I was introduced to Shauna Niequist, or rather her writing, when a friend recommended Cold Tangerines to me in college. I began reading, and being the sucker I am for a good memoir, I was instantly hooked. I discovered Bittersweet two years later and devoured it. Getting lost in the stories about her life, the truth she learned about herself and God, all the while reveling in how wonderfully she intertwined the two together on such a relatable level.
As you know, I love writing and I love reading great writers. After reading her first two books, Shauna skyrocketed to the top spot on my list of favorite authors. Someone I looked up to, someone who’s writing I would love to emulate one day, someone I felt like I had a true connection with even though we had never met.
Then, I heard about Bread & Wine. And I could barely contain myself. I began a mental countdown this spring, frantically checking her blog to see when the book would be released. And the second it was, I instantly gave all our money to Amazon and bought eight copies- one for my mother, one for my mother-in-law, one for my four best friends, one for my sister-in-law, and one for myself… obviously. Taylor thought I had completely lost it. Who buys eight copies of the same book? he asked. This girl.
Sometimes, there are those things in life that tug at your heart in ways you can’t explain. For me, Shauna’s writing is one of those things. It’s creative, honest, loving and challenging, gut-wrenching and hopeful. More than anything, it’s real. It’s about real life, real people, real food, real stories, real struggles, real victories and a very real God. That’s what made me fall in love with her writing in Cold Tangerines, and the writing in Bread & Wine is no different.
This book is everything you hope and long for it to be. Shauna writes so candidly about her experiences- on multiple occasions I cried and laughed out loud on the same page. She tells stories about the table, and the relationships that have been built and strengthened around it. She talks about food as more than something that physically nourishes, but something that can nourish our soul as well if we give it the opportunity. She encourages all of us to come to the table, to let people into the mess, to slow down and engage fully in the real life, the real faces, the tangible smells and tastes that are happening right in front of you. And it’s so beautiful. Even as I’m writing this, my heart is bursting with joy about this book. I can’t get over how gorgeous and truth-filled it is.
As if that weren’t enough, the recipes she includes are absolutely fantastic. Breakfast cookies and goat cheese scrambled eggs have become morning staples. A spicy tomatillo version of the White Chicken Chili was perfect for a crisp spring day in Austin, and a giant bowl of the Green Well Salad hit the spot at my mother-in-law’s house for a Mother’s Day dinner.
About a month ago, Taylor and I invited our friends Kelly and John over for dinner. They had gotten married two weeks before, and Taylor and I three months before. We were so excited to have friends over to our apartment, and I- currently in the middle of Bread & Wine– had dreamed about the menu all week. It was getting warmer, and I was aching for summer. So naturally, I decided the menu would be Mar-a-Lago Turkey Burgers, Watermelon Feta Salad, Sweet Potato Fries and a Blueberry-Peach Crisp with Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream for dessert. John and Kelly brought ingredients for strawberry daiquiris, so we blended and grilled and tossed while both couples tried to contain their excitement. You see, Taylor’s parents and Kelly’s parents became friends while their children were young. They’ve raised their kids together, gone on vacations together and spent countless hours around a table. As a result, the Coulter’s and the Bixby’s really are like a family. Taylor and Kelly’s brother, Josh, are like brothers. Kelly and Taylor’s sister, Lindsay, like sisters. The two families could fill hours with stories about life they’ve experienced together. And that night as we sat down at the table, the realization sunk in that what we were experiencing was a tribute to the generation above us. Their willingness to welcome people in and know their stories was pivotal to us sitting down at the table together that night. They taught us what it looks like to live life in community, and we now have the opportunity to cultivate relationships with each other in the same way our parents did- what an incredible gift that is.
And so we ate and talked and laughed. We told funny stories and asked serious questions and lingered around the table. At one point John, who is an artist and wonderfully unique soul, after taking a bite of his turkey burger exclaimed,
This literally tastes like it’s from the banquet table in heaven!
And in a way, it was. The food was good. The Settlers of Catan game we embarked on after dinner was entertaining. But that night was a little taste of what we’ll get to do with John and Kelly for all eternity. We get to celebrate God’s goodness and his saving grace in our lives together in heaven, at a feast, forever.
And that is why I love Bread & Wine so much. It reveals how sacred even the most simple things in life are. It implores us to slow down, lest we miss how delicious life can taste.