Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bread & Wine Review

My friend Ilene just posted her review of Bread & Wine today, and I am making myself not read it until I write my own review.
We both received advance copies by the publisher to review, and we chatted about the book over a phone date a few weeks ago after we had read the beginning chapters.
I'm dying to hear how she fared with the rest of it, so here I am with mine!

Bread and Wine is subtitled by author Shauna Niequist as "a love letter to life around the table with recipes."  Being a city dweller, I don't even have a table, and I've hardly cooked a meal since I've been pregnant.  But Shauna's previous two books, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, have met me and shaped me in ways that I knew Bread and Wine could do, even without a dining table.  

After reading Cold Tangerines, Bittersweet, and now Bread and Wine, I find Shauna's books to be about community, and perhaps even better-- friendship.  What I mean by that delineation between community and friendship is that sometimes it seems that "community" is an elevated term, a spiritual term, a duty of sorts.  For me, Shauna has brought back the purity of friendship-- simply delighting in people that I get the gift of choosing to surround myself with.  In people that make me just want be with them.  I've needed more of that in my life.

Its seems that Shauna wrote Cold Tangerines from a happy place, Bittersweet from a sad place, and Bread and Wine from a place of pure personal passion as a foodie, but somehow she takes the reader to this inspiring yet reachable vision of cultivating friendship, no matter her starting place. Or at least that's what her books do for me.

In Bread and Wine I found so many things, but one of the things I didn't necessarily expect to find were reassuring messages like "it's okay, that's normal" about so many feelings and doubts I've had about my abilities to manage the whole food preparation thing of adulthood.  From a husband who worked second shift our first year of marriage, to grad school, to a health crisis, to a career of working nights and weekends, to a city culture of visiting restaurants more often than friends' homes, I feel I've been thrown a few curve balls in the the 6:00 nightly dinner department.  Shauna talks about how knowing how to make a meal for guests is in some ways easier than day in and day out getting dinner on the table.  She writes,

"It's a little bit counter intuitive.  You'd think anyone can do a Tuesday dinner, but, say, feeding twenty on a Saturday night or baking a wedding cake takes real skill.  But I find it's exactly the opposite.  That weeknight dinner takes planning and skill, a dance of art and science, all the while battling the clock and the crankiness of the weeknight dinner hour."

Amen.  Beyond how she manages to calm my insecurities and inadequacies and make the book reachable and relatable, she also subtly creates pages upon pages of vision-- through stories of successes and failures-- of the spirit of connecting and building relationships through food and hospitality.  My favorite lesson from the book was her discussion of how true hospitality and community is not providing a flawless, impressive meal but rather is sharing yourself as a host.  If you're too stressed and busy with the meal to spend time with your guests or too tired from it all to be yourself, then your meal was too complex.  She advises to choose a meal to serve that will make you feel the most relaxed so that you can truly be with your guests.  I loved how refreshing this perspective was versus choosing a menu to impress.  

And finally, for each recipe that she crafts a story around, she includes the actual recipe at the end of the chapter.  It's a beautiful and fun read, refreshing in it's arresting blend of practical tips and anecdotal inspiration for a way to find life and love around the table.   Thank you, Shauna, for another book to love!

This would be a great book to start a book club around-- or, like Shauna talks about in the book, a cooking club.  Invite a few friends or even acquaintances to read the book and then get together to discuss it.  Who knows what could happen? My book club is reading it this month, and we're going to venture into trying out the recipes together!

Order Bread & Wine here.


Christy said...

I love that bit about choosing simple dishes so your focus can be on your guests rather than stressing out about the food. I think that's so true.
It completely changed my attitude toward hospitality when I realized it's about sharing yourself - your home, your time - with others, not about preparing a posh meal. (:

Kirra said...

I'm loving it so far! Loved your review too sis. CAN YOU BELIEVE WE'RE GOING TO THE LAUNCH PARTY!

shauna said...

Oh, thank you! What a beautiful post! XO

ilene @ muchloveilly said...

fabulous post, ashley!!!! gaaah wish we could cook some of these meals together. miss you!