Before I review Shauna Niequist‘s newest book, let me admit something to you: I have a pretty big girl crush on Shauna (see my reviews of her first books here and here; also, my references to her writing in this post, this post and this post). Shauna is a Christian author, one who writes honestly and transparently about so many real-life topics and issues — from finding yourself in your 20s and the values of friendship, to the trials of parenthood and the importance of family. Whereas a few people I’ve recommended her work to over the years have come away finding her to be too saccharine or prone to humble bragging, many more have told me they, too, have fallen in love with her voice just as much as I have. Every story of Shauna’s shared over the course of her three books has felt like a conversation to me, Bread & Wine being no different. Perhaps that’s why I love her so much — because, as an aspiring writer myself, I know that as easy as she may make it seem, that is no simple feat.
About the Book: Bread & Wine is Shauna’s third collection of essays, this time focusing on her love of food and family and the dinner table. As she says, “a series of love letters centered on life around the table.” Over the course of its four parts, Shauna shares stories about a host of topics, from growing up in Michigan and the legacy of her mother’s blueberry crisp as a Sunday night ritual to her trial-by-fire turn as a chef at a culinary boot camp in her home city of Chicago. What I loved most about Bread & Wine (beside all the DELICIOUS sounding recipes for various appetizers, salads and entrees) is how well Shauna captures our relationship with food and the memories it can evoke for us. Whether it’s the way a chocolate mousse takes her back to a trip to Paris with her husband or how the preparation of a certain salad is her signal to the start of summer, Shauna’s words are a culinary trip down memory lane. They also made me think about my own food-centric memories …how sacred I’ve come to view meal times with my own family, both as a child and adult. For me, the best thing about reading Bread & Wine is that it’s introduced me to thinking about words and cookbooks and recipes in a new way. Shauna has inspired me to delve more into a world of smells and tastes between two covers (for starters, I just finished this cookbook and am in LOVE with it…more on that in a future review!) The older I get, the more I fall in love with the therapeutic ritual that is cooking and providing a wonderful meal for myself and my husband (and some day, my son). As I’ve long said, it’s my personal form of therapy and it’s books like this one that only make that love affair deepen.
Passage(s) I Want to Remember: One thing’s for sure: If you decide to be courageous and sane, if you decide not to overspend or overcommit or overschedule, the healthy people in your life will respect those choices. And the unhealthy people in your life will freak out, because you’re making a healthy choice they’re not currently free to make. Don’t for one selcond let that stop you. Either I can be here, fully here, my imperfect, messy tired but wholly present self, or I can miss it — this moment, this conversation, this time around the table, whatever it is — because I’m trying, and failing, to be perfect, keep the house perfect, make the meal perfect, ensure the gift is perfect. But this season I’m not trying for perfect. I’m just trying to show up, every time, with honesty and attentiveness.
Recipes I REALLY Want to Try: Maple Balsamic Pork Tenderloin, Bacon-Wrapped Dates, Watermelon Feta Salad, Robin’s Super-Healthy Lentil Soup, Blueberry Crisp, Dark Chocolate Sea Salted Toffee, Basic Risotto.
One I tried and falled in love with? Annette’s Enchiladas. OMG are these SO good! They’ll now be my go-to dinner for any new parent or friend in need of a hot meal! Just check out that yummy-ness!
Would I Recommend? Most definitely! The thing I love MOST about Shauna and her books is the way she constantly reenforces this idea of “Me too! I thought I was the only one! I love that too!” type of thinking through her thoughts and words. She seems so down-to-earth and yet hip at the same time, that I would die to have her sit down at the dinner table with me. Truly. (And I’m SUPER envious of her cooking club that she writes about in the book!) I also think this book would be wonderful as an audio book, particularly if it were narrated by her. She has such a soothing, yet commanding voice — just check out the trailer for Bread & Wine to see what I mean!