We’re not part of an organised religion, but I do like the practice of stopping and being grateful before a meal. It’s not something we do at every meal, or every time we grab an apple out of the fruit bowl – but maybe a moment of silent gratitude wouldn’t go astray then either.
Before dinner, when we are all seated but before we start eating, we think about how much had to happen to get this meal to our table. We take it in turns to say “the thank-yous”, and we try to think of as many as we can.
We always start with any animals who are part of the meal. If we’re eating meat, we acknowledge that an animal or animals died so we could eat this meal, and we thank them. If there’s dairy, we thank the cows, sheep or goats. It’s always nice when we’re eating eggs from The Flock to thank them, because we can thank them by name.
We talk about the farmers who raised these animals, as well as the ones who grew and picked the plants in the meal. (Rob, Pam, Rick and Peter from our farmers markets also get thanked by name, which is yet another joy that comes from buying direct from the farmer at markets.)
We think about the processing of food before it came to us: olives growing on the tree, being harvested and crushed into oil; wheat growing in the wheatbelt and being processed into flour; the making of cheese. We thank the sea for the salt and the people who harvested it.
We thank the truck drivers who delivered the food to the place where we purchased it, and the people who work at those markets and supermarkets. We thank the rain and the sun and the soil, the worms and the microbes that helped the food to grow.
The Kid loves to think of things we haven’t mentioned before, like the people who made the cutlery and crockery we are using to eat the food, and who made our dining table, and the gas, water and electricity workers who enabled us to cook the food. Finally we thank the person or people who prepared the meal, and whoever set the table.
So much has to happen for us to eat. So many animals and people are involved in this process that I don’t believe it should be taken lightly. Taking just a minute or two once a day to think about this and be grateful gives us a sense of connectedness to our world. This has seemed especially important at the moment, when it’s easy to feel disconnect. It’s also become a mindfulness practice I sometimes use when I’m baking bread and doing other cooking, to help my active brain slow down and focus on the thing I’m doing.