“Give us this day our daily bread,” we teach the children to pray.
We go through the prayer, line by line, sorting out words like hallowed and trespasses. And then we make it to the honorary verse of dinner tables everywhere.
“We’re asking for the things we need for today,” we tell the kids. I can see the kids’ thoughts behind their eyes: laptops, iPods, to do well on the test. My mind wanders, too, away from bread. Give us this day the money for the rent, the money for the student loans, the money for the car repairs.
The things we need for today, yes. But first of all, we are asking for food, for bread. We are asking for the things that will nourish us and keep our bodies strong.
I have always thought it was quaint to pray for daily bread, as if I didn’t have a month’s worth of meat and canned goods stockpiled in the kitchen.
Daily bread prayers seem less quaint recently. I have Michael Pollan and Food, Inc., to thank. My mother and my brother and Norman Wirzba, the theologian-philosopher that taught me that dinner tables and gardens are holy things.
Or maybe I have them to blame. Suddenly, every label I read has unidentifiable ingredients like CARAGEENAN and SOY LECITHIN and XANTHAN GUM, not to mention our old friend HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. I want food, not food products. I want to choose bread, not a stone. I want the meat from the animals that, as Joel Salatin says, had a great life and one really bad day. I want to choose all the right things–for my body, for the animals, for the workers, for creation.
I want it all now. I want the CSA box, the butter and milk from cows that ate grass, the orange-yolked eggs from chickens that trotted around the yard eating earthworms, the lettuce grown in the organic garden plot in my backyard.
I want the wisdom of a lifetime, and I want it now. But this rising is slow, like the yeast that works its way through the dough.
And so I pray for the wisdom to know what to do today.
Give us this day the wisdom to choose between the organic milk and the regular milk, the milk from pasture-fed cows (pasteurized and homogenized) and the raw milk that costs enough to make a car payment. Give us this day our daily bread, whether it is whole-wheat from the supermarket (high-fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, and all) or homemade sourdough. Give us this day the strength to make one small step, to take one small bit of yeast and work it through the whole batch of dough.
I take one small step and another. I buy the organic milk and half-and-half from the grocery store. I read articles. I read food labels. And then I buy the Kerrygold butter, made from cream from cows that ate grass the way they are meant to. I look at the price tag, and I wince. Food is not cheap, and neither is wisdom. It is costly, and it is slow.
It is not the final step, but it is a step. There will be another and another, and thank God for that. But it is enough bread, enough wisdom for today.