For millennia, we humans have had our most important conversations, forged our strongest, alliances, and made our biggest decisions at the same location. The dinner table.
In every corner of the globe, family traditions have been passed down through recipes, ceremonial serving items (Grandma Pearl’s set of fine china or Uncle Hazzba’s after-dinner hookah), and stories shared over meals.
The sacred before-meal prayer—offering thanks for the bounty and abundance that feeds and nourishes our bodies—in the many forms it takes across cultures, has been a grounding reminder for even the smallest family members about the importance of being grateful for what we have.
Sadly, I see these rituals becoming less common in our busy modern lives. Families gather around the television instead of the hearth, individuals interact with their devices instead of each other, or food is grabbed from a package while on the run. Meanwhile, many are longing for more connection to each other, to the Earth, and to spirit.
The conscious preparation and sharing of food as a sacred ritual is a powerful binding force for families and communities. When we lovingly prepare food together, and serve it with gratitude, we receive more than just physical nourishment. The secret ingredient in every tenderly prepared dish around the world is the same: love.
Growing up in my own family, my grandfather Nick (my namesake) was a keeper of his family’s cooking tradition, and instilled in me a deep reverence for food and all of its delicious magic.
Grandpa Nick grew up as a baker’s son in Brooklyn. He learned from his parents how to make a hundred different traditional Italian/Sicilian dishes, including the best bread you’ve ever eaten. I spent entire days helping my grandparents cook in the in-law apartment we built for them in our basement. My grandfather’s meticulous way of preparing the ingredients, cooking each dish, and cleaning up while he went along was meditative.
I used to get tingles up my spine just watching them prepare the homemade manicotti, the white bean and escarole soup, and the pulpita salad with fresh octopus. He’d lick his upper lip—an indicator that he was really concentrating on a difficult maneuver, while tucking the semolina dough under a delicately positioned ravioli. Each moment in the kitchen felt so rich, so tranquil, so filled with intention, meaning, and joy. The way life should be.
My father still tells stories about the old days growing up. Sunday night dinners with all of his cousins, aunts, and uncles crowded around a huge dinner table crammed into a tiny little Brooklyn dining room, and how this was “where it all happened”. This is where stories of the old family were told, where my dad got to see his dad’s fluid banter with his uncles, and witness his mom’s playful gossip with her sisters. One big family melting pot, where everyone one was noticed and loved. And the food was delicious.
Everyone in my family knew their way around the kitchen, but Grandpa Nick’s cooking was the stuff of legend. His food bedazzled the taste buds of many of my friends, but the greatest impact he made on us came before we even lifted our forks to our mouths.
The man said the most powerful grace I’ve ever heard. Lucid, devotional, inspirational, humble, vulnerable – an entranced conversation with God.
If you were in our family, you knew the drill, and if you were a newcomer you learned it quick. Once the food was laid out and everyone was seated, my grandfather would look around the table and make gentle eye contact with everyone. Then he’d reach for the hand of the person seated to his right and left, prompting them to do the same, until the circle was complete and connected.
He would close his eyes, bow his head, and in a fast, rhythmic cadence, pray to God to bless the food, shed his light and love on everyone at the table, and then thank him over and over again for all that he had given us. This wasn’t for show; it was a communication.
When he was complete, he’d open his eyes, lift his head, and with a sweet smile on his face say, “Are you ready eat?” And then we’d all dig in. Grandpa Nick always served everyone else first, before himself. But the 5-foot-8, 140-pound Sicilian could eat the rest of us under the table!
I am doing my best to follow my grandfather’s example. In my own family, we have a “no devices at the dinner table” rule. We may not make everything we eat from scratch, but we do take the time to ponder the origin of our food and bless our meals for the sustenance they provide our body, mind, and spirit. Mealtime is a time for us to be fully present with one another, setting aside the hustle and bustle of the day.
If you would like to bring more sacredness into the preparation and sharing of food in your home, below are 3 blessings that may inspire you :
A Unitarian Blessing
Blessed be the Earth for giving birth to this food
Blessed be the Sun for nourishing it
Blessed be the Wind for carrying its seed
Blessed be the Rain for quenching its thirst.
