I come from a home that blesses meals before eating them (and not just on Thanksgiving.) Growing up, every time we gathered around the table, there was this pensive moment when all four of us children would avoid making eye contact with dad to avoid being chosen to say the prayer, as if we would turn completely invisible if we stared hard enough into our empty plates.
Eventually though, someone would be selected, and after perhaps a little protest and/or coaxing, we'd bow our heads and one of us would address our omnipotent Creator. We weren't a particularly reverent bunch, and there was a fair amount of peeking, poking, and giggling during this process. It's a wonder we weren't all struck down at some point.
Now, before I kindle any holy wrath, let me just say that I like the idea of asking a blessing and expressing gratitude for the food that we eat. We do, after all, live in a world of scarce resources, and I happen to live in very fortunate circumstance. There is one thing, however, that I find very ironic about what we say when we ask a blessing on the food. In our household, this part went something like, "...please bless this food that it will nourish and strengthen our bodies...", (I'm sure every denomination and household has their own variation on this theme.)
Is it just me, or is it a little pretentious for us to thank God to giving us the means to provide for ourselves, but to then turn around and expect Him to also make it nourishing? Nothing proves my point more than every church activity I ever attended. At these events, essentially that same blessing is asked, and I have to wonder if we really expected God to make make Kool-aid, hot dogs, and Jello salad healthy. Even the miracle of the Eucharist pales in comparison to the transmogrification required to turn foods consisting entirely of fat, sugar, and carbonation into something with actual vitamins and minerals. If we could somehow turn skittles into wheat grass, we'd probably solve this country's obesity epidemic.
I thought of this tonight as we sat down to a meal of Domino's pizza, and I asked the same blessing that I'd been asking since I was a little child. Afterward, I wondered if my prayer should be something more like this: "Please bless this food that our LDLs will stay low, our HDLs will go high, and the cured pork products will not cause our triglycerides to skyrocket... We pray that the salt might be prevented from giving us high blood pressure, the fat from giving us love handles, and carbs from making us too sleepy to actually work off these excess calories."
I believe that God can work miracles; I genuinely do. But then again, changing the chemical composition of my food might be a bit much to ask. Maybe what what I should really pray is something like: "God, we sincerely thank thee for this food ... and seeing as we know better, we also ask thy forgiveness for eating it."