Posts Tagged ‘food’

That Was Delicious, May I Have My Check, Please?

October 31, 2013

BirkatHamazonRGB.jpgOutside of those whose regular practice is to recite the blessings after each meal, I suspect that, per the title of this post, more expressions of gratitude for our food go to our servers in restaurants upon receipt of our tab and/or to the chef for a meal well-prepared and thoughtfully presented rather than to the more ethereal Source of Life.

Though I have not always done so, in recent years I’ve decided to try and experience my meals as more than just stuffing my face; whether it is to appreciate the combinations of colors and textures, the unique fragrances of each item on the plate or just acknowledging the complex processes that have made this meal come together as a gift of nourishment for body and soul. This line of thinking and the memories of fine meals past and present led me to choose the Birkat Ha-Mazon or the Blessings After Meals for my next illumination.

Research began with wondering about the origin of this set of blessings and pointed to the reference I found in Devarim or Deuteronomy 8:10: “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He gave you”. I learned that the lengthy combinations of blessings and songs of thanks consist of four distinct but related ideas expressed in a lovely poetic stanzas.  They are: the Birkat Hazan (blessing for nourishment and praise for the One Who Sustains the World), the Birkat Ha’aretz (blessing for the Land of Israel), the Binyan Yerushalayim (blessing for the rebuilding of Jerusalem), and the HaTov V’Hameytiv (blessing for the One Who Is Good and the One Who Does Good). Following these blessings, a group of short prayers beginning with the word HaRachaman (The Merciful One) ask the Source of Life for compassion.

Although several versions of the Birkat Ha-Mazon can be found within Judaism (Ashkenazic, Sephardic and Yemenite), I’ve chosen the Ashkenazic form with which I am most familiar. Accordingly, the illustration includes medieval Jews of Central and Eastern European ethnicity, my own cultural background. The pewter dinnerware on the table are empty indicating the conclusion of a meal. Since the figures portrayed are not nobility, their durable pewter might have been more commonly used than finer metals or porcelain. Above this group are four items reflecting the concepts of the blessing’s four verses; a winged crown, a jar of biblical manna, a lion and a model of Jerusalem surmounted by a living date palm. Each item has it’s mundane and mystical purpose and detailed explanations of these will appear in the artist’s commentary of An Illumination Of Blessings.

So I guess the question I have via this blessing is; do you live to eat or do you eat to live? If your choice is the latter, then maybe a little mindfulness will help us realize how to make everything we eat that much tastier… or as the French Ashkenazim might say, ‘Be’ te-avon’ (Bon Appetit)!

Bits Of Whimsy: Innovasion

April 13, 2012

One evening, in the mood for some lo mein and oolong tea, I headed for my favorite neighborhood Chinese bistro. When the waiter had taken my order, he handed me a set of flatware, but asked if I preferred to use chopsticks. I chose the latter out of habit. But as I returned the fork, I had a strange notion about this ubiquitous tool. If a fork normally has four tines, why is it not called a ‘fourk’? Silly, I suppose; nevertheless, I soon began to wonder about the design and taxonomy of gastronomic utensils in general. For that matter, why are two or three-pronged implements not called ‘tworks’ or ‘thorks’? Following this fork in my thought trail, I recalled Edward Lear’s famous poem, The Owl and the Pussycat in which the lovers ate their mince and quince with a runcible spoon, a very practical utensil that combined a fork and a spoon. Now it’s called a ‘spork’. Well, I couldn’t stop there. As I mused on the look and possible names of other hybrid utensils, my eye noticed a brown marmolated stink bug staring down at me from atop my computer monitor. Eeuww. And the image you see above began to materialize. For sure, this drawing has other levels that you can enjoy interpreting, but you can get back to me on that…