Blessed be the hands that helped to grow this food,
To bring it to our tables
To nourish our minds, bodies, and spirits.
Blessed be our friends, our families, and our loved ones.
From the Native American Iroquois Tradition
We return thanks to the corn, and to her sisters,
the beans and squashes, which give us life.
We return thanks to the bushes and trees,
which provide us with fruit.
We return thanks to the Great Spirit,
in who is embodied all goodness,
and who directs all things for the good of his children.
Meal Prayer adapted from Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh
May the food we are eating make us aware of the
interconnections between Universe and us,
Earth and us, and all other living species and us.
Because each bite contains in itself the life of Sun and Earth.
May we see the meaning and value of life from these
precious morsels of food.
A parting question: do you have any spiritual practices around the dinner table in your house? If so, we would love to hear about them in the “share your wisdom” section below!
Director, The Sacred Science
I loved reading about your family traditions at the table, in my family from youngest to oldest we would join hands and say:- Thank you for the food before us, thank you to the friends beside us, thank you for the love between us, Blessed Be! More often than not the little ones would clap and whoop at this point, we would then eat.
I grew blessing food befor we ate and giving thanks after we ate. That is the Catholic way.
I can only assume you picked the 3 prayers to be politically correct.
i just feel like i need to thank you, Nick, for this post. (And your other posts, i just never felt as compelled?) i’m grateful for this sharing of rituals and “The Sacred Science” motto – calling to honor, preserve, and protect the ancient knowledge and rituals of the indigenous peoples of the world.
While growing up we did say “Grace” before our dinner time meals. But i never realized the importance of it. All i remember is doing the eye-roll, as kids will do, when they are not taught about the “why”.
Dear Nick, This post is a gem. 🙂 I always enjoy your newsletters – no matter how busy I am, I try to slow down and read them. So many nuggets of wisdom. I grew up in a Catholic household, and like Denise, we said “Grace” before our meals. “Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty through Christ our Lord, Amen.” Nowadays, I’m more likely to direct my thanks to our Great Mother, the Earth, and all that she provides for us. Thank you for sharing the beautiful blessings. Here’s another one – “Earth who gives to us this food, sun who makes it ripe and good, dear earth dear sun by you we live, our loving thanks to you we give” — Waldorf blessing
In my family of origin where I was raised Catholic, my dad always said grace before and after meals. I appreciated that respectfulness and humility. As an adult, I declared as a Baha’i. I read a Tablet to the Physician once that a person can choose to read before meals to bless the food, which is quite lengthy. At the bottom of the Tablet it says, if you don’t want to read the whole Tablet you can say, “The Glorious” meaning giving thanks to God who is the Glorious. So… as an adaptation… at my house, we clink our glasses or silverware together and say, Bon Appetit, The Glorious! Then we proceed to eat the delicious food.
Thank you nick for the affirmation and all the work that you do! I would like to share my own food prayer..
Thank you for this food!
Thank you for my many blessings!
Thank you for every moment that is a blessing and an opportunity to learn and grow.
Thank you Mother Earth, father sky, and all the elements for producing this food, thank you farmers and all the hands that have touched it, transporting it and preparing it.
Thank you for the love that is within me. Let it flow into this food, that it may flow through my body as nourishment and good clean energy, that will be transmuted back into love that spills out of me into the people around me and into the universe to the starving bellies of those who cannot eat today.
Thanks for including the wonderful prayers!! Since I go thru a list of what all I am thankful for in the morning which includes all the food I have to eat and all the food for my pets, along with other times throughout the day when I have a few minutes to give thanks for day and all it brings, I do not feel the urge to have to say grace over every meal, some of which I do eat on the run and might just give a short thanks and ask to bless my food and carry on. I eat food all day every day and really don’t have set mealtimes being single. Now what is funny is that I have a dog, Pedro who was a man of the cloth in another life and when I feed him breakfast I must say grace over his food or he will not eat it. Sometimes I have to say grace twice before he will dig in. Friends have witnessed this and think it is hilarious!! I do ask for all my pets food to be blessed to their bodies and for joy and happiness to fill their lives.
