A prayer for starting dinner?

Since Mother's day last year, I've been looking (occasionally) for some regular aspect of my life that I could view as a spiritual practice. Something I'm already doing that I could do more mindfully and prayerfully.

I finally found something that I do (almost) every day and that feels right. A few weeks ago I realized that making dinner could be a spiritual practice.

It is a practical task with spiritual components. I can express gratitude for the animals, vegetables and minerals and work that go into it. I can do the work in an attitude of willing service. I can use the gifts that God gave me to plan and prepare the meal. I can offer this gift to my family and our guests.

Since then, I find that when I view it like that, I make better dinners.

I went back to planning the meals in advance, and doing the grocery shopping more efficiently. If I don't have to think about what to make at 5:00, it's easier all round. It's more likely to be ready on time and I'm less likely to be stressed out and cranky with my children. If I've planned what to make, I'm more likely to make balanced meals. I include more variety, more salads and vegetables. I think about a dessert that would complement the meal in fillingness and nutrition- occasionally it's a pie, more often it's canned peaches or half a fresh grapefruit.

And sometimes I remember to go about it prayerfully. More often, it's after the fact that I think, oh yes, that was an act of grace. I want to be more mindful of the practice while it's going on.

So now I'm looking for a short prayer to say when I walk into the kitchen each night to start making dinner. I'm open to traditional prayers from any religious tradition, if you know any. I'd really like something that invoked the Christ-like self I'm trying to develop. I want something that I can say every day regardless of what I'm making or how I feel about cooking at that moment. I will write it out on a piece of paper and tape it to the cabinet to remind myself. I do not want anything that's going to take up a lot of time or require more stuff to sit on my counter (for example, no candles, no bowls of water, no salt to spill).

I tried last night to simply write down the sentiments I want to express. Here's what I've got so far:

Dear God,
I ask your blessing on the meal I come to prepare.
May we be grateful for its provenance.
May it nourish our bodies.
May we share it generously.
May my service find favor with you.
I love you.

It's a little too long, and it's not quite what I was hoping for, but it's a start. I'm not very experienced at composing prayers. Although I did once get to script the Archbishop of San Francisco at an event I was organizing...

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Robin,
This is wonderful, and makes me want to also identify a daily spiritual practice.
Years ago, I began using the following meditation when cooking dinner, and it's worked really well for me:
I spread love in two directions:
To the plants and animals whose lives support this meal
And to the people whose lives this meal will support.

It really does make the food taste better.

1/31/2008 12:34 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Oooh. I like that. Thanks.

Next time, I'd love it if you'd sign your name, just in the body of the comment is fine. It helps me hold the commenters in the Light.

1/31/2008 2:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robin, I LOVE this idea. My mom got me this great vegetarian cookbook for Christmas which I've been using almost everyday--it has the meals planned for each day and the grocery list in the front. Mostly, the boys like the food (as do I). Since it has taken a lot of the work out of meal planning and preparation, I'm enjoying cooking much more and it has become much more of a joyous service to my family and myself, rather than a painful exercise in rushing around. Incorporating these ideas might help to reflect this change.


1/31/2008 4:31 PM  
Blogger Liz Opp said...

I've been remembering this song-grace, which my partner and I had people sing at the potluck at our wedding reception. It's too long for a piece of paper by the counter, but the tune is cheery. (Let me know if you want me to sing it into your voice mail! smile)

Thank you for sun so bright
Thank you for the stars at night
Thank you for the sky above
Thank you for the ones we love

Thank you for the world so sweet
Thank you for the food we eat
Thank you for the birds that sing
Thank you, God, for everything!

Thanks, too, for planting a seed in me about how meals might be prepared differently at our home.

Liz Opp, The Good Raised Up

1/31/2008 7:25 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

Ah, what a lovely post, Robin.
I, too, find preparing food to be an act of faithfulness. My prayer while cooking is most often whatever sacred harp tune comes to mind, and I would agree with you that treating cooking as a spiritual discipline makes better meals.
I don't usually say a grace before eating, and your post helped me to realize that often (though certainly not always) I've been saying and doing my grace during the preparation.
The loveliest grace I think I've heard occurs in a mystery novel (I'm blanking on the title and the author, but it's the Fever Devlin series, set in Appalachia). The protagonist describes in loving detail the lavish meal that his friend Junie has prepared. When blessing the meal, her husband Hek simply says, "Lord, let us receive all the love that Junie has put into this here food."

