The Blessing

I grew up with folks who lived through the Depression. One of them was raised on a farm. They rarely threw food away and I was given to believe it was one of the deadlier sins.

For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.

My father said this before the evening meal. My mother put the food on the table, gave the go ahead (would you like to say the blessing?), and we bowed our heads. It happened like this every single night.

During my father’s perfunctory delivery, I surveyed my plate, working out any trade negotiations I’d have to have with my sisters. And then we ate. Other families called it grace and lit into a lengthy God-fearing thanks. At our table, cooling food was an affront to the Provider.

The blessing was a daily reminder to appreciate what we had. Even the mushrooms in the stew. Even the stew.

I didn’t raise my daughter with this practice, one of the casualties of dropping christianity. But she did see that little gets thrown out. Slightly more than my parents but a lot less than the neighbour’s, who seemed to believe that their food should be perfect. How does perfection equal food safety? Best before dates are their word from God. If they give thanks it would probably be for the lettuce that doesn’t turn slimy in their crisper.

Decay – which is what happens to food, being an organic substance and all – offers some possibilities. A fresh apple makes me think of crunchy thin slices on sourdough bread with blue cheese. A shrivelled apple goes into a warm winter supper of braised pork shoulder and cider.

But using it all, when you possibly can, seems to invite derision, something to be tolerated in war-time, during famines, and always for poor people.

Which means what, we only give thanks to the food at the beginning of the week because by the end it’s less good and not so perfect? As a nation, we throw away ⅓ of our food. It’s the very sad truth.

For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful for the food we have at the beginning of the week.

Food with scars and blemishes and food that has to wait until we get to it still provides. Somebody grew it, picked it, preserved it, brought it to us. So many hands. For this I am truly thankful.

Originally written in 2011.