I was at a retreat in the UK some years ago where a Minister’s son was asked to say ‘grace’.
Mistake! The child recited ” For bread and butter cheese and toast , praise Father Son and Holy Ghost”.
His father eyed him with the eye of thunder.
Hi Nick, Yes, I give gratitude to my every single meal for the last ten years. I first ground my self between the source energy and earth and give my gratitude to universe, sun, water, earth, plants, animals,farmers, merchants , my husband for earning and me for cooking.
Your articles are very interesting. Thank you so much.
If I am in too much of a hurry, or distracted or in a bad mood I always light my special kitchen candle while I am preparing a meal to nurture gratitude and mindfulness and love as I cook.
Here is a prayer I wrote a few years ago and I am happy to share.
“Beloved I Am Presence Bright,
Bless us all as we delight,
In this gourmet meal within our sight,
Filling us all with healing, loving,
We give thanks for every bite!”
Love this post. It is so needed in this age where so many grab a burger, milkshake and fries and eat on the run, texting or phoning someone at the same time! Perhaps if we all simply ate mindfully and gratefully, paying attention to how the food we eat affects our bodies, we would not have a problem with obesity.
Beautiful reminder. I especially enjoyed and will use the Unitarian blessing. Thanks, Nick! It was fun to think about your grandpa master-minding the meal too. I can taste the ravoli!
Thank you Nick for this post and all the others too. When I see a Sacred Science post from you I always take pause for I know I am about to receive wisdom. I grew up Catholic and we always said “grace”. It was the standard prayer you could recite without thought to what you were really saying. I love your prayers of gratitude. I plan to make them a reality at each meal.
“Let the mealtime be more than the fulfillment of a necessity. In this case, food shall be prepared with grace and eaten with gratitude.” ~ anonymous
Your messages are powerful, accurate and well needed.
Thanks for doing this. Many need to hear it again.
Thankyou Nick for this wonderful post. I really enjoyed reading it. At our table we say: Thankyou earth for this food that we’re about to eat and the keepers of the earth whose gifts fulfil our needs. I really love the Unitarian blessing and might shake things up at our table and use it too. Much Gratitude x
“Bless this food. Bless its nourishment to our health. We gather to give thanks and open ourselves to that Great Mystery which goes by many names and shines in many practices. This practice, this Thanksgiving, this community: let this be an opportunity to open to the WIDEST POSSIBLE horizon of belonging and caring and sustenance. Amen”
Blessing I created for our annual “orphan” potluck Thanksgiving in my small neighborhood. A relatively new tradition, that I am asked to bless this annual gathering.
We need to be the example to our children, we, meaning all adults must start thinking about WHAT we are teaching kids.
To thank the creator of all, is not even on the agenda, all because they have not been taught it.
It’s not necessary, food is plentiful here.
Many people are blind, the children will be more blind.
I think many are lost, may God help them.
I grew up in the United Church, & we said prayers before our meals. Heavenly Father, hear our prayer. We give thanks for these gifts we are about to receive, may we all be truely thankful. Bless this food to our bodies to help us to love & serve they. All this we ask in Jesus name. Amen. I have continued this tradition with my daughter, though our door is not always made from scratch, there is always lots of love added:-)
Love it, thanks for sharing!!!!
Wonderful article and very true that we all should give thanks before we eat and drink.
Mindfulness, in the moment, Gratitude for ALL we are given, Awareness of our Partnership with All-that-is in the creation and experience of having our physical and community needs met in abundance( more than we actually NEED), and expressed ( pressed out in vibration symbols we call words) is the essence of it always. And what could EVER be wrong with that? No thing.
I recall being advised that every one of us alive has always had what we needed even if we thought we didn’t. The question was, “are you still here?” and The answer was “If yes, you got what you needed, although not necessarily what you may have wanted.”
Thanks for this wonderful reminder. And for the variety of the 3 blessings. 3 is a catalyst and a magical number, also sacred.
What a great article and it really speaks to the heart of who I am and what I believe in. You simply really are what you eat, character and all!
