A Review of Bread & Wine (better late than never)

A few months ago I was invited to read Shauna Niequist's newest book, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table, with Recipes. I jumped at the opportunity because 1) I adored (!!) her first two books, 2) I'm always looking for a good read outside of leadership and spiritual formation books, and 3) who doesn't love a free book?!? 

I've known Shauna from up close and from afar since circa 1998. We worked together and were in the same small group for a moment in time, but for the past decade I've admired and cheered her on from the West coast. I love the voice she's developed and the platform God's given her. I love women like her using their gifts in ways to make us all better.

I promised to review the book before it was officially released in mid-April. Oops. I wish it was because I've been consumed cooking myself through the recipes in the book, but it's merely life that delayed my review.

So, on to the official review. Let me be clear and frank with you about Bread & Wine: THIS IS HER BEST WORK TO DATE! To say I loved Bread & Wine would be an understatement. I gobbled up every word, disciplining myself to read slowly, savored in her carefully articulated words, chewed on the timeless truth told from everyday and exotic stories, and salivated the richness of those darn recipes. Perhaps the proof is that I intend to read it again and make every single recipe in this book. If that's not a commendation in the midst of this ridiculous season of my life, I don't know what is. You can order it here

As I read, a couple realities confronted me. To know me is to know that I am not oh-so domestic. I do not cook well; I throw meals together from the handful of "recipes" that are second nature to me. I do not bake; I buy my sweet treats. I'm not the most hospitable host. Our family motto is "mi casa es su casa", so make yourself at home when you take your shoes off at the door.

But through stories and Scripture and sensory experiences, Shauna casts a vision for life around the table - literally and figuratively - with those you love and those in need and those who need a safe space. I found myself compelled and challenged and called to extend the gift of hospitality, to be more mindful of who I invite into my life and space. My expectations are not unrealistic, but I appreciated these words, 

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 performance, or entertaining as a complicated choreography of competition and showing off. I'm talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love, about making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if just for a few hours, from the crust and cruelty of the day. (from the "start where you are" chapter)

I will start from where I am. That's a good reminder for most everything.

Of course, many of Shauna's stories are from a life I will not live (summers on Lake Michigan, a childhood with extensive international travel, multiple vacations a year), but that's not the point. These are great stories. Stories of vision and a calling to live deeply in the life you've been given. Still there are so many common stories - of miscarriage, jeans that don't fit postpartum, celebrating your mom's 50th birthday, living in the tension of being working mom, and grieving through death. These stories I can relate to and the other stories are simply fun.

I'm called to love and togetherness and caring for my body and the world. This book shows me how to do that just a little more. Cheers.

Shauna doing her thing!

More on Shauna
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.

April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.