1/31/2008 9:39 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thanks Jennifer - could you tell us the name of your cookbook? I recommend Quick Vegetarian Pleasures by Jeanne Lemlin. It also has menu suggestions at the back. Everything I've ever made from it turned out well and it doesn't require a lot of odd ingredients. (Unlike The Moosewood Collective Cooks at Home :-(

Liz, I recognize the second verse as something I learned a long time ago, maybe from a book of nursery rhymes. It is a little long for my cupboard, but it would be perfect for our before meal grace repertoire. If you're willing to call and sing it for me, I'd love to hear it. But not this week, because I have laryngitis and I'm trying not to talk on the phone.

Linda, that is a good grace.

Yesterday, the first day I had the scrap of paper taped up to the cupboard with my interim version, I almost forgot to read it, despite it being on bright orange paper with blue tape. But my six year old happened to ask what it was, and that reminded me. I read it out loud for him.

Tonight, I noticed it by myself and said it out loud. But I forgot to soak the beans last night that I meant to cook today and I'm coming down with laryngitis and I feel spacey and I still made a mediocre meal. I think God will forgive me. My family didn't complain. Much.

1/31/2008 10:35 PM  
Blogger Chris M. said...

Thank you for making dinner. :)

As always, love,

Chris M.

2/02/2008 4:54 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

Thank you, Chris, for your regular expressions of gratitude at our meals and for making dinner tonight!

2/02/2008 11:37 PM  
Blogger cubbie said...

in one of his books, michael lerner recommends sitting and thinking about the process that your food took to get to you, and to be grateful for all that, and stuff. one thing for me is that it really cuts down on the processed food "... thinking about red dye lake 40... what is red dye lake 40... do i want to know?..." and it was a thing i could mention to trisha when i was like, "um, hey, can we sit in silence for a little bit before we eat." :-) more recently, i read something about the way that the sunlight and everything is in our food, and so that's good to think about, in addition to the human labor aspects, which i usually think about it.

2/03/2008 12:30 AM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

cubbie, a song that keeps running through my head when I re-read this is "Dirt Made My Lunch" by the Banana Slug String Band.

I am also grateful for the Friends School where my kids go. Each kindergarten class studies apples. They count, draw, read stories, cook, and eat apples. They also took a field trip to an apple orchard in Sebastopol, the farmer's market in Civic Center, and to the grocery store around the corner to learn about the people and work it takes to get apples to their lunchboxes.

One of the other things that keeps coming up for me is finally getting back to composting in our new place - I just ordered the worm bin for our balcony - to continue to respect the food we take in and even what we don't use.

2/03/2008 2:44 PM  
Blogger cubbie said...

that song got sung at our the retreat this past year. by elizabeth's son. it was the first time i'd heard it. one thing that is great about trisha (i never write about her on my blog though i want to a lot, because of some post-breakupwithpuck sensitivity issues... and we are in the really disgusting cute and gushy phase of things, so please excuse me when that comes out) is that she told me that part of why she loves the composting thing so much is that she can feel good instead of bad about her cooking mistakes. "i just made that inedible? i get to feed the earth!" *grins with goofy pride or something*

2/03/2008 10:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cookbook my mother got me is: Saving Dinner the Vegetarian Way. It's supposed to feed a family of six, but since we're a family of three plus a baby, there's always leftovers so it turns into a cook once, eat twice kinda thing.


2/05/2008 12:37 PM  
Blogger Robin M. said...

cubbie - you can tell trisha that's one of the things I love about composting too!

Jennifer - Thanks for the title. Maybe I will ask my mom for a birthday present... Cook once, eat twice is great. I finally realized that was the way to go when I make something like lasagna or enchiladas. It's hard to make just enough for the four of us, and we get tired of it if I keep putting the leftovers out until it's gone. So I got some freezer friendly tupperware-like things and I can put half away for a week or two later, when we'll all be happy to have enchiladas again. The convenience of frozen dinners and the benefits of home cooking!

2/05/2008 3:25 PM  
Blogger Sterghe said...


My background is not Christian, so my own meal blessing might not fit. But, in case there's anything in it to offer a bit of inspiration, I'll share it anyway.

Mother Earth and Father Sky, thank you for nourishing the plants and animals that give of themselves to nourish us, as we give of ourselves to nourish our world.

I wrote this very simple statement when my children were very small, and it often occasioned specific recognition of the various plants and animals that contributed to our meal (including the bees and pollinators, courtesy of my kids!), as well as discussion of what we were actively doing to "nourish our world."

For what it's worth, I also enjoy planning and preparing meals from a "centered-down" spiritual kind of place. And, I was interested to learn some years back that an attitude of preparing meals with love is at the heart of Krsna ministry in India and elsewhere, although that's not a tradition that ever spoke to me personally in other ways.

Just a thought from a Quaker mom in Pennsylvania ... use or ignore as suits you best! :)

Ms. C.

2/16/2008 12:32 PM  

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