November brings a splash of colored leaves before they fall to the ground, thoughts of gratitude as we contemplate God’s blessings, family gatherings around the three-leaved table, acorns and hickory nuts in the yard, preludes of Christmas with neighborhood lights popping up and Christmas music playing in the grocery store, money-saving shopping opportunities and of course, Thanksgiving Day. Ah, the feast of turkey and dressing at Mama’s house. Nothing beats her sweet potato casserole with its brown sugar pecan glaze. And there’s the large pot of giblet gravy simmering on the stovetop. We can’t have an O’Kelley family Thanksgiving without giblet gravy with its mushroom bits, boiled eggs, chopped livers and gizzards mixed in a combination of creamy soups and broths. The joke has become that I like a little turkey and dressing with my gravy! Truth is, if my plate is not floating in giblet gravy, then I don’t have enough. My niece’s homemade rolls, my younger sister’s cranberry salad, my older sister’s green bean casserole, and my husband’s smoked turkey breasts all add to the salivating stimuli of Thanksgiving lunch. O Lord, bless this glorious food!
Saying grace, as it is often referred to, is a universal sacrament common to every known society. Giving thanks before a meal is the prayer most often spoken around the world. The blessing of food is an act of worship that acknowledges the bounty and daily sustenance as gifts for our well-bing. The experience of sharing food connects people. Meetings, parties, reunions, celebrations, even funerals incorporate the element of food.
Did you know there are at least thirty-five Bible verses that refer to the blessing of food? Here are some of the more memorable passages: • the Lord’s Prayer when Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). • Jesus feeds the 5,000 in Matthew chapter 14. He first blessed the food and then gave thanks. • the Lord’s Supper representing the blessing of bread and wine symbolizing the body and blood of our Lord who gave His life for the sin of the world and for the redemption of man (Luke 22). • Manna from heaven for the Israelites who complained after being delivered from bondage in Egypt (Exodus 16)
Have you ever been to a Seder? The Jewish Passover Seder reminds me of not only numerous blessings for food but also for the blessing of deliverance as it observes the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt. Multiple generations of families gather around the table to share a ritual of food, sing songs and listen to a retelling of the story of the great exodus from Egypt. I have attended a few Seders in my lifetime and each time I am awed by the wonder of God’s provision, love and power expressed through the Jewish people. Their remembrance and celebration are sure to touch anyone who attends.
As I prepared this blog, I came across a surprising number of blessings for food from different religions and cultures all across the globe. Some blessings I considered sacrilegious or downright silly while others were traditional and childlike. Here are a few:
“Bless us O Lord for These Thy Gifts which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.” (Traditional Catholic prayer)
My family often has silent grace when each of us talks to the One who is truly listening. After a few moments, my husband says, “Amen.”
“Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub.” “Lord, bless this food to our nourishment, and us to Your service. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” “Christ God, bless the food and drink of Thy servants, for Thou art holy, always, now and ever, and to the ages. Amen.” (Traditional Eastern Orthodox prayer) “Lazarus rose, Moses led, Noah built, Jesus fed. Amen.” “Good food, good meat, good Lord, let’s eat. Amen.”
Here are some prayers we teach children about giving thanks for their food:
To the tune of Frere Jacques (“Brother John”): “God our Father, God our Father, We thank you, We thank you, For our many blessings, For our many blessings, A-men, A-men.”
“God is great, God is good. Let us thank him for our food. By his hand, we are fed, give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.” (This is the one my parents taught me.)
“We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all, we love each other. Thank you, Lord, for our food. Amen.”
“Thank you for the world so sweet. Thank you for the things we eat. Thank you for the birds that sing. Thank you, God, for everything.”
I love the Thanksgiving tradition at the O’Kelley house when we all stand in a circle holding hands as one person is chosen to voice a prayer of thanksgiving. Sometimes it is preceded by a devotional thought or sentiments shared by each concerning a particular blessing in their life that year. The important thing is we recognize God’s abundant blessings collectively as a family as well as individually. “And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the Lord your God has blessed you” (Deuteronomy 12:7).
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, if you are looking for a good fruit recipe, you might try this one acquired from Aunt Patsy at a family reunion. I’ve used it many times with good results.
Apples and Cheese 4-5 red or green apples peeled and sliced (the firmer the better) *The recipe actually calls for 1 can of sliced apples (not pie filling) but I prefer to use green apples. 1 cup sugar ¾ cup all-purpose flour 1 stick butter 1 8-oz package of Velveeta cheese (softened)
Drain apples (if canned) and place in 8 x 8” dish. Cream butter, flour, sugar, and cheese. Cover and bake 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
With all this talk of food, it makes me think of my anticipation to one day sit at the table in heaven to feast in the company of Jesus Christ, of His disciples, of prophets, of angels, of my Daddy, and many others whom I have loved who have gone before me. I imagine the food will taste divine. Hey, I bet there will be giblet gravy, too!