When was the last time you had lunch or dinner at your local Olive Garden? For those not living in the US, Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant (American-style, of course), which stays full pretty much all the time. Wherever you go in the US, if you find yourself in an Olive Garden restaurant, you will be told by a server, “Enjoy!”
As far as I know, this is the closest American equivalent of “Buon apetito!” – have a good appetite – which many European languages and cultures have before a meal.
I remember the cultural shock of some American evangelical missionaries who came to Romania. Before meals, everybody wished them a good appetite. These sons and daughters of the Pilgrims told us they pray before a meal. They don’t wish each other to have a good appetite. It’s enough to make one smile, right?
The American grim determination to accomplish things and worship God while shoving some food in the mouth over the keyboard to get hunger out of the way has lead to Eat Pray Love – the quest to enjoy one’s food, to find God outside Christianity, and to love outside marital vows.
So here’s what I am proposing. Let’s have both prayer and a wish for a good appetite before a meal. Let’s sit down with people who love us and whom we love and enjoy and savor our food. Every morsel, every bite. Be there for every forkful of goodness you put in your mouth, with thankfulness in your heart for the Giver of life. The experience will exhilarate you. Plus, it will reduce the number of calories you ingest. It’s true, too. I wrote a blog post about a book which documents this.
God created us to enjoy ourselves. At the end of every day of Creation, He saw that the work of His hands was “good.” A pastor with several doctorate degrees after his name told me recently the Hebrew word translated as “good” in Genesis 1 and 2 means “mmmmm…. good…” or “enjoyable.” It describes not only the Creation, but also God’s enjoyment of His Creation.
If God Himself takes time to enjoy the work of His hands, why not us? Buon apetito! Now you can say grace.