A moment’s graceSeptember 10, 2010
Does anybody ever say grace anymore? A while ago a friend confessed an unusual phobia: he lived in terror of being asked to say grace before a meal. The old fear of public speaking turned up a notch by the requirement for solemnity and reverence, I suppose. I forgot about that amusing moment until a few weeks ago when we dined with friends and their kids at a celebratory meal, and one of the guests said a few words of grace before we tucked in, and I found it a lovely gesture.
Even though I grew up in a solidly Mass-attending Catholic family, I don’t recall saying grace regularly at all – it was always said at Christmas dinner or some other special meal, but the idea of giving thanks for food on a daily basis was not big in our house. Perhaps it’s more a Protestant thing? What about Judaism – in such a food-based culture I imagine it’s pretty standard? But whatever our religious or cultural origins, grace certainly isn’t said much among my circle nowadays, and even a quick Google search comes up with the name of a removal company before suggestions of how to say grace. Often thanks is given to the hosts or the cook, but that’s not the same thing at all as gratitude for the luck and grace that has brought the food (and the friends!) to the table.
All this has made me wonder if it might be possible to come up with some way of ritually expressing thanks for the enormous good fortune that brings such good, fresh food to our table in such abundance that we find it shamefully unremarkable. The trouble is that grace is traditionally said to God, and if you don’t believe in him there’s a bit of a problem. Alternatively, thanking The Universe or whatever is a tad too hippie-dippy (or ‘oogyboogy’ as my friend Peter the painter says) for my taste and would surely embarrass my grace-fearing friend even more that the trad version.
But maybe we don’t have to thank any divine force in particular; perhaps all that’s required is simply to be thankful, and raise a glass in that gratitude.
Would love your thoughts. Did any of you say grace in your childhoods? What kind? Do you still do it? Or if you aren’t religious, have you come up with any other way of marking this kind of thankfulness?