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Pimping his book American Grace (with David E. Campbell, Simon & Schuster, $30) on Forum this morning, Harvard's Robert D. Putnam dropped a surprising statement: If you're part of the 50 percent of Americans who say grace before dinner, you're likely to be conservative, Republican, and have issues with The Gay.
I confess: I don't say grace. Then again, I'm not even vaguely religious. My Christian brother prays before meals ― sincerely, he and his wife and kids, eyes closed, hands clasped around the table, in a way that always makes me feel like an imposter, even when I close my eyes and clasp. A former boyfriend enforced the practice of closing our eyes before the fettuccine cooling in front of us, though he was driven to gratitude by pop Zen, the perpetual awe of the Deadhead, and sticky pothead sweetness. But I've shared meals with plenty of the food obsessed, so stunned by the pureness radiating from a salad of cherry tomatoes picked from their gardens they'd bow their heads with the kind of reverence my bro saves for the Eucharist.
Piety before the first slip-like radishes that last month's seedlings yielded is a good thing, I think, if only because pausing ― hands clutched, eyes closed ― keeps you from scarfing down in four bites what it took so much effort to raise. If it also makes you an exception to Putnam's 50 percent rule, that's cool, too.