I mainly am a man you spends most I his days alone these days, but I do take my time more in preparing and eating my food lately. I like to take my time and let all those lovely micro nutrients do their thing on me. 🙂 kind of a ritual I guess. I relax while eating…close my eyes sometimes. It’s quite lovely actually and something I never used to do, but then again as you get older you get more in touch with yourself.
Anyway, thank you for this awesome article.
Talk soon my friend.
Thank you, Nick, for posting this. The rich time that your family has spent around food and thanksgiving is enviable……and encouraging for me to get back to those “sacred” traditions. He has prompted me to want to gather my children and their families once a month for dinner to celebrate these simple traditions that fill us up more than the food. Peace and blessings, Jack
Thank you Nick for your encouraging us “to bless our food”.I identified with all you said and was particularly pleased to read “God” in verse “the man said the most powerful grace I’ve ever heard. Lucid, devotional, inspirational, humble, vulnerable – an entranced conversation with God.” I was raised a Catholic and we did not say grace at meals. A huge mistake. I have brought the Catholic grace into all our family gatherings and two of our sons say their own impromptu respectful graces and our grandchildren are encouraged to pray grace in their own words also or the traditional Catholic one they have learnt from school, parents and grandparents. Thank you for your encouraging words – a big rev-up to make sure i keep going with graces til my end. Blessings glenda rush grandmother
Love this post! Thank you so much!
Along with Grace and Thanks I add “May all sentient being have always enough food to eat” (from the Yoga of Offering Food – by Lama Zopa Rinpoche)!
Thank you for this reminder. I grew up saying a blessing at each meal with my family just as you describe. As I have lived alone for many decades, I have not maintained this sacred practice on my own. I will now begin . . . again.
Tables at our house were always round, representing the circle of life. Each meal marked the next person’s turn for prayer offerings. Although we each had our own, my favorite was always giving thanks to Creator for the food, and to ask for blessings to the spirits that left these robes to nourish us.
Check out one of the largest food blessing ceremonies in the city of Csikszereda, Romania!
I thank you for your words of inspiration of your dear grandpa,it brought back beautiful memories of Sunday dinners growing up in a loving home,MY MOMA ,NONA,and family. I am so happy to have found your website.
Your story warmed my heart and brought a smile to my face
Our family grew up singing praise songs before every meal we would also hold hands before eating then we would pray
Each person said a prayer in turn around the table expressing our individual thankfulness
The as one unit we would sing a round of amens together
It was a beautiful tradition praising God and Mother Earth for all that was provided
No devices back then to ban
just encouraged conversation about our days and those conversations followed our prayers
Thank you so much for sharing your story
I so enjoy your newsletter! Thank you!
I wanted to share a prayer I learned from Gaia Women of the Great Lakes. It is sung and was adapted from a poem by Alice Corbin Henderson called, The Harvest. If you are interested in the melody, let me know and I could send a voice memo of it. It is called, The Blessing Song:
The falling rain, the shining sun, the fields where scarlet poppies run
And sheaves of shining, golden wheat, are in the bread that I do eat
So when I sit for every meal, with grateful heart I always feel
That I am eating rain and sun, and fields where Scarlett poppies run
BLESSINGS!!! And many thanks for all you do to keep this valuable information
Available and affordable!
Recently found a prayer from the Indians: Remember to bless the food before the meal. Mentioned that to family and she said that does not make sense. To me it is a new thought. Thanking God for His bounty is separate from blessing the food itself before you as if it is a living thing. The focus is a new paradigm that adds a higher dimension to prayer before meal. It makes the fruit and vege and bread worthy of gratitude. Seems to make the food holy or in a sense sacred. The indians are correct. We are all interconnected on our earth.
“Politically correct”? Why include political aspects where there is only love, love for God, love for family members, love for the food brought by the work of other beings.. Giving 3 different prayers is another way of showing love to some other humans who have different sensitivity, different preferences for some other wordings… Can’t just we take it the way it is presented? simply, with the aim to serve others?
With love from France where food is also an art…
Some Indian families generally have the tradition of keeping aside the first morsel to be given to an animal , be it a pet or stray. Some families also have a ritual of rendering their food sacred before eating by sprinkling water around their plate while also saying their prayers.