Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table
By Shauna Niequist
Zondervan April 2013
From my shelves
Shauna Niequist has always been a fan of food - the way that certain foods evoke memories, the way that food begs for a celebration to accompany it, and the way that eating a favorite dish can make you feel like you are home again. In this collection of essays, she looks at the connection between eating and gathering together. Shauna believes that whether you are eating a frozen pizza or a meticulously prepared steak, there is blessing in the act of being together and sharing our food and our stories.
"This is what I want you to do: I want you to tell someone you love them, and dinner's at six. I want you to throw open your front door and welcome the people you love into the inevitable mess with hugs and laughter. I want you to light a burner on the stove, to chop and stir and season with love and abandon...Gather the people you love around your table and feed them with love and honesty and creativity. Feed them with your hands and the flavors and smells that remind you of home and beauty and the best stories you've ever heard, the best stories you've ever lived."
Bread and Wine came at a perfect time for me. I want to open my home more - to invite people from church over for lunch, to have my sisters over for sleepovers, to host a fancy dinner party. But I think there is a voice in all of us that says that our house will never be nice enough (goodness knows it is not particularly clean with a whirling dervish of a little boy and a baby girl who likes to throw her food). We worry that our food will not be good enough or the table will not look nice enough. But Shauna encourages us to just begin. You don't have to serve lobster the first time out or use your best china. By opening your house and inviting people to live among your sink full of dishes and crayon on the wall, you are inviting them to open their hearts and giving them a place to show their true selves.
Shauna really opens up in this book. She writes about her struggle to get pregnant, her body issues, and sitting alone in a hospital room with her sick baby. The darkness is always balanced by light though, as she also shares happy memories of summers with family and big birthday bashes. Each essay is accompanied by a recipe, ranging from cheesy scrambled eggs to bacon-wrapped dates. In spite of this being her story, one of my favorite things was the way she put the focus on other people. She writes about cooking with her husband's gluten intolerance and getting over her "eat what is served" upbringing. She realized what a gift it is when she makes something that everyone could enjoy together because cooking for others is about loving them and their unique needs instead of demonstrating your culinary prowess.
Bread and Wine is the sort of book that you live with. In the introduction, Niequest writes that she hopes you read it first on your couch or in the bathtub and then you take it into your kitchen, where it will become happily covered with flour and balsamic vinegar. This book has so much to read and re-read - recipes, little insights into living an open and inviting life, and really well written stories. I'm not sure if this book will end up sitting in my kitchen or on my bookshelf, but I know that it will be a book that is well-read and well-loved for years to come.