Editor's Note: Shauna Niequist is one of my "go-to" authors. When I need someone to remind me of Truth, I pick up one of her books. Each one of the three books she has written hold a special place in my heart. They all seem to have shaped a season of my life in a major way and because of that, I have never met a person who I couldn't suggest one of her books to. She's that type of writer -- the one that can connect with everyone on something.
So I hope that you would pick up a couple of Bread & Wine (or Cold Tangerines or Bittersweet) and after enjoying them for yourself, share them like I love to do! My sisters and I adore Shauna and we gather around the truths that she shares in a genuine way. I quickly pre-ordered copies of this book for them after reading it! It was THAT good! I hope that you enjoy it just as much, if not more than I do.
Sure, Bread & Wine ends almost every chapter with a recipe of something so delicious sounding that my mouth waters. Of course that means that it could be labeled a cookbook, but that's not really the point of this book and it's pretty clear early on as you flip through the pages. Even in the intro Shauna says "this is a collection of essays about family, friendships, and the meals that bring us together. It's about the ways that God teaches and nourishes us as we nourish the people around us, and about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two." (page 11) She further explains, "it's not, actually, strictly about food for me. It's about what happens when we come together, slow down, open our homes, look into one another's face, listen to one another's stories." (page 13) And I couldn't agree any more!
I am not your average lover of all things culinary. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love food. Who doesn't? Yet, this book found its way into my life and not because I was searching for a cookbook either. But I've found that the only thing better than a cookbook is a book that reminds us of all the reasons that we love to cook and that we love to eat. For these very reasons, Shauna sits down with us around the table and tells us like it is. She tells stories that we fall in love with and she shares necessary Truth that draws us in for more. In the most beautiful way, Shauna leaves us rejuvenated and longing to live life around the table with the ones that we love most. And the crazy part is that there is room for me too. Me, this unlikely and unsuccessful one who only hopes to befriend a kitchen someday. Somehow, someway, I have a seat at the table just like everyone else.
One thing that I found to be true about each of her books is that I walked away with a favorite chapter or two each time. Usually, in most other books, the chapters fade into each other and you remember the plot or the climax more than a specific chapter but true to her uniqueness, Shauna's chapters are brilliant essays that weave together yet stand adequately on their own.
Like for instance, if I were to pull Cold Tangerines off my bookshelf to read you a quick section, I would without a doubt go to either the chapters "On Waiting" or to "Writing in Pencil". Or let's say I picked Bittersweet instead, the choice is irrefutably the chapter entitled, "Twenty-Five". These are the chapters that made me fall in love with these books and once again, Shauna brings me chapter after chapter that prove choosing a favorite extremely difficult. (For the record, I'm pretty sure that I have decided on "Love & Enchiladas" as my favorite chapter for Bread & Wine but then again, there are so many other eligible contenders that I possibly cannot decide at all.)
This is something that I am growing to love more and more about Shauna. With each chapter, it seems that a resounding "yes" and an "amen" is forming within me. I feel empowered and I feel pulled in to the Story at large, this God Story that draws me in. Yet thankfully, this time around Shauna adds something new to her repertoire of uniqueness. At the end of Bread & Wine you find resources that are practical and more helpful than useless. She includes book/cooking club discussions, pantry list suggestions and even her best entertaining tips. Not only does she spell it out in the chapters of her book that life around the table is something magical, she all but puts a spatula in your hand trying to convince you to taste of it yourself. For this I am grateful, as I assume many others are as well.
Building a Lifestyle of Community
In the beginning when I first read a book by Shauna Niequist years ago, I have to admit that I wasn't drawn in at first. Sure, it was good but it wasn't enthralling like my other favorite authors knew how to be. It was almost too simple. Back then, I was an avid reader of books that make your brain hurt because they are so full of knowledge and theories and theology. But what I didn't realize is that I was starving for lessons in community and that is exactly what Shauna had to offer in her writings. I am sure that to other first-time readers, Shauna is as encompassing as I know her to be now. Yet, I had to make a slow but oh so rewarding transition from talking about things to being invited to actually do them.
Through the years as I have tended to this need, this innate desire for community, I have gratefully found enocuragement to carry on in books similar to hers. Bread & Wine doesn't disappoint in this arena either. She sings her own melody in the old, old song about life lived deeply with each other. If you too find yourself famished for this necessary part of God's story, here are some truths that I'm taking to heart as I continue to build my life around the people I love and my God who loves people, particularly around a table:
"That's what it is all about. This isn't about recipes. This is about a family, a tribe, a little band of people who walk through it all together, up close and in the mess, real time and unvarnished." (page 31)
"I'm not talking about cooking as performance, or entertaining as a complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I'm talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day." (page 41)
"We don't learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand each other and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you." (page 132)
"My friend Shane says the 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." (page 251)
In the chapter entitled, Enough (starting at page 56), Shauna shares a story that cuts me to my core. A heart warming, yet hilarious story about how difficult it is to relate to friends when your feelings and your seasons don't match or even worse, they are polar opposites. She shares specifically about her troubles of getting pregnant and the misery of being friends with what seems like a small army of expecting mothers. The tension in her relationships mount until one friend, a preggo one at that, decides to open her mouth and share some in-your-face Truth. The heart-wrenching line of the story is when Emily says to her, "this is the point in a friendship when sometimes two friends walk away from each other for a while, because the pain and the awkwardness and the tenderness was too great. She said that she thought we could do better than that." (page 57) Shauna shares this as well, "I'm so thankful for that feeling, for being able to be uncomplicatedly happy for the people that I love." (page 58)
Are you ready?
Do you feel it yet? Do you feel that ache rising within you to gather those dearest to you to fill the spots around your table, filling the room with laughter and joy unspeakable? If so, I genuinely recommend this book to fuel that ache. Bread & Wine has sent the invitations, set the table and open the door to a life lived fully. Nothing new is introduced, just a beautiful reminder of Truth that we so easily pass up and so quickly dismiss as too simple. We are a people famished and so in need. I am thankful that He reaches out to us and invites us in. I hope that you know how beautiful of a place you are in. There is so much joy, so much love and so much grace to be experienced around that table. Please, join us. Take a seat as He unfolds His Story all around us. Filling us to the brim with Truth that delights and satisfying us with His love so divine.
Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes
By Shauna Niequist
Book Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d_0-2_SkSs
(for all of you visual friends)
Shauna Niequist is the author of Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, and Bread & Wine. Shauna grew up in Barrington, Illinois, and then studied English and French Literature at Westmont College in Santa Barbara. She is married to Aaron, who is a pianist and songwriter. Aaron is a worship leader at Willow Creek and is recording a project called A New Liturgy. Aaron & Shauna live outside Chicago with their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about the beautiful and broken moments of everyday life--friendship, family, faith, food, marriage, love, babies, books, celebration, heartache, and all the other things that shape us, delight us, and reveal to us the heart of God.
Find out more about Shauna here!