Sayin' Grace

Monday, May 11, 2009

On a recent visit to Charleston, South Carolina, I was given The Ultimate Gullah Cookbook. The Gullah are African Americans who live in the Low Country of South Carolina. They speak an English-based creole language and are known for preserving their African linguistic and cultural heritage. One of the highlights to a visit to Charleston is seeing Gullah women weaving the beautiful sweetgrass baskets at the Charleston Market.

Sayin’ grace is an important part of the Gullah heritage. The authors says its purpose it “establish a spiritual connection between the food and its consumers. It is a call for the bless’uh da hans’ whut mek da food.”

It is safe to say that almost all spiritual practices have some form of ritual blessing as an integral part of food preparation and eating. Blessings on food are prayers to thank God for providing sustenance and to ask his blessings both on the food, those who prepared it, and those who share it. The duty of saying grace after the meal is derived from Deuteronomy 8:10: "And thou shalt eat and be satisfied and shalt bless the Lord thy God for the goodly land which he has given thee." The Jewish Talmud says, "One who derives benefit from this world without first making a blessing is guilty of sinfully stealing from God.” Therefore, it says every Jew needs to make a proper blessing before eating any food and after finishing his food. One Jewish author commented that there were 100s of opportunities every day to say grace. That sounds like a lot of eating and a lot of blessing!

Saying grace continues in the New Testament. When feeding the multitudes, Christ gave thanks for sustenance (Matt. 15:35-36) and blessed it (Matt. 14:19). Paul taught that food was to be received with prayer and thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-5). The most well known example of saying grace was at the Last Supper when Jesus said, “This is my body which is given for you. This do you in remembrance of me.” And he took bread and gave thanks.” (Luke 22:19-20)

Let’s remember to pause at every meal in thanks for our food. You might try the Gullah version of sayin' grace:

Gawd beena great and e beena good
En we da tank e for we food
By e hand we be fed
Gi us Gawd we daily bread

You can enjoy sayin’ grace before savoring this delicious ...
Gullah Corn Pudding
1 can cream corn or 1 pint corn scraped from cob
1 can whole kernel corn
2 large eggs (beaten)
1 cup evaporated milk
1 stick butter (melted)
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp sugar

Prepare oven 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients together well. Taste. Add additional seasonings and sugar if desired. (Gullah feel that dishes must have a certain taste to be considered praise worthy and always sample before cooking or serving so they can add a dash or dollop.) Place in casserole dish and bake in oven until brown and firm. About 30 minutes. Do not overcook. Serve hot. Serves 6.


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