Bless This Food

September 4, 2013 | 38 comments
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saying_grace-largeSo I had every intention of posting the next installment in the Approaching Zion Project today. But Labor Day weekend (and, specifically, houseguests, the Chicago Jazz Festival,[fn1] and a Cubs game[fn2]) intervened and, well, I’m not ready.

But Monday night’s dinner with our guests brought up a question, and I thought I’d ask for an unrepresentative sampling of answers. Specifically, we were Pequod’s Pizza[fn3] and, when the pizza came, one of our guests said grace. Out loud.

Our guest is a Christian (though I don’t know what, if any, denomination), raised in the South.

So my question is: do you pray over food when you eat out? If so, do you do it to yourself or out load? And where are you from?

I’ll go first: I do not pray over food when I eat out (even though we pray over our food when we eat meals at home). I’m a lifelong Mormon, and I grew up in Southern California.

Okay, your turn.

[fn1] Which, apropos of nothing Mormon-y, if you get a chance, you really should see Jason Moran’s Fats Waller Dance Party if it comes to your town. I’ve never been as blown away by a performance as I was Saturday night.

[fn2] And yes, I’m trying to make you jealous of life in Chicago. One of these days, I’m going to write a Why Mormons Love Big Cities post. But not until I at least finish the AZP.

[fn3] In spite of living in Chicago, I prefer New York- or Roman-style pizza to deep dish. Pequod’s is the one exception that I’ve found: it’s really, really good deep dish pizza. (Is there any other decent deep dish? I’m not a fan of Giordano’s, Gino’s East, Lou Malnati’s, or Pizzeria Uno.)

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38 Responses to Bless This Food

  1. Hunter on September 4, 2013 at 2:13 pm

    Often a silent prayer. If it’s up to me, never a prayer aloud. To me, vocal prayer in a public place (like a restaurant) smacks of the Pharisees praying aloud on the street corner. A prayer’s a prayer — so I can — and do — pray silently.

  2. jennifer rueben on September 4, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    no our family does not prayer to be seen of man that includes public prayer over food. one daughter’s family prays quietly with bowed heads and that is more than enough public performance for us.
    one of my husband’s most mortifying moments is when his mission president assigned him, the green elder, to stand in a workmen’s pub and in a foreign language bless everyone’s lunch.

  3. the narrator on September 4, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    How else will our food become nourishing and strengthening for our bodies?

  4. Sam Brunson on September 4, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    True, narrator, though, with Chicago-style pizza, that would take a water-to-wine-level miracle.

  5. Sam Brunson on September 4, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    I should also say, there was nothing Pharisaical about my guest’s prayer; she was perfectly sincere, and not putting on a show. I chalk it up to regional (and possibly religious) traditions, which is why I’m curious not only whether you pray over restaurant food, but where you grew up, so that I can get an entirely unscientific (and probably inaccurate) blog answer for myself.

  6. YvonneS on September 4, 2013 at 2:54 pm

    My parent’s family does not pray in restaurants. My husbands parent’s family does, but it not loud or especially long. My parent’s family is from New England originally and Idaho most recently. My husbands parent’s family is from Tennessee and Idaho most recently. My husband and I do not pray over our food in public places unless it is at a church dinner. We have lived in the nation’s capitol in the neighborhood of 40 years.

  7. Ed Williams on September 4, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    We pray as a family, in the car, before every restaurant meal.

  8. mapinguari on September 4, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    No. Virginia, where praying before a restaurant meal is not all that uncommon.

    The title of this post and narrator’s comment are intriguing as well. Maybe this has been answered in the bloggernacle already, but I’ve long wondered about the notion of “blessing” the food. I’m all for giving thanks, but I make a point not to bless the food – especially for the strengthening and nourishing of my body.

  9. Abbie Normal on September 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm

    I grew up and still live in Texas and have been a member for almost nine years. I say a silent prayer if I can do so without being a distraction to my eating companions, otherwise not.

  10. Tim on September 4, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    No. From Mormon Corridor, now living in a different part of the Mormon Corridor.

    The civic group I’m a member of has a prayer (and does the Pledge of Allegiance) prior to each lunch meeting, but the restaurants we eat at always place us in a separate room anyway, so we don’t disturb the rest of the restaurant.

  11. Ben S on September 4, 2013 at 5:30 pm

    Never have done so. Raised in the Midwest.

  12. Marsha on September 4, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    My husband and I do not pray over food in restaurants, only in our home or other private places. We always prayed over meals at campsites. We are lifelong members who are from California. However, many of our California friends when they go out to eat with us, get what they call the “Mormon headache” (hand to forehead, eyes close, and a moment of silence.) When I do see other pray vocally in restaurants, I think it is great that they do that.

  13. Jax on September 4, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    When alone I say a prayer silently to myself.

    When with the family I try to remember to say one in the car before going in to a restaurant.

