Friday, March 29, 2013

Book Review - Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

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


Shauna Niequist


Category: nonfiction, memoir, food, faith, family

Synopsis: Niequist explores the importance of gathering loved ones around the table.

Date finished: 6 March 2013

Rating: ****

Comments: I’ve looked forward to this book for a long time, and it did not disappoint. There are just a couple authors whose book releases I actually put on the calendar; Shauna Niequist is one of those authors. The only thing I don’t like about her books is that they’re never long enough! Her essays are always like going home to me; her words are like long-lost friends. I smile, laugh, cry, and nod all the way through, and this book was no different. I found myself almost swallowing it whole, and admonishing myself to “save some for later!” It’s hard for me to imagine Shauna Niequist ever writing an unsuccessful book. Anything written as honestly as her work just can’t fail.
     Her books make me feel we’re friends. And in fact, we do have a lot in common. We’ve both Midwestern Christian women of the same age who love to cook and eat and who write about family and faith. But I don’t think these commonalities have to be in place for you to relate to her books on a deep level. I think she writes with a universality that resonates with women of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds.
     It’s difficult when an author writes multiple books about the same topics—in this case, family, food, faith, and home—to not compare the newest book to the ones that came before it. I think it’s important to look at this book separately from its sister-books, Cold Tangerines, and Bittersweet. In this, her third book of essays, she focuses on life around the table—feeding family and breaking bread with friends. It includes many recipes. I think her previous books may have had more writing on faith and this one has more on family. I recognized some essays from her wonderful blog.
     I’m not an entertainer. I’m not a sit-around-the-table kind of person. I’m shy. Quiet. Social interaction tires me, and the thought of cooking for anyone but immediate family with their myriad dietary restrictions and likes and dislikes makes me itch. Still, this book made me wonder if I was missing out on something essential, like community, like connectedness and intimacy, like thankfulness and sacrifice.
     I was pleasantly surprised by the recipes. I know from following her blog that she has a much more adventurous palate than I do, and I know she tries to prepare gluten-free foods wherever possible. I’m one of the last hold-outs on meat, dairy, gluten, carbs, etc. I eat it all. Since I’m not a butternut squash, feta cheese, almond milk kind of girl, I anticipated skipping over most of the recipes, but I ended up reading all of them with interest. There are a couple things I’d like to try, specifically Jim Lahey’s Sullivan Street Bakery bread (I've been reading about this recipe all over) and her friend Brannon’s Caesar Salad.
     So, all in all, a sweet read that I’ll return to for its warmth and depth and breadth.
     I’ll leave off with a couple of the passages that really struck a chord with me.
In her essay “Hungry,” she writes about battling weight issues:
     And through all that, I’ve made friends and fallen in love, gotten married and become a mother. I’ve written and traveled and stayed up late with people I love. I’ve walked on the beach and on glittering city streets. I’ve kissed my baby’s cheeks and danced with my husband and laughed till I cried with my best friends, and through all that it didn’t really matter that I was heavier than I wanted to be.

In her essay “Enough,” she writes about infertility, but reminds us all to expect good, and to be grateful for everything:
     I want to cultivate a deep sense of gratitude, of groundedness, of enough, even while I’m longing for something more.

     Read about the inception of Bread & Wine here, here, here, and here.

     This book will be released on April 9.

     Thank you to Zondervan for the advance reader copy.

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