I just finished Shauna Niequist’s newest memoir, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes.
I am a reluctant kitchen-person. I “assemble” more than cook, let’s say. I so so so appreciate all good food (believe me), but I’m not really someone who gets around the kitchen with total ease. If you’re a reluctant kitchen-person, the subject of Shauna’s latest writing might not grab you immediately. But here’s what’s true about her writing. Always. It doesn’t matter what she’s writing about; she’s always writing about the essence of life. She’s always writing about you. She’s always writing about me.
Bread & Wine is a beautiful—and I mean beautiful—tribute to the essential nourishment we all need. Through food, of course. But also through the people in our lives and our willingness to let them in fully. Ultimately, our willingness to let the body and blood of Christ into our lives, too.
As Shauna writes about softening an onion in a pan filled with melting butter, the sizzles and smells come off the page. Somewhere in the midst of this sensory experience, you realize you are really reading about—you were reading about all along—a deeper story. Loss. Fear. Shame. Hope. Love. Letting go. Letting in. Shauna writes about food but she writes mostly about what “the table” offers us: a place to be our true selves, to receive nourishment and comfort from others, to be loved, to give.
Here are a few of my favorite moments from the book:
“Love isn’t something you prove or earn, but something you receive or allow, like a balm, like a benediction, even when you’re at your very worst” (120).
“We don’t learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you”(132).
“The very things you think you need most desperately are the things that can transform you the most profoundly when you do finally decide to release them” (136).
“You never know while it’s happening what will burn in your memory, sacred and profound. It seems like most of the things we try to make profound never are, lost in our insistence and fretting and posing. When we want something to be momentous, it rarely is. Life is disobedient in that way, insisting on surprising us with its magic, stubbornly unwilling to be glittery on command” (221-222).
Yes. Yes. And yes.
The book is incredibly readable, as is all of Shauna’s writing. You will find yourself in its pages, I can promise you. And it’s really a perfect book to give as a gift. Include a pretty tea towel from Anthropologie or one of those darling little basil plants from Trader Joe’s. It would be perfect with one of your family’s favorite recipes slipped in as a bookmark. I just saw over on Shauna’s blog that she’s even personalizing and signing nameplates that you can put inside the book if you’re buying it for a special someone.
With recipes included at the end of almost every chapter and an appendix that serves as a guide to getting around the kitchen, the book is both practical and inspiring—what’s better!?!
If you’ve already read Bread & Wine–or any of Shauna’s other books–let me know what you love about her writing, how her writing has met you.
Thank you, Shauna, for being a bold, brave, and bread-and-wine woman. Thank you for doing the hard work of mothering and getting words down on the page. We’re so grateful for your voice!
Additionally, here are a few more new releases I hope to be discussing with you in the near future:
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou (her latest memoir about her relationship with her mother)
Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Melton
Freefall to Fly: A Breathtaking Journey Toward a Life of Meaning by Rebekah Lyons