    When I forget and it is a semi-reverant place, then we often pray quietly (loud enough for only or group to hear).

    If it isn’t a quiet atmosphere I say one afterward. I see no reason why gratitude before the meal is any better than gratitude after it. Same for effectiveness in asking for health/strength/etc.

  14. Jax on September 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    I should add, I was born/raised in Utah Wasatch Front.

    Now I live in the US South and often, really often, see groups saying a prayer before meals in restaurants.

  15. Coffinberry on September 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Yes, aloud but quietly when with family, silently when with others.

  16. Mark Brown on September 4, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    Sam, here’s a funny and meaningful detail.

    In the cafeteria in the Boston temple there is a small card on each table advising patrons that it is not necessary to bless their food before eating in the public cafeteria.

    Of course, that’s just Boston, “back East” where all the apostates live.

    To answer your question directly: No. Raised in Utah and never saw anybody say grace in a restaurant.

  17. Sportzfan on September 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    Why would “eating out” food be in any less need of blessing than any other food? Makes no sense to me not to bless everything you’re going to eat. I’m from Texas.

  18. egee on September 4, 2013 at 7:38 pm

    We do not say a blessing over the food when eating out. I have been with people who did so (which is fine with me). Prayer to me is something done in private not public but that is just my opinion. I think we can properly express our devotion and thanks in many ways.

  19. EFF on September 4, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    If I were a Cubs fun, I would pray every chance I could.

  20. Sam Brunson on September 4, 2013 at 9:10 pm

    Ah, EFF, but I’m a Padres[fn] fan, which means my team is beyond prayer.

    [fn] Grew up in Southern California, remember?

  21. EFF on September 4, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    Sam, I thought you might have switched your sporting allegiance when you moved to the midwest. I grew up in Champaign-Urbana, though I rooted for the Cardinals in my youth since I preferred a team that periodically posted a winning record (though I did enjoy going to the ballparks in Chicago every now and then—the Windy City is a great town and there’s no place quite like Wrigley Field).

    Now that I live in D.C., I’m a frustrated Nationals fan—our great expectations at the beginning of the season have been crushed like a bug.

  22. Laura on September 5, 2013 at 12:08 am

    Mark (#16): I wonder if that is because the food has “already been blessed”? I remember once on my mission (in Brazil) arriving a little late to a lunch appointment. Some members of the family had had to start eating without us (not an uncommon occurrence–lots of members lacked phones so we couldn’t call ahead to advise if circumstances prevented a timely arrival, and with lunch being the main meal, there was often a scramble to get kids with afternoon school out the door, or whatever), and when we arrived, they advised us there would be no need to pray, since the food had already been blessed. I thought it pretty amusing.

  23. Laura on September 5, 2013 at 12:14 am

    Also lifelong member, also raised in Southern California. I do not pray before restaurant meals. I had lunch with a friend the other day who was raised in Utah, and noticed she offered a silent prayer before the meal. I’ve only had one friend/dining companion who routinely prayed aloud before meals–a grad school classmate and non-denominational Christian. We ate together regularly as students, and when I was with him, he and I would take turns praying aloud. It’s not something I’ve really felt compelled to do on my own since then, but I thought it was a nice little ritual.

  24. Hedgehog on September 5, 2013 at 3:01 am

    British. Grew up Mormon.
    Situation dependent. In our family, sometimes we each say our own individual prayer silently, or if we are sitting close enough together and it isn’t too noisy then someone will voice the prayer quietly, without drawing the attention of everyone around us.
    As far as the kid’s packed lunches for school goes, that happens before they leave home in the morning. Our Asperger’s OCD-susceptible child very likely says their own silent individual prayer at school too though, they often do at home.

  25. Hedgehog on September 5, 2013 at 3:13 am

    Mark, Laura, I’ve noticed similar cards in the London Temple in the past, which do specify the food has been blessed. I think if you got to the canteen early enough, you would be present for the blessing, but otherwise not. I have wondered if they are there to prevent judgement of those who don’t appear to be praying before they eat.
    Still, I’m with mapinguari too, I feel giving thanks, is just as, if not more important than a blessing, and I like to add my personal gratitude briefly and silently before eating (though not with any outward display). And the traditional set prayers for mealtimes in this country do concentrate on the thanks, and don’t seem to be a blessing as such, so far as I’m aware.

  26. Nathaniel Givens on September 5, 2013 at 8:05 am

    No. Virginia, where praying before a restaurant meal is not all that uncommon.

    The title of this post and narrator’s comment are intriguing as well. Maybe this has been answered in the bloggernacle already, but I’ve long wondered about the notion of “blessing” the food. I’m all for giving thanks, but I make a point not to bless the food – especially for the strengthening and nourishing of my body. – mapinguari

    Ditto all of this. (Even the state.)

