BOOK REVIEW: Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes, by Shauna Niequist
Shauna Niequist's favorite place is the table. It's where she nourishes her family with simple, homemade food she lovingly prepares in her kitchen. It's where she gathers with good friends and centers every party. It's where she communes with God.
Shauna Niequist is a writer and essayist, a cook and a foodie. She's also an evangelist, bringing the word of God to Christians and non-Christians alike through stories about food and its ability to connect, bridge barriers, forge alliances. And I am an evangelist for Shauna Niequist's brand of preaching—a modern voice, a comfortable tone, and a way to expressing spiritual truths in a way that's accessible to everyone, no matter their place on the spiritual path.
Do you like to cook? Bread & Wine is for you, for the recipes alone. (Don't miss Blueberry Crisp, Basic Risotto, Breakfast Cookies, Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Goat Cheese Scrambled Eggs and Simplest Dark Chocolate Mousse.) Do you feel intimidated in the kitchen, paralyzed by measuring cups and mixing bowls and words like "saute," "julienne," and "soft peaks?" Niequist's simple and clear instructions will set you at ease.
Do you wish you could entertain or feed your family (or yourself) something other than takeout and Hamburger Helper? Niequist's lists of pantry staples, tips on weeknight meals, and roadmaps for throwing a successful party are right down your alley. Are you committed to family, motherhood, friendship and human relationships? You'll lose yourself in Niequist's personal experiences and remembrances, both unique and universal.
Are you the sort who sees God not just at church, but all around you? Or, you're a "God-in-nature" person, seeing evidence of the Almighty in the the roll of the ocean, the wind in the trees, and the stars overhead? You'll be drawn to Niequist's perceptive observations about life, love, kinship, loyalty, and intimacy (and not just the romantic kind).
Niequist is one of my favorite authors: See my reviews of two of her other books, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, elsewhere on my page. Her books are all collections of essays, and they're wonderful to keep on a shelf to pull down and enjoy one or two (or five or six) at a time, during a moment of respite during busy day, or when seeking a moment of everyday wisdom. Here's a sample of Niequist gems:
"... [T]he genius of Communion, of bread and wine, is that bread is the food of the poor and wine the drink of the privileged, and ... every time we see those two together, we are reminded of what we share instead of what divides us."
"We don't come to the table to fight or to defend. We don't come to prove or to conquer, to draw lines in the sand or to stir up trouble. We come with a need, with fragility, with an admission of our humanity. The table is the great equalizer, the level playing field many of us have been looking everywhere for. The table is the place where the doing stops, the trying stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children. ... If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health."
"When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat. When you eat bread and you drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere - on a picnic table or a hardwood floor or a beach."
Bread & Wine is like a morning mug of hot coffee, a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup at noontime, a warm cup of tea and a sweet at 4 o'clock. I keep my copy in my kitchen, where I can grab it for a recipe or a few moments of restoration for my soul.
5 out of 5 stars.