Nancy Zimmerman: a canadian money coach (not a financial planner!) Nancy Zimmerman: a canadian money coach (not a financial planner!)
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The Art of Contentment: does anyone say grace before meals anymore? Should we?

When I was a kid, my family said a quick grace before every.single.meal – oatmeal breakfasts before kindergarten included. These became (regrettably) perfunctory and rushed over the years but we kept up the tradition.

As an adult the habit fairly quickly faded away. In fact, I’m starting to feel uncomfortable with the extent to which I don’t take even a nano-second to take note of the fact that I am engaging in a primal, life-sustaining activity which often required the death of another being. Meals for me have more often than not become woeful in their slap-dash, toss on a plate and eat obliviously while I surf the ‘net or watch TV manner. Or my inhale as I’m walking around getting ready for work in the morning manner. Meal eating has become a purely functional affair.

I don’t think this is good. I don’t think this is good at all. In fact, I think it’s grim. It is anti-contentment.
And assuming (?) I’m in good company with my culture in this, it’s no wonder we are so obsessed with weight loss, and even obsessed with calories, yet out of touch with our own eating habits. In government-speak, perhaps we need a framework for how to approach our meals!

I’m not quite ready to go slow-food. But over lent, and hopefully beyond, I am going to start a new praxis of contentment: I am going to pause for at least 3 seconds before every single meal. Will I always Give Thanks per se? Perhaps, and I probably should. But at a minimum I will take a couple deep breaths, and attend to the fact that I am about to participate in a profound act of being human and participating in the food chain.

Readers – what about you? Did you say grace when you were growing up? Do you now? Do you engage in any quasi-ceremonial act before eating or like me, do you just dive in?

ps: after writing this, I found this gorgeous post How to Eat Like An Italian via twitter. #5 – perfect tip for me!

Photo Credit: Wiedmaier

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  1. Paul LeBlanc
    86 mos, 2 wks ago

    We did not do it growing up, except maybe occasionally at Christmas. And I don’t do it now.

    I did do it occasionally some years ago at formal-ish dinners as it was important to a woman I was seeing at the time. (Actually what I did was not exactly grace, but I still meant it as such). Despite the fact that it was not my idea, I didn’t mind.

    And your post did make me think about it again. While I am not religious, I like the idea of gratitude for food. Perhaps this is something which should make a bit of a comeback.

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    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    Paul if you ever integrate this into your own meal habits, I’d be interested in what you come up with. You have a real sense of occasion and theatre, which I respect.

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  2. 86 mos, 2 wks ago

    We didn’t say grace before meals in our family, and it hasn’t been a practice in my life. However, I’ve had a couple of meals with people from my church and they say grace. Prompted by this, I suppose, I’ve thought, and discussed recently the practice of saying Grace. It seems important and valuable to reflect and Give Thanks for the food we have – and the friendship of those we share it with. I like your suggestion of a 3 second pause (as a minimum) and will join you in that, and maybe something more formal too.
    Kate Groom´s last [type] ..If only we had a sign!

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    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    You know Kate, that may be something else I incorporate in my 3 seconds. At least a quick mental acknowledgement of the others at the table (he. or maybe on the floor – my daschunds – as the case may be!) would be lovely.

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  3. nsignia
    86 mos, 2 wks ago

    My husband and I say grace before every meal. We wouldn’t miss it. Even when we are out in restaurants, I don’t care what others think we will give thanks where thanks is due… to God who enables us to have the food we eat. I dream of the day when people put their “uncomfortableness” aside and just do it – wherever, whenever – just give thanks. A few seconds out of your day is nothing, but I’m sure it means everything to the one who made us.

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    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    I’m in awe, nsignia. That is serious commitment to the praxis.

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  4. 86 mos, 2 wks ago

    I don’t know about saying Grace, but if she’s a member of the household, then I think it’s only polite and proper to call her before every.single.meal. She’s probably hungry!

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    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    I *knew* you could count on a particularly excellent contribution from you Jan 😉

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  5. 86 mos, 2 wks ago

    Saying grace before a meal is a superstitious trapping of religion, an opportunity for the status quo to extend their control to yet another facet of life.
    That said, your idea of pausing (as long as it takes)to recognize the importance of the food before you has a certain charm. If you have to give thanks to anything, perhaps the farmers and other food producers would be appropriate subjects.

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    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    except I don’t think it *is* the status quo any more, Bradley, do you? I think as a culture we’re far, far past that, which is part of my point — I’m guessing 80% of the population is like me (but happy to be proven wrong). Food is swiftly gulped without much thought and next thing you know we have a diabetes epidemic. My thinking is that if we all just slowed down, just a few seconds even, before meals, it may – over time – have widesweeping and good effects. Grace per se? Not necessarily unless folks are religious anyways. But otherwise, just some kinda *brake* before consuming.

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    Jan Karlsbjerg Reply:

    Farmers and other food factory/industry workers have directly produced the stuff on the table, yes.

    But engineers have invented the technology that makes our modern lifestyle available. And unions and lefty politicians have brought us “the weekend”, the 40 (or 37 or 35) hour work week and other social changes that have lifted us up and out of oppression so that we have the opportunity to enjoy our meals in peace.

    Send a thought to them instead.

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    Nancy (aka Moneycoach) Reply:

    I think I’ll have to update from 3 seconds to 10 minutes cuz I should also include all the folks who packaged it and transported it…. #thisisharderthanIthought

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