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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Bless This Food {book review}

Bless This FoodAncient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World
author: Adrian Butash
publisher: New World Library
"foodie" elements: yes
soft cover: 189 pages

random excerpt:   For individuals whose intellectual interest is in what Paul Verlain called "mere literature," the compelling beauty of these thanks-giving food prayers reveals the noble spirituality of humanity.  Prayer is how human beings relate to God, nature, and their place in the divine order of things.

     Prayer is the principal channel we use in our search for ultimate meaning.  Thanks-giving food prayers embody religious and social contexts, encompassing myth, sacred doctrine, rituals, and social and cultural practices.* (p.7 - Introduction)

summary/synopsis (from back cover of book):  Grace before meals is the prayer said most often in homes around the world, an act of worship common to every known society.  The universal experience of sharing food fundamentally connects people to one another, to nature, and to the infinite.  Expressing thanks for food represents a wonderful tradition that acknowledges bounty and our daily sustenance as gifts from the divine.

Bless this Food presents 160 timeless mealtime blessings in an easy-to-use format.  The eloquent prayers and poems have been carefully selected from the world's major religions, ancient traditions, and the world of great poets and thinkers, with sources ranging from Shakespeare to Starhawk, Tecumseh to the Tamil tradition, the North American plains to Pakistan.  Each grace is introduced with cultural context and details about its history and evolution.  Also included are two prayers in American Sign Language and the short prayer "bless this food" in nineteen languages.  The result is a unique kind of soul food - and a recipe for gratitude at any mealtime gathering.

my thoughts/review:  I knew from the moment that I heard the concept of this book that I wanted to read it.  And really, for me at least, it's not so much a reading book as it is a devotional or reference-style (though that sounds way too stuffy) book.  It begins with a 21-page Introduction, but from that point on, it's all blessings, graces, and prayers.

Some of the graces shared in the book are surprising (and don't sound a whole lot like saying grace), but I think that's the beauty of them - there's something for everybody.  I enjoy Butash's perspective, coming at this having studied philosophy and cultures of the world and combining it with faith.

Whether you're giving thanks to God (whoever that may be for you), or to the earth for its bounty, or to the animal who gave its life so that you may eat - I believe in the message that Bless This Food sets forth.  It has earned a place near my table, and I will share its message with my family.

a few of my favorite blessings from the book:  I have quite a few pages dog-eared, but I wanted to share a couple of the (shorter) blessings that I enjoyed...and will be offering as thanks-giving for my food from now on*.
                          Prayer 26
                          The smel of new breade is comfortable to the heade
                          and to the herte.
                           — Middle English prayer (circa 1400)

                         Prayer 67
                         Some hae meat and canna eat,
                         And some wad eat that want it;
                         But we hae meat and we can eat,
                         And sae the Lord be thankit.
                          — Robert Burns (1759–1796),
                              “The Selkirk Grace”

    a few of my own additions:  Like most households, I'm sure, we have a few regular prayers or blessings that we've been saying for generations.  I was surprised that the first two (okay, even the third one...I think they're pretty universal) weren't included in the book.  So, I decided to share some of ours right along with those that I liked from the book...

                             Said at my family holidays meals since I was a little girl. 
                             God is great,  
                             God is good,
                             Let us thank Him for our food.  
                             By His hands we all are fed, 
                             give us Lord our daily bread. Amen.

                             Johnny Appleseed: This blessing is a song.  
                                     It's been a favorite since I was in preschool.
                             ♫♪ Oh, the Lord is good to me, 
                             and so I thank the Lord 
                             for giving me, the things I need 
                             the sun and the rain and the apple seed.
                             The Lord is good to me. ♪♫

                             Short and sweet...and always a favorite with the kids.
                             Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub.

    about the author: Adrian Butash is a well-known creative and marketing professional and a producer of significant fine arts, television, and film projects.  Butash has produced award-winning advertising campaigns and corporate marketing successes for Fortune 500 clients.  He is an acknowledged color expert in beauty products and fashion.  A graduate of Fordham University, he studied philosophy and cultures of the world.  He is also an Independent Holocaust scholar who has designed a memorial for the Mauthausen concentration camp.  He and his family live in Santa Barbara, California.

    *Excerpted from the book Bless this Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World © 2013 Adrian Butash. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. or 800-972-6657 ext. 52.

    I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts and opinions stated in this post are 100% my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links.