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Giving Thanks

I grew up in a family where we always prayed before we ate. We had different ways of saying grace for various places and occasions. Lunches and suppers at home began with “God is great, God is good, Let us thank God for our food” or “Come Lord Jesus be our guest and bless what Thou has provided for us.” These prayers were usually recited in unison. Breakfast time was different because before the meal my Dad read a Scripture passage and a short devotional. Then we all paused for a moment while he asked God to be present with our family members during the coming day.

My grandparents with their family some 45 years ago

At my grandparents’ home, we always prayed in German. Although some of us didn’t speak the language fluently, we had all memorized two different German graces, Segne Vater and Komm Herr Jesus, which we repeated with our aunts and uncles and cousins when we gathered for communal meals. On holidays like Christmas and Easter, my grandfather prayed aloud while the rest of us bowed our heads silently. Meals at our church usually began with the four-part singing of the doxology, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”         

Our family when we lived in Arizona on the Hopi Nation

The practice of giving thanks for food is an ancient one in many different cultural groups.  Our family lived on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona for a year. Before celebratory meals in Hopi homes, small portions of food were taken from each serving dish. These were placed just outside the door of the house on the ground. I was told this was a way of saying thanks to the spirits who lived beneath the earth, for making the soil fertile enough for crops to grow.                  

Gratitude is good for our mental health. Pausing to give thanks before a meal can be meaningful.

“For food in a world where many walk in hunger;

For peace in a world, where many walk in fear;

For friends in a world where many walk alone;

We give thanks.”

Other posts ……..

The Hopi Reservation

Norman Rockwell Exhibit

My Grandmother Was a Guitarist


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Filed under Arizona, Childhood, Religion

Hopi at the Heard- Piki Bread

marylou's grade one class on hopi reserveWe lived and taught for a year on the Hopi Reservation in Arizona. Here I am with my grade one students in 1990.  Because of that experience the many exhibits about the Hopi culture at the Heard Museum in Phoenix were of particular interest to me. One favorite treat that my Hopi students often brought to school for a snack was piki bread. They had some on display at the museum. 

piki bread on display at the heard musuem
I really liked piki bread . It had a slightly sweet taste and was so much lighter than bread. Once my students knew I enjoyed it they often brought piki bread to school for me.

Piki bread is made from blue corn. The corn is harvested and taken off the cob. 

grinding stones at the heard museumThe corn is ground into meal using a grinding stone like these I photographed in the courtyard of the Heard Museum.  I remember when we lived in Arizona one of the Hopi women let our sons who were ten and four try grinding the corn on one of these stones. It was hard work. 

The blue cornmeal is mixed with water and the burnt ashes of juniper trees. You can see the mixture in the bowl at the side of this photo. 

The Hopi women then use their bare hands to spread the mixture on a special baking stone that has a fire built beneath it.  I watched this process quite a number of times during my year on the Hopi Reservation and I could never understand how the women didn’t burn their fingers when they were spreading the cornmeal paste on the hot stone. They were soooooooooo fast!

The bread bakes quickly and once it starts to lift off the stone, the women roll it up. 

Hopi women have been making piki bread this way for hundreds of years. I don’t think you can buy it anywhere. I miss piki bread. It was delicious! It was nice to be reminded of piki bread on my visit to the Heard Museum in Phoenix. 

If you want to know more about piki bread check out this You Tube Video Making Piki Bread. 

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Hopi at the Heard Museum- Pottery

Hopi at the Heard Museum- Dan Namingha

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Filed under Arizona, Culture, Food