My family says Itadakimasu before we eat every meal. The literal translation is I gratefully receive. My grandmother brought this tradition to us from Japan, her native country. It is common Japanese etiquette to say Itadakimasu before you begin eating your meal. My grandmother believes it is very important to show appreciation for everything and to demonstrate through this word how grateful you are for the food that is on the table in front of you. However, when she came to the United States in 1953 she did everything she could to Americanize herself. She abandoned all of her Japanese traditions, in hopes of being accepted as an American citizen, so my mother did not learn about Itadakimasu during her early childhood. However, after about 10 years my grandmother became comfortable enough in the country and gained enough confidence to where she felt as if she could identify with and represent her Japanese heritage again. Among other things, saying Itadakimasu before every meal was one of the first traditions she implemented into her families life in America.
My mother sees this saying as more than just Japanese etiquette. It is important to her and she is adamant about her family saying it because it represents the time when her mother gained a sense of pride and began identifying with her heritage. She knows that Susie had a very difficult time in the US upon arrival and it was an enormous step for her to share part of the Japanese culture with her children. My mother takes pride in her descent so she has always been persistent in implementing not only Itadakimasu, but other Japanese traditions.
I also take pride in being of Japanese descent, so I frequently use this item of folklore, and will pass it on to my family in the future. I find this item to be interesting because it represents the etiquette of many different cultures. Some families say grace, some have no traditions at all, some have to hold hands while they pray, etc. There are so many different items of folklore that revolve around food etiquette and they vary all over the world.
Annotation: Helping Americans adapt to the Japanese cultural system. Barbara Sagara, Brian H Kleiner. Management Research News. Parington: 2001.Vol.24, Iss. ¾; pg. 137.