This Book is Making Me Hungry: Some thoughts on Bread and Wine
Few things get me more excited than good food, good wine and community (unless they are good books). When Shauna Niequist offered advance copies of her book Bread and Wine: a love letter to life around the table, I recognized the opportunity as a marriage of all of these things, it is an honor to share my thoughts on Bread and Wine with you today. I discovered the writing of Shauna Niequist last year when a friend posted a quote from her on Facebook. God can truly use anything, can He not? Since then, I have devoured her first two books and started reading her blog.
There are those authors that I feel I’m becoming friends with as I read their words. When I dip in again, after finishing a book, I feel like I’m having coffee and catching up. This is a gift, and a rare one.
Shauna is one of those friends. She is a writer who makes me feel less alone in my emotions, my struggles and my longings because she is vulnerable about hers.
Bread and Wine is like Shauna's other books (read: wonderful) in that she shares the stories of her life and how they intersect with the other lives she holds near to her heart. I was curious as to how the recipes and references to food and drink would interact with these stories. As it turns out, the comparisons were as natural as it would be to offer a friend something to drink or eat as she enters your home. It all made sense and never felt forced. A consequence of recipes at the end of most chapters was that I found myself getting hungry as I read late at night, or whenever I could spare a moment. In my kitchen, as we speak, are all the ingredients to make Shauna's bacon wrapped dates. I'll keep you posted on how they turn out.
One of the big ideas I got from this book during my first reading (this book will be read time after time) is that it is important to open our homes and our lives even when we don't feel ready to do so. When we open the door a little wider, even though we haven't had a chance to tidy (our homes or our lives) we have the opportunity to connect to people in a way that just isn't possible in any other context. In a restaurant, say, I can come across as pretty together. I know how to order a good glass of wine and I know how to make sparkling conversation. We all know that feeling, the feeling we have been in a restaurant too long, knowing that we need to leave. The waitstaff want to go home, or to use our table to seat someone else. There is a natural time limit to connecting with others in public places.
At home, I am myself. Just last week, I wasn't feeling very well, but a good friend knocked on my door. I told her that she should feel honored that I was letting her into my messy life, since it meant that we were real friends. She was there to watch a movie and we ate Reuben sandwiches and I poured her a big glass of wine and we talked about how things sometimes feel that they are falling apart: our bodies, our weeks, our lives. We talked about the real stuff and we were encouraged. We encouraged. I mostly just opened the door. The rest came of its own accord.
It is easy to think that I have nothing to offer. It is easy to think that I will cook for my friends and family and invite them into my home when I am no longer living with my parents and my collection of vintage dishes are all put away in my custom cabinets. Excuses are easy. But that is the point, isn't it? Tomorrow has always been a good day to have people over. It is never truly convenient to invite people into our lives. This is something that Shauna knows, and that is something that I love about this book. It seems to me that hospitality is sort of like any other brave thing that we do: if we wait until we feel ready, we will never do it.
Something else that struck me about this book was the idea of hunger. There is nothing that makes me remember my humanity faster than being hungry. Shauna writes about a time of great emotional need and how all of that need came out in her desire for a club sandwich.
I get that.
I get how sometimes I am reminded of how finite I am through my physical hunger, or exhaustion, or sickness, and how I need God, so very much, and how I need other people, definitely more than I realize. As I read this book, I found myself craving certain foods: green olives, pickles, quinoa salad, pastrami sandwiches. I wrote them down in the middle of chapters, shopped for them and ate them. Hunger can be a good teacher.
I could talk about this book for days, but really, you should read it. As with her other books, her essays are fairly short, perfect for a daily reading if you can only squeeze in a bit. The recipes are mostly borrowed, some made up, all written in a way that doesn't make them feel out of reach (even for a nervous cook like me). It is the sort of book that will travel with me from my bedside table to the kitchen from time to time. It is different from her other works in that it focuses without apology on food and wine and the fellowship that naturally stems from combining those things with people, around a table, but it is the same in that she is the same (or as "the same" as any of us are from year to year), and her heart is just as apparent here (if not more so) as in her other works.
I am honored to have had the chance to read this book and share it with you, and I hope that you will read it and love it, and then talk with me about it. Who knows, maybe we'll talk about it over a glass of wine, around my table, or yours.
Bread and Wine: a love letter to life around the table will release on April 9th. You can order it here and visit her website (including her delightful blog) here.
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.