Here at the Food on Fridays carnival, any post remotely related to food is welcome—though we love to try new dishes, your post doesn’t have to be a recipe.If you want, you could join the book club on Mondays at TheHighCalling.org and post your responses to the essays in The Spirit of Food; because, you see, we’re pretty relaxed over here. Posts like that are as welcome as menus and recipes.When your Food on Fridays contribution is ready, just grab the broccoli button (the big one above or smaller option at the bottom) to paste at the top of your post. It ties us together visually.
Food on Fridays with Ann
On Mondays I’m participating in the Book Club at TheHighCalling.org (THC), reading The Spirit of Food: 34 Writers on Feasting and Fasting toward God, edited by Leslie Leyland Fields. I’ve been reading ahead so that I can post a response here, on Fridays.If you would like to join the conversation this coming Monday but don’t own the book yet, I invite you to read two of the essays online. You can publish a post about one or both of the essays and join us in the comments at TheHighCalling.org on Monday.
I reached into the crisper drawer and pulled out button mushrooms, baby spinach, red pepper, carrots, broccoli, and a small storage container of leftover roasted chicken. Chopping, dicing, and slicing with my chef’s knife, I tossed all but the broccoli, which the kids prefer steamed, into a big skillet and sauteed it in olive oil.I had some rice going in a pot on the back of the stove—I would’ve used my rice cooker, but I didn’t allow enough time. In fact, it was late enough that I resorted to white rice instead of brown, since white only takes about 20 minutes from start to finish.While I stood at the stove watching pots and pans, my eldest daughter tossed some light mayonnaise with a cabbage-carrot mix for coleslaw. Though the meal was made from scratch, it came together relatively fast.The Belgian Wonder was running late and suggested we start without him, so we set the table, sat down, lit candles, held hands, and prayed.We gave thanks for our food.We prayed simply…sincerely…but I kept thinking about these lines from the essay by Kelton Cobb:
The kitchen table, heaped with food, is our trough. Most of us, if we pray at all, become God-fearing enough at that trough just long enough to manage a cursory, “Thank you, God, for this day and for this food. Amen.” Then we piled the foodstuff onto our plates, gobble it down, excuse ourselves, and resume our schedules refueled. Fast prayers for fast food. We don’t linger long enough truly to acknowledge God’s generosity in our bounty. (Fields 145-146)
Sitting at the trough to pile foodstuff onto our plates. Is that what American meals have become? Is that what our dinner amounts to, a perfunctory prayer and basic refueling before heading off to resume our schedules?Eating fast. Praying fast. Surely these are signs of a family that is in high-speed mode.Compare fast prayers (“Thank you for this food, Amen”) with the prayer that Cobb’s grandfather would offer at the beginning of a meal:
“Our most gracious and loving Father, we praise and thank thee for the gift of thy son Jesus and for life eternal through him. We thank thee for guidance and for strength and for blessing us with this food…” (Fields 146)
How do we slow down enough to offer reverent prayer like this before a meal—without the “Thee’s” and “Thou’s,” perhaps—that expresses dependence on God and acknowledges that life is a gift from our gracious and loving Father? Would a slower prayer lead to a slower meal, where food is more than fuel?We could talk about the origin and quality of the food being key to experiencing it as more than fuel, which is what Wendell Berry suggests in his essay.But what of the prayer? Might not “slow prayer” actually slow down our meals? If we slow down those moments just before our meal and turn to God with eyes that have seen and ears that have heard, might the food refresh?What if returning thanks were more like like Ann Voskamp‘s One Thousand Gifts? If giving thanks at mealtime were merely be an extension of the thanks we practice as habit throughout the day, throughout life, would it be richer and more joyful?Maybe giving thanks slowly doesn’t necessitate a reverent statement of faith like Cobb’s grandfather. Maybe it can be as simple as listing the day’s beauty and the gifts we were given; maybe it’s voicing the poetry we see and smell in the meal before us; maybe it’s remembering the laughter we’ve shared over a carrot flying across the kitchen floor and the way the mayonnaise plopped out of the squeeze-container like a burp.Maybe we sit together and slow down enough to say thanks to Jesus for all of the things specific to us, to our day, to our moments:
- sticky rice forming snowballs on the serving spoon
- flying carrots
- burping mayonnaise
- blobs of olive oil sliding across the skillet like floating islands
- blue-and-white cloth napkins finished with a wavy edge and spread across our laps
I think of this as the candle flames dance and we pass the rice and broccoli. I watched two of the kids pick out the chicken from the blend, avoiding the spinach and mushrooms.
- green shaft of the amaryllis rising from its bulb
- pink poinsettia lingering on a side table, cream-tinged leaves dropping, curling
With each moment, each gift from God (and as Ann V. would point out, isn’t all of this one wild and precious life we’re given a gift from God?) that we notice, celebrate, recall and express, we are returning thanks, blessing the Lord who has blessed us.
- hand-me-down maple table, legs painted white, top sanded smooth, scratched and chipped from a thousand days, a thousand meals, a thousand moments
The table, my old maple table, seems like the perfect place to practice slowing down and returning thanks._______________