When I first heard that Shauna Niequist had a new book coming out, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. I loved her first book, Cold Tangerines. And her second book, Bittersweet, is even better. I recommend it all the time.
Then someone told me this new book was about cooking, with lots of recipes. Disappointment. I hate to admit this in our “foody” world—but I don’t actually like to cook. And the idea of reading what I pictured as a cookbook with commentary did not make my heart sing.
But then I remembered: This book is by Shauna Niequist. I love her writing. I love her thinking. I love the way she embraces life so passionately, so completely, daring to write honestly about the bitter as much as the sweet. Surely this book is about far more than food alone.
Indeed. Far more. The full title says it well: Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table. The book draws you in to not only her kitchen and her table, but her life itself. It is a book about love and fear, joy and pain, pregnancy and infertility, new birth and miscarriage, crazy schedules and quiet moments—life itself.
In a disarming way, Niequist always goes deep. I love the authenticity with which she writes about women’s struggles with shame over their bodies and their homes—and more importantly, her rallying call to overcome these lies in favor of God’s truth about who we are and how we can live in freedom and relationship.
I think my favorite chapter is “Enough.” That may be because I resonate so deeply with her feelings surrounding infertility and miscarriage. The story she tells, about sharing joy in yet another friend’s pregnancy even amidst her own loss, mirrors an experience in my own life—many years ago but never forgotten. In sharing her story, Shauna urges us ever so gently toward contentment with whatever God has for us—or doesn’t.
I love Niequist’s humor. She is a very, very funny writer. And she uses her humor well. It sneaks up on you. As you laugh your way through her hilarious chapter called “Open the Door,” you almost don’t notice how thoroughly she has convinced you about the importance of relationship over pride, and “presence” over perfection.
This book envelops you. It has you laughing one minute, wiping a tear the next. And yes, though it is about much more than food and cooking, it is full of wonderful cooking tips, entertaining ideas, and scrumptious recipes—some of them the kind that even I would try! OK, I have to admit it: it actually made me want to cook more. I’ve always loved having people in my home, laughing and crying and telling great stories around my table. I’m all about “life around the table.” It’s just the actual cooking process I don’t love. But Shauna managed to inspire even me.
She also includes lots of great tips for various dietary needs—gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, and more. This is a book about feeding the body—yes. But also the soul. It embraces life in the light of the ultimate Bread and Wine of God’s table. The best table, it turns out.