Has saying grace before meals fallen out of favour? As a ‘learn-by-wrote’ prayer or thankful phrase said before or after eating a meal, I get the feeling it’s a lot less said than it used to be. On the other hand, if we look upon grace as a statement of awareness, a word of thanks, or even a silent appreciation of the food we eat – where it has come from, who has prepared it, who we are sharing it with – then I think lots of us who share meals (or dine alone) are still saying our own form of grace.
I have been sharing a lot of meals lately during my stay in Yorkshire. Creamy fish pie with Y. and D. on the night of my arrival; the perfect comfort food to accompany the inch of snow that lay outside. I had a sneaky scrape around the edges of the casserole dish for the crispy bits by way of seconds. The next morning I attended a fundraising brunch, sharing a table with some friends and some strangers. Danish pastries, coffee, orange juice, fresh fruit – I’d already had too much of it all by the time the bacon rolls were served. How is it, against all odds, one can always find space for a bacon roll? “I won’t eat again today”, I promised myself as I rolled through York’s Museum Gardens after the brunch, feeling as stuffed as my weekend bag. Eat again I did, though – a pork roast that evening with R. and J., balancing out my morning carb-fest with their generous side servings of jewelled roasted vegetables. “Blackberry and apple crumble?” R. offered after the main course. “Oh, yes please, just a little.” Yet again, somehow, I found a little space.
Sunday dawned, and I was on the move again, this time to visit C. and C. across Bradford way. I arrived to hugs and my first mince pie of the season, a big pot of tea and a catch up. ‘Ribollita’ was on the menu for lunch. “No, I’ve never tasted it”, I told them. C. had prepared this Italian peasant style soup made with cavolo nero, carrots, spuds, thyme, cannellini beans – big, hearty and delicious. This time I left space for cheese: Cornish Yarg, goats-milk brie, and a Yorkshire blue. In a few days I will be back to cooking simple meals for one. In the meantime, I appreciate that I can share food with my friends, and we can talk and laugh at length over breakfasts, lunches and dinners, bonding over one of the very basics of life: food. For many of us this month will be marked by meals out and meals in. May we all value the grace to be had in the times we share food with friends and family. And it doesn’t need to be grand, we can be thankful for a nice slice of bread and butter.
I’m going to leave Yorkshire now to travel west a little and bring you ‘A Lancaster Grace’ that I hope will make you smile, as it did me.
“Give us Lord, a bit o’ sun,
a bit o’ work, and a bit o’ fun.
Give us all in the struggle and sputter,
our daily bread, and a bit o’ butter.”