For months on end, I’ve been hearing people say that Shauna Niequist’s “Bread and Wine” was really good. But I wasn’t particularly interested for some reason — despite my friend Lynn having turned one of Shauna’s other books (“Cold Tangerines”) into a full-out play! I thought it was more of a cook book — but turns out, it’s a whole lot more than that.
Finally, I ordered a copy — a hard copy because I definitely wanted to try the recipes — and because Shauna even says in the intro she hopes you will take this book the kitchen, and get it all stained up while you cook.
If anything, the book is a memoir of friendships around the table. From page 1, I was hooked and finished it in less than 72 hours. It was a comfort read, for sure, the kind that makes you feel like you are going back to hang out with a good (new!) friend.
Essentially, Shauna’s main point is that food isn’t just food — it’s an important way that we nourish ourselves far beyond physically. Providing food for those we love can be such a symbolic act of kindness and friendship — even if we start with just take out around a table.
Of course, Shauna loves to cook but she doesn’t want readers to feel overwhelmed. She gently guides the reader through different levels of cooking and encourages you to “just start somewhere.”
I’ll admit, some of her stories were intimidating — the many things she would throw together for a dinner party…and the amount of dinner parties she seems to throw. But, the books is more about sharing life with the people we love.
It’s about how when you are sitting around a table talking for dinner together, that’s when the good stuff of life comes out — the conversations you remember forever, the support you never knew you needed is born. It’s something you won’t find unless you actually put yourself in those situations and it’s truly the sweetness — the nectar? — of what life is really about.
It made me realize for the first time why I love my book club so much. It’s really the only time in my life where I sit around a table for hours with a homemade meal and people I truly enjoy talking to without rushing off to do something else. I have made those dinners a priority and this book showed me — over 4 years after joining the club — why I like it so much!
To be honest, I don’t see much of the girls in my book club outside of our monthly meetings, but I’ve definitely shared a lot of my life with them and feel closer to them than most people you would that you only see here and there! Those dinners create an intimacy you can’t find anywhere else.
The shot above and this one below are two different meetings of my book club, going strong for over 5 years I think (I joined a little later):
Shauna writes in a way I can appreciate, capturing the little moments that we all cherish and describing food in a way that will make you want to rush to the kitchen and get cooking. Within a day of starting the book, I made my own vinaigrette (who knew that’s how you spell it?!) from her recipe and it was better than any bottled salad dressing I’ve had in my life. Just olive oil, balsamic, dijon and salt!
She also gets into some of the issues many women often struggle with — body image, shame, miscarriage, divorce, and more. I think every woman will find themselves somewhere in the pages of this book, as I did in more ways than one.
I’ve come a long way since my non-cooking single days, but it’s clear I have a few more steps to go. I’m glad “Bread and Wine” could give me the inspiration to start getting there. Though my life isn’t really structured in a way that allows visitors stop by on a whim or to throw together dinner parties on the regular in the way the way that Shauna does for multiple reasons, I hope I can emulate that care and quality time with others in more meaningful ways from now on.
Have you ever experienced the sweetness of life at dinner with friends? Have you read “Bread and Wine” or other Shauna Niequist books? What do you think about her approach to “starting somewhere “with cooking?