Bless This Food: Ancient and Contemporary Graces from Around the World by Adrian Butash

Bless This Food
Bless This Food

Bless This Food was a delightful surprise for me. I thought the book would be more of a reference work, something I’d use like a dictionary. I thought I’d look up a particular prayer in the index, read the one prayer, and then close the book until the next time I wanted a new food

I’m glad I was wrong. It is more like a fine meal, where every garnish on the plate and every aroma commands attention along with the food.

The book itself is beautiful; the satin silky cover has a gorgeous rendering of two pears, and it is printed on 100% post-waste recycled paper using soy-based ink. The dedication (“to my mother and father, who taught me how to pray”) touched my heart. The acknowledgements were
written in the form of a blessing, rather than the more typical thanks seen in other books. The pages have pretty embellishments down the margin. Remember what I said about garnishes on the plate? I felt all these details were lush garnishes on the plate of the fine meal that
was this book.

Do not skip over the introduction to get to the graces. It’s only 25 pages long, and well worth your effort. Think of it as the appetizer, for it will certainly sharpen your appetite for the rest of the book. The author discusses the spiritual meaning of food blessings, and
dining customs from many different cultures. There is bound to be something in this section you did not know before, and it is beautifully written.

The food blessings are arranged chronologically in the book, with a few exceptions. In the cases of the exceptions, the author decided to arrange some prayers thematically instead. Most of the prayers are followed by a block of commentary in italics that explores the author
or the culture a bit. I found myself wanting all the prayers to have that block of commentary; the few that were identified with only one line, such as “Ancient Hindu blessing said before meals (2500-600 BC)” tantalized me. Where had he found the quote? When was it originally
discovered? Where? In what format? They were those mysterious flavors in a dish that enchant your tongue but you can’t identify.

The book is very thorough in its coverage. Two blessings are in American Sign Language, and the words “bless this food” were translated into nineteen languages to create a delightful visual dessert for this satisfying meal of a book. I was also pleased to discover the book
contains an index of first lines. I think that will be very useful for the reader in finding that perfect grace for a special occasion.

Bless This Food  would make a lovely gift for your next dinner host or hostess. I highly recommend it.

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