process of getting food on the table.

    • katja

      My hub also thanks me, and my kid does now too (depending on the meal :) It is nice to be appreciated, because it is a labor of love to cook for your family!

  2. Theresa

    I don’t say anything when I’m home in the US. I was raised Catholic, and though we didn’t say grace that often (only when my grandparents or the parish priest were over for dinner) it always struck me as a very Catholic-y thing to do, so when I stopped being Catholic I had no real desire to add a grace-like thing to my meals. Besides, I couldn’t find a very good secular alternative.

    But in Japan, they have “itadakimasu,” which is one of those things that is tough to translate but is roughly a thanking of everyone and everything involved in the process of bringing the food to you for their hard work (and I do mean everything — gods, weather, the food itself, etc. along with the farmers, cooks, and even the person who served you). I seem to vaguely remember that it’s the very formal form of a verb but I can’t remember which one. At the end of the meal, they would say “gochisousamadeshita,” which is kind of roughly translated as “it was delicious” or “it was a feast” and is basically a reiteration of thanks for the meal. I feel odd using them when I’m not in Japan, but I do like them and the general idea of acknowledging and being thankful for everything it takes to put a meal on the table that they represent.

  3. Ines

    great topic, Katja. We read from Saying Grace by Sarah McElwain’s book every night a different verse or poem (well not exactly every night but still).

  4. lyorn

    We use the laconic “aan guddn” (franconian dialect for “einen guten”; “(have) a good one”, meaning appetite) to agree that everyone’s at the table and has food on their plates, and is ready to eat. Starting when people are not yet ready is both impolite and uncomfortable, because there will still be clattering and running around. Uusually the cook is the one to say it and the rest choruses it. If the cook is not at the table (e.g. at a restaurant) the last person to get their food says it.

  5. katja

    Yes, yes, yes!

  6. Twistie

    I don’t say anything, but I usually take a moment just to savor the scents wafting up from my plate. Good food should be appreciated on every possible level.