"Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table" by Shauna Niequist is a collection of essays about life, food, hospitality, and experiencing those sacred moments that can only be found around a table. The book includes not only recipes to try, but there are discussion questions at the end for a book club or a cooking club. She also includes tips for hosting a dinner party, as well as ideas for easy weeknight meals that can be thrown together quickly.
I appreciated Niequist's heart that celebrates the union of food and the hearts of people, creating a unique fellowship around a table. Faith themes run strong through this book, especially as she dives into how gathering around a shared meal creates a special sense of community. "And I believe that Jesus asked for us to remember him during the breaking of bread and the drinking of the wine every time, every meal, every day--no matter where we are, who we are, what we've done" (p. 252).
She shares candidly about her life, her insecurities, her fears when her newborn son was ill, her struggles with having children. Her writing style and vulnerability with sharing make this book an all-around winner. I started by slowly digesting two or three essays at a time, but that quickly sped up to devouring the entire book; it's really just that good.
"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. We allow someone else to meet our need. In a word that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel. If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health" (p. 258).
(I've received this complimentary book through the Book Sneeze program in exchange for a review. A positive review was not required and the views expressed in my review are strictly my own.)
I love the style of the writer...she is smart, witty, and a loving hostess. I have even tried a couple of the recipes. Yum! However, I was uncomfortable with how much the entertaining included some form of alcohol. This is a culture that I suppose is popular but I can not indulge in. It made me very uncomfortable.
I had heard good things about Bread & Wine from a friend and was excited to read the book myself. After hearing Shauna Neiquist speak at a Mothers of Preschoolers Convention in August 2012, I came to the conclusion that she was one of my favorite speakers there. I was drawn to her warm personality and humorous stories. She was honest, transparent, witty, relatable. I felt much the same way as I was reading Bread & Wine, being drawn to Shauna's warm, honest, transparent, witty, relatable and humorous stories about her life around the table.
I liked that Shauna included recipes in her book. After just reading the first chapter about her mom's blueberry crisp, I went out to buy the ingredients, made it and enjoyed eating it. I'm not much of a cook but in the chapter "start where you are," I felt encouraged that I could be good at it one day. Shauna said it so beautifully when she wrote,
"If you put in the time, the learning, the trying, the mess, and the failure, at the end you will have learned to feed yourself and the people you love, and that's a skill for life - like tennis or piano but yummier and far less expensive.
I'm not talking about cooking as a performance, or entertaining as a complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I'm talking about feeding someone with honestly 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."
Whew! That takes the pressure off, doesn't it? It's not just about the food but about the relationships that are formed and nourished. I hope to make my home like that one day, a place where people feel safe and loved and encouraged. I also want people to see glimpses of God and his love for them when we gather and share our lives together.
Shauna is a great story-teller and I loved reading Bread & Wine. I learned that life is beautiful and messy, unpredictable, yet memorable. Invite people to come and share life with you around your own table.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.
I was suckered in, I admit. This was one of those books that I thought I had to read because all my savvy and awesome friends were digging into it. But it was much, much better than the hype. The reviewers always mention how Mrs. Niequist speaks like she's your really awesome girlfriend over for coffee, but leave out how she makes you laugh along with her antics and tugs your heart strings with her sorrow.
Although I was fortunate enough to recieve this book free from Booksneeze.com to review, after reading it, I would gladly pay for it: it's THAT good!