18 January 2010

Grace for Pizza

At dinner last Friday night, I may have been privy to a small miracle. I said grace before I ate.

I know that is far less than the Shroud of Turin, or blood oozing from the marble eyes of statued saints, but it is wondrous for me. It is also puzzling and unsettling. I haven't said grace in over twenty years gone, and I am at a loss to explain why I said it last Friday. I'm not devoutly religious (understatement is a sideline of mine), I am nominally a Lutheran (although Zen Lutheran might be more accurate) and it was no high holy day of which I am aware (and no, I was not high, either). So what gives?

I'm not sure. As many long-time readers know, I have a serious God problem I have been dealing with over the last few years. The thought of me offering up a prayer of thanks seems a bit of a stretch.

But there I was, in my favorite local casual eatery of the counter-service Italian variety, head bowed over a big fresh salad and a prosciutto pizza. I didn't say anything aloud, but in my head I was giving thanks for having the food to eat and the means to procure. I was giving thanks for having made it through another busy and stress-filled workweek. I was giving thanks for being safe and sound and not being in the middle of misery such as has been inflicted upon the poor citizens of Haiti. I was giving thanks for being able to give thanks, if that makes sense.

So I opened my eyes, took fork in hand and set to upon the salad. Fresh and green and crunchy, it was the perfect starter for the pizza. One bite of the pizza and I had the feeling that, yes, I should be thankful for it. It was crisp and hot and chewy. It was just what I needed right then and there, in that moment. I chewed placidly and settled into that contentment that arises from having basic needs well met.

In the middle of my second slice, I stopped chewing and sat up straight in my chair as I was seized by the sudden illuminatory thought: To whom or what had I been offering up my thanks?

You see, not once in my recitation did I mention the names of God. I say 'names' deliberately, because in this context I am including all manifestations of a Higher Power. I start there, because my upbringing is in the Christian tradition, but am by no means implying that is the only tradition that my be applicable to my situation.

So I'm at the table with a mouthful of excellent pizza, a head full of theological fireworks, and wondering where came the prayers. Then I smiled and felt the grace come back. Savoring the taste of the crust, the cheese all warm and melty, I realized I didn't have to identify the focus of my attention.

I was warm and without hunger. Full mind, full belly: that is enough. Give thanks.


  1. Oh, I do know what you mean! I was brought up a Christian but am now a Pantheist (with bits of Wiccan thrown in lol) and, even now, I find myself saying, "Thank you Lord" in my head at appropriate moments. At other times it's not as personal, but directed at the universe for providing our family's needs. I don't think the most important thing is to whom we're directing our gratitude, but that we're feeling that way at all..... and it's a good feeling.

  2. I've been following your winter poetry slam with great interest; I wanted to wait until you were finished posting it to tell you how incredibly touching it was. And it was very touching.

    As for giving thanks - well, you know how I feel about it. But I don't think the act of being grateful for what we have and acknowledging it necessarily requires a higher power, if that makes sense.

  3. and we give thanks for you.

    most of the time.


  4. I used to say grace, religiously. Then I stopped, because I didn't mean it. Now I've started saying grace again, giving thanks when genuinely meant, is a good thing.

  5. There's something about the contrast of this world that causes spontaneous gratitude. And in many cases, it is grace. No need to worry about who or where just yet.
    Awesome post, Gumby.

  6. Most of the time I say Edna before a meal, 'cause I never met Grace.

    But seriously, I'm a Buddhist, and often I pray, or invoke God at particular times of joy and sadness. There are moments in our lives when reality and our understanding of it are so profound that the only words coming close to making sense are prayers and Hallelujahs. At all the Zen retreats I've attended, we've said a meal prayer. At moments of astounding beauty, sometimes all we can say is, "My God, it's full of stars."

  7. One should always give thanks to the gods of cured Italian pork and melted cheese.

  8. It doesn't matter to 'whom' you gave your thanks. You took the time to be thankful and felt decidedly better for doing so.

  9. being mindful and grateful helps us stay real. Saying grace is a nice way to add a little grateful ritual into our existence. It's gentle and pure.

  10. Kind of reminds me of how we used to leave a bit of beer in the bottom of the glass as an offering to the "Beer Gods". So I guess if anything you are giving thanks to Za (the god of Pizza and all things cheesy).

    And many thanks to wonderful posts like these that bring us into perspective over seemingly mundane things like eating pizza.

  11. I know what you mean about the God problem. I've been struggling for the past 5 years. But I still say a Hail Mary for a safe trip when I get in the car, especially if the weather is bad (thanks Mom).

  12. prosciutto pizza is enough to say grace for

    i forget who said that there's no sense in preaching to people with empty bellies or something like that

    and "bellies" are any bellies that need filling

  13. I do agree, very wholeheartedly.

  14. I get all of that. I am thankful for so much.

  15. I've had those moments. And I am oh so thankful for all the things you mentioned but I'm never quite sure WHO to thank. It's sort of like the good feeling I have after attending church with my mother once or twice a year. I truly leave feeling good but then reality checks in and, you know.....


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...