Category Archives: Prayers & Poems

‘Meredith’s’ ode to cooks

We may live without poetry, music, and art;
We may live without conscience, and live without heart;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilised man cannot live without cooks.

He may live without books — what is knowledge but grieving?
He may live without hope — what is hope but deceiving?
He may live without love — what is passion but pining?
But where is the man who can live without dining?

bgtp‘Owen Meredith’, Lucile, 1860

Owen Meredith was the nom de plume of English statesman and poet Edward Robert Lytton Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton and son of novelists Edward Buller-Lytton and Rosina Doyle Wheeler.

Nancy Willard on how to stuff a pepper

nancywillard_1_1An award winning writer of children’s books, American Nancy Willard is also a novelist, poet and an observer of ordinary things. Even better, she writes recipes … my kind of recipes. I’m a cook who doesn’t like to be told. Entice me with visions then leave the rest to them. Thank you Nancy. I’m headed home to stuff a capsicum, though mine will be red. Ok with you?


Now, said the cook, I will teach you
how to stuff a pepper with rice.

Take your pepper green, and gently,
for peppers are shy. No matter which side
you approach, it’s always the backside.
Perched on her green buttocks, the pepper sleeps.
In its silk tights, it dreams
of somersaults and parsley,
of the days when the sexes were one.

Slash open the sleeve
as if you were cutting into a paper lantern,
and enter a moon, spilled like a melon,
a fever of pearls,
a conversation of glaciers.
It is a temple built to the worship
of morning light.

I have sat under the great globe
of seeds on the roof of that chamber,
too dazzled to gather the taste I came for.
I have taken the pepper in hand,
smooth and blind, a runt in the rich
evolution of roses and ferns.

You say I have not taught you
to stuff a pepper?
Cooking takes time.
Next time we’ll consider the rice.

‘How to stuff a pepper’ from Nancy Willard’s Carpenter of The Sun, Liveright, 1974.

A ‘grace’ from Chief Dan George

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air,
the fragrance of the grass,
  speaks to me.

The summit of the mountain,
the thunder of the sky,
the rhythm of the sea,
  speaks to me.

The strength of the fire,
the taste of salmon,
the trail of the sun,
and the life that never goes away,
  they speak to me.

And my heart soars.


220px-ChiefDan_GeorgeDan George (1899 – 1981) was a chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation whose Indian lands are located on Burrard Inlet in British Columbia (Canada)

A prayer as we set the table

Setting the table

As I lay a fork near a plate,
let me remember this is Your table, not mine.
As I set the water glasses down
and fold the napkins, let me be reminded
that every setting at this table
is Yours, not mine.

Each one who will partake of this meal
is a particular someone You love, a someone
You have made and who You sustain.
In You nothing and no one is forgotten.
How vast and providential is the memory
with which You keep us all.

It is only we who forget You
and then one another.
It is we who starve each other
and exclude each other.
Give me new eyes.
When the glass is raised by my friend
let me see You drinking.
When the fork is lifted by my child,
let me recognise You eating.
You are the hidden joy which feeds
and keeps everything. You are the table,
the guest, the meal, and the commemoration.

Make in my person a place setting for You.
Remind me of your true nature
which is recalled only in You.


51QPPS1YWAL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_Gunilla Norris, Being Home: A Book of Meditations, Bell Tower, 1991, 60.

A prayer at the kitchen sink

Doing the dishes

My life will always have dirty dishes.
If this sink can become
a place for contemplation,
let me learn constancy here.

I gaze through the window above the sink.
There I see the constancy of dawn,
the constancy of dusk,
the constancy of the seasons,
of the sun and moon,
and the rotation of the planets.

Your love is discerned by repetition.
Turn and return me to Your love.
Let my fitful human constancy
be strengthened in the willing,
wheeling wonder of Your stars.

51QPPS1YWAL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_Gunilla Norris, Being Home: A Book of Meditations, Bell Tower, 1991, 65.

A prayer for the kitchen


Peeling, chopping, cutting, mincing, slicing,
measuring, pouring, stirring, poaching,
bubbling, frying, turning, simmering, serving.
These are the words I cook with.
They are all motion, all process.

I know as I create this meal
there is another cooking going on.
It, too, is all motion, all process —
an inner transformation.
Help me to give myself away
as easily as this carrot, this new potato.
I want my layers to peel away like the onion’s.
I want to be as empty and clean
as the universe in a sweet green pepper
with its white star seeds.

I want. I want. In the heart of Your will
help me to give up wanting!
I am so full of urgency, expectation, image,
I make myself spiritually hungry.

You are here,
therefore, there is everything to receive.


51QPPS1YWAL._SX306_BO1,204,203,200_Gunilla Norris, Being Home: A Book of Meditations, Bell Tower, 1991, 62-63.


Sometimes words are as beautiful, as sacred, as those things they describe.

Each night, in a space he’d make
between waking and purpose,
my grandfather donned his one
suit, in our still dark house, and drove
through Brooklyn’s deserted streets
following trolley tracks to the bakery.

There he’d change into white
linen work clothes and cap,
and in the absence of women,
his hands were both loving, well
into dawn and throughout the day—
kneading, rolling out, shaping

each astonishing moment
of yeasty predictability
in that windowless world lit
by slightly swaying naked bulbs,
where the shadows staggered, woozy
with the aromatic warmth of the work.

Then, the suit and drive, again.
At our table, graced by a loaf
that steamed when we sliced it,
softened the butter and leavened
the very air we’d breathe,
he’d count us blessed.

Richard Levine, A Tide of a Hundred Mountains, Bright Hill Press, 2012.

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