First off, let me say that I’m a bit sad. Which is a weird way to start off a book review, but this is why: I’m finished with the book, Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist.
“It’s a good thing that you’re finished with the book, because it means that you can actually give a comprehensive review of it, right?” You ask. Well, yes. That is true. But I’m sad because this book has been so incredible, so refreshing, so wonderful, that I wish it could go on forever and ever, amen.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve done a book review, but this one is seriously so great that I hope you will stop everything and order Bread & Wine from Amazon. I could go on and on about this book, but I’ll try my very best to boil this down to my very favorite parts.
Favorite #1: Shauna’s writing style
I have all of Shauna’s books and have absolutely loved each of them. There is just something about her style that captivates me, soothes me and inspires me. Shauna’s attention to detail–to smells, to sights, to sounds–is something that has always kept me reading her books. Many of you know that I have a bad habit of reading a chapter or two of a book, then getting distracted by a new book without finishing the first. Not so with Shauna’s books. Each chapter is a story in itself, filled with passion and tender words, and I find myself wanting to read the next and the next and the next, until I suddenly realize that I’m up past midnight on a work night. If you’re any type of creative, you will love Shauna’s style of writing. Her attention to detail is by far my favorite.
Favorite #2: Food writing
I’m not very talented when it comes to the kitchen, most of you know. And the only food writing that I’ve read has been on blogs, no cookbooks or food related books. But one of the best things that Shauna addresses is that cooking is not about how fancy you can make things, or what it will look like on Pinterest the next day, but about loving those around you by meeting their needs and nourishing their bodies. That was pretty profound to me. I loved that she would tell a story in each chapter, usually revolving around some type of food, and at the end of the chapter she’d give the recipe. There’s quite a mix of recipes, from fancy to basic to comfort, and everything in between. To be honest, I thought that most of the recipes may be outrageously fancy and complicated…absolutely opposite of my kind of cooking. But one of the best surprises of the book was finding that there was an assortment of recipes, and the assurance that Shauna is just as “down-to-earth” as I am. She loves comfort food and easy recipes sometimes…just as much as the rest of us. 🙂 Oh! And one of the other awesome things is that she includes many gluten-free recipes (or adaptation tips), because her husband eats gluten-free, just like Brian! She also includes dairy-free and meat-free options in some recipes. Very cool.
Favorite #3: Profound thoughts
I never used to write in my books, but over the years I have started to underline some things so that I could remember the main points that stood out to me. I’m becoming more like my mom, who would be more efficient reading with a can of spray paint than a highlighter. This book has numerous lines and stars and brackets…deep thought after deep thought. To be honest, I thought this book may be a bit difficult to read during and after my Daniel Fast during lent, but I found it to be the best thing I could have done. Shauna talked about the real struggle and balance of enjoying foods you love and being disciplined with your body. This was the biggest thing I’ve taken away from this book. As Shauna said, “I believe in the back and forth rhythm of feasting and fasting…” I love that idea. Enjoying amazing flavors and foods, but also knowing that it’s not healthy for mind, body or spirit to indulge at all times. So it brings you back to discipline. I just love that concept and will probably be something I live by. She also talked about running, which I thought was pretty timely in my life since I’ve been trying to run longer distances. She talked about the idea of hospitality, and that it’s not about being fancy and complicated, but about loving those you love with food and with your undivided attention. She talked about loving those who are hurting and grieving, about celebrating with those who are celebrating, and the fact that it’s all about meeting the needs in the most crucial of times. She also talked about her difficulties with miscarriages and getting pregnant, the hurt and pain and struggle that it is…something that needs to be talked about, and she did it in such a tender way. I loved the way Shauna pulled together the idea of bread and wine going far beyond a simple culinary duo, but that these symbols are deeply sacred, and can be a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice each time we experience those elements, especially outside of the communion time at church. I also loved that she gave tips on hosting parties at the end..that was great!
Favorite #4: Quotes
“My phone’s probably pregnant. That chair over there just got pregnant without even trying.”
“I tend to believe the worst about myself – I could never do this, I’m not that kind of person, I’ll always be like this, or I’ll never be able to get over that. …. And I remember that people can change. That I can change.”
“But if feeding people around your table is about connecting with them more than it is about showing off your menu or skills, isn’t it important to cook in such a way that their preferences or restrictions are honored?”
“I don’t want to live by rules and regulations, but I also don’t want to be ruled by my appetites. I resist and kick at discipline every chance I get, and then when I break down and do something hard, I find that it builds something in me, that it makes me stronger, not just in that area but in all sorts of areas.”
“I’m realizing this after what seems like a lifetime of saying to myself, “Well, you can’t be expected to do something hard on a day like this, can you?” I did expect more from myself, and I did do something hard, and I’m thankful.””
“The church is at its best, in my view, when it is more than a set of ideas and ideals, when it is a working, living, breathing, on-the-ground, in-the-mess force for good in our cities and towns.”
“The table is where time stops. It’s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.”
I could really talk about this book all day, but I don’t want to give away all of the awesomeness within this book. You’ll just have to BUY IT!! and read it for yourself. And if you think that just because you’re not a cook, you won’t like it, that couldn’t be further from the truth. You will love it just as much. You will feel encouraged to take another chance in the kitchen, to challenge yourself at a new recipe and to love those around you in the most basic of ways…through nourishment and conversation.
As for me, I’m ready to fire up the grill and take a stab at the Mar-a-Lago Turkey Burgers and Mexican Grilled Corn. Or maybe the Sweet Potato Fries and Mini Mac & Cheese. Or maybe just the Blueberry Crisp or Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Brownies. Shoot. So many amazing choices. I may just have to try them all…in the same night. 🙂
Go get this book. I’m serious.
You won’t regret it.
P.S. — I don’t know if the kitchen in the picture is Shauna’s real kitchen, or just a promo shot kitchen, but can I just get a forklift to transport that entire room to my house? Because, seriously, it is all that I want in a kitchen and more. That’s all.