Bless us, O’ elephant journal, and this Thy book which I am about to review.
Note: elephantjournal.com received this [review item] for free, in return for a guarantee that we would review said offering. That said, we say what we want—good and bad, happy and sad.
I grew up with parents that didn’t put much effort or value in saying “grace” before meals.
To be honest, as a young girl, when I’d eat over at a friends house who’s family did pray before dinner it always freaked me out a little. Whether they extended arms and held each other’s hands around the table or just bowed their heads, I always felt uncomfortable.
I’m not sure why this was but it all changed much later in life when I found myself working (and living) at Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC), a Buddhist meditation retreat center in Northern Colorado.
Not only did my days begin and end with meditation sessions but in between there were many opportunities to practice mindfulness, the midday meal being one of them. Lunch was always met with silence and only broken by a blessing (or chant) before the meal was offered.
This quiet time allowed you to focus on what you were eating from portion control to the nutrients you were putting into your body to savoring how the food tasted and to also reflect where the food came from, who prepared it and much more.
Yeah, I’m not going to lie—some days, all I thought about was when I’d be done with work and headed to The Pot Belly (a favorite watering hole in the area) to enjoy a cold beer or some other random thought, but most days I just surrendered and appreciated the break from the generic chit-chatter that creeps in and consumes our brains.
It’s this mindset that allowed me to truly grow to cherish blessings of food, and by blessings of food I mean in actual words versus snapping a foodie pic of my meal to post on Instagram. However, don’t get me wrong, I do feel Instagram has created a whole different kind of meal blessing for the modern techie that I do partake in on a regular basis (Amen!).
This all brings me to “Bless This Food: Ancient and Contemporary Graces from Around the World” by Adrian Butash.
This sweet book is a collection of 160 blessings from around the globe which also includes two prayers in American Sign Language and the prayer “bless this food” in nineteen languages.
Entries are presented in chronological order (earliest to present) with a brief history that allows the reader to appreciate the blessing’s origin. You can easily search by author, country and culture, religious tradition or sacred text as well as an index of first lines.
This 189-page paperback jewel is compact, so there’s no reason not to bring it along to holiday dinners and pull it out to select a blessing. It’s definitely a book for all seasons, all religions and for all ages. I plan on working with my seven-year-old twin nieces to learn A Child’s Grace in sign language in time for Thanksgiving dinner.
Wish me luck.
One of my favorite blessings featured in the book is Prayer 71 (on page 86):
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
In case you were interested, I’ve included the chants we’d recite during lunch at SMC. We would either do the Buddhist or Shambhala meal chant.
The unsurpassable teacher is the precious Buddha
The unsurpassable protector is the precious Dharma
The unsurpassable guide is the Sangha
Rigden god of gods host of father gods and mother gods victorious over the three worlds come to this feast offering of the great eastern sun quell outer and inner and secret obstacles. Ki Ki So So!
Adrian Butash is the author of Bless this Food. A well-known marketing and advertising professional, he studied history and culture of the world at Fordham University. He lives in Santa Barbara, CA. Visit him online here.
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