Everyone likes to eat; in fact, everyone has to eat. Adrian Butash, author of Bless This Food, is no different in this regard. What sets him apart is his dedication to truly appreciating every meal for the blessing that it is, and giving thanks for the friends with whom he’s gathered-and not just on Thanksgiving Day.
Bless This Food is a painstakingly researched compilation of prayers, blessings, and meditations on the enjoyment of hospitality, companionship, and food, of course, drawn from thousands of years of history and 38 different countries and cultures. Some blessings will be familiar to almost everyone, such as the traditional Lord’s Prayer. Others, such as an ancient Meso-American prayer dating back to 1300 bce-one of Butash’s favorites-has probably not been commonly used for 3,000 years. This Nahuatl blessing contains the words, “God has sent me as a messenger. I am transformed into a poem.” It is this type of language, with a beauty transcending the message, that attracted Butash to the project.
While he believes that it is beneficial to families to take a few moments “to say something lovely before you just chow down and eat,” it’s not just the religious aspect of the blessings Butash thinks is important-it’s honoring traditions of hospitality and togetherness that have lasted since human prehistory. The writing of the book was inspired by a desire to see these traditions resurrected and used in everyday modern life. Religious and cultural differences are common, and have become highly politicized. According to Butash, “hospitality and love of friends are all-inclusive.” If there’s one thing that can give any group of people common ground, it’s eating, drinking, and making merry.
Of course poetic language is also common to all cultures, which is why Butash searched long and hard to find examples from every time and place. Alongside traditional prayers from every major world religion and many lesser known creeds, he’s placed quotes from Shakespeare, from an ancient Chinese poet named Ch’eng-kung Sui, and from Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief who allied with the British in the War of 1812.
Although many of these sources are secular, even religious readers who would prefer to use traditional graces and blessings at their tables will find something of interest in this book. “The majority of people who do have a religion don’t know the source of the blessings,” Butash said. “The historical context is a refresher course.”
For Butash, “a circle of friends is the ultimate blessing.” It is in this spirit, in addition to religious feeling, that Bless This Food can be savored. Butash hopes that children and guests, often left out of saying grace at a meal because of youth or unfamiliarity with family traditions, can be included in the ritual through the use and enjoyment of this book. And, he has a more ambitious hope-that the “honesty, integrity, and general respect” inherent in every one of these blessings will inspire the same feelings in the reader, as they have for him and for his family. “What this book can do is really exciting,” Butash said, “and that is to bring people together.”
Adrian Butash will hold a signing for Bless This Food at the downtown Borders Books & Music on Tuesday, November 20, at 7 p.m. For more information, call 899-3668.