Al Batt: The blessing of giving a blessing on the food

Published 9:52 pm Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

I had an acute case of happy to be there.

I remember it as if it were yesterday. A yesterday pulled from a giant pile of yesterdays.

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I was a guest and I was wearing two different kinds of shoes. I’d lost one when a cow manure pile’s suction had pulled it off. I don’t think anyone noticed. The shoes looked just alike other than the colors.

We’d washed up for supper. In those days, we ate breakfast, dinner and supper.

We hoped the meal was marked for success. We were boys addicted to food. We trusted that the food would be a fine and comfortable fit for our stomachs.

We sat around the table, waiting for the blessing to be said or sung.

There were a number of common ones.

“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”

“Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. These mercies bless and grant that we may feast in paradise with thee. Amen.”

“Be present at our table, Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. These mercies bless and grant that we may strengthen for thy service be. Amen.”

“I give thanks for all the wonderful food, most of which my diet won’t let me eat.”

“Thanks” is always good unless you’re having a nothing burger.

Some try to turn a blessing into a novel, but most truncate it severely. The main thing was to avoid disdain and disapproval.

It was hard to sound joyful over a plate of steamed broccoli and we faced an unavoidable opponent this day — a food we didn’t enjoy enough.

Salad would try to butt in, but we could stiff-arm it aside. We considered green foods other than green Jell-O to be foods that hadn’t ripened enough to eat.

The main entree was tuna noodle casserole with potato chips on top.

It was easier to say a proper grace over fried pork chops, but we realized that God had created tuna noodle casserole, too.

There was a carrot on a stick. Dessert. Always a pleasure. Never a chore. Much of life’s goodness was contained in desserts. It was rhubarb pie topped with ice cream. Yum.

The youngest of the host family, a youngster my age, was asked to say grace.

“Rub a dub dub. Thanks for the grub. Yay God!” said he.

I heard circus music. I nearly spit out my Tang. Tang was what the astronauts drank. I’d snuck a pre-grace sip of the stuff.

The blessing had proper meaning and was said in an enthusiastic way, but it could have used some wordsmithing.

His father laughed. His mother not so much.

She encouraged him to say another one, but he refused to let the same dog bite him twice.

I didn’t hear requests to give the blessing from my parents. I usually heard, “Elbows off the table,” or “Try chewing with your mouth closed and see how that works for you.”

But my time was coming.

I recall the first time that I was asked give the blessing before a meal. There was a sea of endless relatives seated around the table.

“Allen, would you please give the blessing.”

There was no question mark at the end of that sentence. I swallowed hard. It felt like my first day as a trapeze artist.

I was then as I am now, thankful for many things and desirous to express that gratitude. All my life, I’ve had an ample sufficiency of food. For that, I give thanks.

My blessing needed to be humble. And I owed the world an explanation for my gluttony or my rampant finickiness.

I thought that must be what it feels like to be an adult. It’s that kind of stress that made adults so cranky. You can’t eat and then say, “I’d like to change the blessing I gave.”

I wanted it to be more than just air filled with noise. I wanted to make a bold move that would earn me respect.

I was in the full flower of cluelessness, so I waited for inspiration that would come when turnips learned to whistle.

I decided to do some genre bending. I’d find a way out of my predicament without a map.

I expected this blessing would be a key scene in my biopic.

I lowered my voice and tried to sound like Johnny Cash.

“Thanks for letting me eat with you. Amen.”

Al Batt’s columns appear every Wednesday and Sunday.