Thursday, November 15, 2007


Growing up we always said grace before a meal.

If we were at Grandma and Grandpa's it went something like this: For these and all thy mercies Lord we give thanks, for Christ's sake, Amen. If I was at school or on my own, I invariably forgot grace and hoed straight into the food. At church camp we probably sang "God is great, God is good, and we thank him for our food". At beach mission we belted out "Thankyou Lord for giving us food" to the Superman theme music, arms raised as if flying.

To be honest, it was all a bit of a drag - either a joke or a token gesture tacked onto the beginning of a meal which I took for granted and was only moderately thankful for.

Somewhere along the way something changed. I have become exceedingly grateful for the food I eat and I say a heartfelt thankyou before every meal. Oh, that's not quite true. I still forget sometimes...

A number of things have brought about this change of heart. On a practical level, we are in the midst of the worst drought in Australian history. The promised spring and summer rains hardly fell and agriculture is becoming increasingly difficult. We're a developed country and probably have quite a few supplies squirreled away for just such occasions, but the cost of food is going up and up. I'm thankful that, for today, I have enough food to fill me and fuel me.

In the back of my mind are all the hungry people of the world. I don't feel guilty for having food, but as I chop vegetables and prepare meals I often remember that many people do not have this luxury. They don't have enough food to fill their growling stomachs. When I sit down to a plate piled high with nutritional goodness I say thankyou. Thankyou that I was born in a rich country, thankyou that we have an abundance of food, thankyou that all my needs are supplied.

Occasionally I eat vegetarian because I want to, but mostly I like meat, I eat it and I don't have a major problem with that. That was before I read a book called "The ethics of what we eat" (fantastic book by the way) and had my thinking challenged. I thought I was going to be told that (due to greenhouse gases produced by freight) I probably shouldn't buy that yummy pasta sauce from Italy even though it tastes one hundred times better than anything made in Australia; or I should be careful and not buy caged chickens, which I don't because Frank won't eat any chicken unless it was free range.

Those ideas are the proverbial tip of the iceberg! Ethical eating reaches far and wide, and if I take it seriously it will change all my dietary habits. I'm not quite ready for that, though I am dabbling in different aspects of it. Incidentally, buying food that has been transported half way around the globe may be more environmentally friendly (and thus more ethical) than buying local food and it may help to alleviate poverty.

The long and the short of it is that the most ethical way to eat is vegan - if you believe animals are as valuable as humans that is, and I'm not sure I would put us all on the same level. That aside, there are a numerous humane and environmental reasons for cutting meat out of our diets. I'm just not quite there. I'm cutting back, but not cutting out. Besides, I checked with my butcher and our meat is allowed free pasture, killed humanely and processed according to best practice.

Which brings me to the final reason why saying grace has become more important to me. Whether I believe animals are akin to humans in value or not, they still give their life that I might have life. As Leonard Sweet writes:
It's important to say grace for each meal - if not before, then during or after. To eat is to kill. Whether you're a carnivore, a vegetarian, or a vegan, your very act of eating entails the taking of some life, vegetable or animal. You should be grateful for the life that was given to feed your life, and you should be quick to give thanks to the Source of all life, who made the bounty possible in the first place.

It doesn't really matter what form my grace takes really. What does matter is that I take the time to reflect on the bounty before me and humbly say thankyou.

Thankyou from a grateful heart that I have enough food to sustain my life.

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At 4:00 pm, November 16, 2007, Blogger Robyn said...

I'll have to read the book, although it sounds like it would be terribly disruptive to my life! I don't know if I can be vegan


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