  27. JKC on September 5, 2013 at 8:30 am

    I like to save time by just praying over the whole lot of groceries when I get back from the store.

  28. J Town on September 5, 2013 at 8:57 am

    Born and raised in the South, and raised in the church. I always pray over my food, in public or private. In public, if alone or with a group of people who do not generally pray (such as co-workers), then I say a silent prayer. If with family, I say a quiet prayer with them. I will point out that it is not a “performance”, nor does it have anything to do with anyone else. It is what I do. Other people being present does not deter me in the slightest, though I do keep my voice down so as to be respectful and not disturb anyone.

    I find it fascinating that some people would consider that Pharisaic, but I suppose each person will judge as they see fit. I also do not understand why saying a public prayer would be in any way embarrassing, but I guess everyone’s comfort level is different also.

  29. Owen on September 5, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    From Utah and Idaho. No, we don’t pray over meals when we eat out. We always do at home. Everyone else “blesses” it, but I make a point of just being thankful. LDS waistlines, perfectly normal cases of food poisoning, etc are ample evidence that God has no intention of saving us from our own poor choices and carelessness.

  30. CS Eric on September 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    It is standard practice in the temples to bless all the cafeteria food at the beginning of the day. It was one of the things my uncle, who was for a time the temple president for the LA temple, loved most about that calling. And if one of the cafeteria workers was late coming in, he would occasionally chip in and help, more than once embarassing a visiting general authority who thought that beneath a temple president’s dignity.

  31. Jax on September 5, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    My mission president gave us a good 20 minute rant on why he thought “blessing” the food was fairly foolish. He figured, and I tend to agree, that the nutritional content of our food isn’t going to change because of our prayer. If we want health, choose healthy. Don’t ask for a blessing on donuts and expect the health of vegetables. Mostly prayers before food should be for gratitude in his mind. But if you need to ask for a blessing, why do we want the “Food” blessed? Don’t we want “us” to be blessed? So why not ask for the blessing directly upon us instead of on the food?

    Food for thought!

  32. Kevin Barney on September 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    I never pray in restaurants. Raised in Illinois. To tie into Jonathan’s current thread, when I visited Ricks I noticed that virtually everyone prayed vocally over their cafeteria food. It struck me as putting on a pharisaical show of super-righteousness or something.

    And I’m shocked, shocked, that we haven’t managed to convert you from New York style pizza to deep dish.

  33. M. Buxton on September 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Grew up in Utah, now live on the East Coast. Don’t pray before eating in restaurants. Generally do pray before eating a picnic at a park or while camping at a campground. Always pray before eating at home (even if I have non-members, atheists, etc. joining). If I am eating at someone else’s home, I let them take the lead on whether a prayer will be offered.

    I remember the issue coming up for me at the MTC cafeteria. When I was there, a majority of the missionaries (though not all) offered a quick silent prayer–a practice I adopted, although it felt a little unfamiliar. I remember one elder in our district would offer quite long silent prayers before meals (about a minute or longer). Several of us in the district (for a variety of reasons) were convinced it was a Pharisaic affect.

  34. Cameron on September 6, 2013 at 1:24 am

    Sam, as a Mariner’s fan now living in San Diego, might I suggest that ‘all things are possible to them that believe’?

  35. Sharee on September 8, 2013 at 2:15 pm

    A speaker at BYU Education Week one time told a story of going to dinner at a restaurant with President Hunter. This brother was unsure of whether or not to bless the food, until Pres Hunter stated that he always blessed the food he would eat each day in his morning prayers. Since that time, I have done the same. I give thanks for and ask for a blessing on the food I will eat that day in my regular prayers. I do have friends in the Jehovah’s Witness faith who do pray silently over meals at restaurants, which is fine with me.

  36. jader3rd on September 9, 2013 at 1:22 am

    On my mission a family who had been members for almost a year asked me about blessing the food for a meal where everyone started at a different time (usually breakfast). My response was “First person blesses the food. So long as they’re still eating when the next person starts it ‘carries over’. Except for Mom. Mom always makes everyone stop eating and says a new prayer.”

  37. Mary on September 9, 2013 at 11:10 pm

    When I am alone, I bow my head and give a “moment of silence” where I “say” a prayer in my heart. When I am out with family, we have a prayer same as at home. We believe that it is not about showing others but our personal convictions about the importance of prayer. I am a life-long member, my husband is a convert and we are from the Pacific Northwest.

  38. Raymond Takashi Swenson on September 19, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    I have heard stories a number of times through my life of people who ate out with visiting general authorities who did not pray over the meal. There was an article a few years back in one of the FARMS publications that described an older tradition of AFTER the meal, and being full, blessing GOD in gratitude for being fed.

    On one occasion eating out in Biloxi, Mississippi with some local folks, one of them asked us to join hands and led us in a prayer thanking God for the food. Not something I observed at any other tables, though.

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