Mealtime Prayers: Connecting with the Earth

Growing a garden with my children has taught me a lot of things, but first and foremost it has taught me how important connecting with our food is.  It is the most important gift the earth gives to us – the gift of life.  But for many, especially children who sometimes don’t even understand the concept intellectually, our food has become completely separated from the earth that grows and sustains it.  When my oldest was two, we watched an episode of Sesame Street together; it showed how milk comes from cows and is sent to the grocery store.  My daughter’s mind was blown!  She actually didn’t know that milk was made by animals – which surprised me, but I soon remembered that kids often just don’t know what we don’t teach them.  I hadn’t made it a priority to teach her about our vital and necessary connection to where our food comes from, and so of course she didn’t know!

At the time, we were living in a rather small apartment, and didn’t have any growing space – even a balcony – to call our own.  Of course, we could read books about plants, visit relatives with gardens or farms, and that helped a lot.  But how could we keep this knowledge present in our day-to-day lives, actually foster that understanding and connection for her?  One way I found was through mealtime prayers.

At mealtime, not only do we thank the Earth Mother in general for giving us the food that sustains our lives; but we make time to specifically thank each being that went into the creation of our meal.  It becomes a chant of sorts, especially if there are a lot of ingredients (plus, this sort-of listing of ingredients is a great incentive to keep processed food off the table – those ingredient lists can get long!).  For a simple cheese pizza, it would go something like this:

Thank you, wheat, for your gift.
May your sacrifice nourish and strengthen us.
Thank you, yeast, for your gift.
May your sacrifice nourish and strengthen us.
Thank you, tomato, for your gift.
May your sacrifice nourish and strengthen us.
Thank you, basil, for your gift.
May your sacrifice nourish and strengthen us.
Thank you, cow, for your gift.
May your sacrifice nourish and strengthen us.
Thank you, Earth Mother, for all your gifts.

It has often inspired discussions of how a particular ingredient fits into the meal – the first time we prayed thank-yous for our

pizza, my daughter asked how on earth wheat got in there!  We were able to have a wonderful discussion about how flour is made.  In this way, she and my other children are learning more and more about their food, and where it comes from, every day.

With this food that You have grown,
come from seeds that You have sown,
Thank you for your gifts, Earth Mother,
we will share them with each other.

In this way, even the littlest children at the table are constantly reminded of just where their food is coming from, and are able to begin building an understanding of how the earth gives life to all.

  • http://www.youtube.com/ac1dchr15t ac1d

    One of the few reasons I’m thankful for Catholic school is that in grammar school we prayed before lunch. I have long long since lost those so called Christian values and have gained my own, but I still do to try to remember to pray and give thanks at least once a day before lunch.


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