Thursday, April 25, 2013

Book Review: Bread & Wine

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist

About this book:
As a follow up to her two bestselling books, Bittersweet and Cold Tangerines, author and blogger Shauna Niequist returns with the perfect read for those who love food and value the community and connection of family and friends around the table. Bread and Wine is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together. This mix of Anne Lamott and Barefoot Contessa is a funny, honest, and vulnerable spiritual memoir. Bread and Wine is a celebration of food shared, reminding readers of the joy found in a life around the table. It's about the ways God teaches and nourishes people as they nourish the people around them. It's about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two. With wonderful recipes included, from Bacon-Wrapped Dates to Mango Chicken Curry to Blueberry Crisp, readers will be able to recreate the comforting and satisfying meals that come to life in Bread and Wine.

I haven't read either of her previous books, but I was very eager to read this one when I was offered an advance reading copy by Zondervan.  We've often talked about how important it is in building relationships to share meals together, as well as tying the experience to the bread and wine that Jesus offered saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me" and "This cup is the new covenant between God and you, sealed by the shedding of my blood. Do this in remembrance of me as often as you drink it."  Are we only supposed to remember occasionally, when we're in church, when we're taking the symbols in a ceremonial manner?  Or is it like Shauna says in this book - "And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day - no matter where we are, who we are, what we've done."  Yes!

I really enjoyed the book.  The focus isn't really on the bread & wine, though that is an underlying theme.  Mostly it's about the importance of sharing meals together and the relationships that are built around the table.  Through good times and bad, the common theme is the food and the eating - together.  Shauna gives the reader a glimpse into her life, a life where she is learning to embrace her appetites, let go of her desire for perfection and just be fully present in the moment, and accept herself for who she is, and she invites the reader to "start where you are" and begin doing the same thing.

I could really relate to the need to let go of perfection.  I have a hard time letting people into my house (or my life) if I haven't had a chance to prepare, and I can make myself crazy doing all the cleaning and straightening before people are coming over - and they probably don't even notice anyway!  Sometimes the choice is, simply, be here - imperfect, messy, tired, whatever - or miss the moment, the conversation, the time around the table.  In that chapter, I marked the following line - "We have, each one of us, been entrusted with one life, made up of days and hours and minutes.  We're spending them according to our values, whether or not we admit it."  Is it more important to be perfect or to spend that time with the people who matter?

As I try to write this review, I keep looking back through the book.  I have little pink sticky notes sticking out everywhere, where I've marked passages that really struck me.  This one in particular:

"I want to cultivate a deep sense of gratitude, of groundedness, of enough, even while I'm longing for something more.  The longing and the gratitude, both.  I'm practicing believing that God knows more than I know, that he sees what I can't, that he's weaving a future I can't even imagine from where I sit this morning."

Shauna's attitude toward cooking and recipes pretty much sums up my feelings - "Recipes are how we learn all the rules, and cooking is knowing how to break them to suit our tastes or preferences.  Following a recipe is like playing scales, and cooking is jazz." - except that I don't really know much about music.  That being said, most of the recipes shared in this book seem a bit fussy to me, and I love to cook.  Yes, there are a couple that I will probably try - the Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee, for one, OH, and the Roasted Broccoli - but most of them just sounded like too much work, and they called for ingredients that I don't usually have on hand.  Hopefully that won't discourage people from finding their own recipes and dishes to share, gathering people around their own tables, and building those important relationships.  Like she says, "Focus on making people comfortable, on creating a space protected from the rush and chaos of daily life, a space full of laughter and safety and soul."  Shauna has shared what works for her and her family here, and we all have to find out what works for us.  The point is to get started, open the door and start making our own memories around our own tables.

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes is available on Amazon in both hardcover and Kindle editions.  For more information about Shauna Niequist, visit her webpage.

Thank you to Zondervan and Handlebar for giving me a review copy of this book.  I really enjoyed it.
Enhanced by Zemanta