Bread and Wine :: a rambling review

I just finished Shauna Niequists’s Bread and Wine. And honestly, it was delightful – equal parts light and serious. Pretty, honest prose, book-ended by simple, enticing recipes. It read like a friend sharing tips and stories, not like some fancy cook trying to show off their skills or glamorize their life. It felt like a sister, pointing you towards savoring life and inviting people in to join you.

Since I started Bread and Wine, I’ve caught myself eating slower, enjoying food more, not multitasking at meals anymore. I’ve found myself just doing one thing at a time, and I’m really grateful for that.

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This morning, as Garret was on his way out the door to go fishing, I was still waking up, staggering around the kitchen looking for breakfast. He left, I turned the TV off and ignored my phone, and I settled in at our kitchen table with some Nutella toast, Bread and Wine waiting for me to cover the last few pages, and hazelnut coffee. (Instant hazelnut coffee, if I’m honest. I was feeling a touch lazy.)

Our kitchen is a decent-sized, L-shaped, linoleum-covered space, and in the corner by the window we have our little round table. It really only comfortably seats four or five, but I’d squeeze as many people around it as I could if it was only up to me. Garret isn’t on the same page with me there – the man doesn’t like to be crowded.

Last week I cooked Shauna’s go-to risotto recipe for the first time, along with roasted veggies and pan-cooked chicken. Y’all, both of us just about died from the yum.

Garret chopped sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and parsnips, while I followed every step of the risotto recipe to a T. I barely knew what risotto even was, so I was excited to maybe actually cook it myself! Garret loves flavor and gets excited about mixing seasonings, so he is in charge of seasoning things most of the time in our house. While he was seasoning the vegetables, lightly sprayed with butter, I put the chicken (marinated overnight in fresh lemon and lime juice, garlic, and apple cider vinegar) in a pan, with chopped peppers I’d pulled out of the freezer for a little color.

Cooking together is almost always fun, but this meal was rich and extra-good, and Garret looked at me like I’d solved a mystery of the universe when he took his first bite. We were both proud of how good our home-grown Brussels sprouts tasted, and we both ate the leftover risotto in record time over the next two days.

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In Bread and Wine, Shauna shares that her heart for gathering people around the table is all about giving people a safe, welcoming place where they can rest and be fed, where we can all admit our humanity – that we need to slow down, we need friends and help, and we’re hungry.

We have a small, sweet group of friends that we have dinner with often, and once I saw how big of a hit the risotto and roasted vegetables were with Garret, I knew it’d work great for our little super club. So, we all got together a few nights ago, with pot roast, red wine, risotto, roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli and sprouts and parsnips, and Bluebell – blessed Bluebell – for dessert. It was a gooood night.

I can’t eat this rich, savory risotto quickly. I find myself holding my fork a little looser, relaxing and enjoying. Paying attention to all of it – the smells, the people, the tastes.

Shauna’s book isn’t a heavy or theological memoir but like her first two books, her vulnerability caught me, drew me in, made me really listen. I love that she invites us all to be honest about how God made us and what God made us to love – she loves to cook and entertain – her brother loves to sail and be at the lake.

I also enjoyed her practicality about food and people – that hospitality is about being present not perfect, about having a few go-to recipes, planning ahead a little, meeting people’s needs, and opening your door. I have a small house, small table, and almost-always-dirty kitchen floors, but I still found this book really helpful and practical.

One thing that I will note about Bread and Wine is that if you’ve read her other books and/or kept up with her blog, the order of events in this book’s essays may be a little confusing – it seemed to me that there was a little repetition and sometimes it confused me, but not bad. So, it’s a lovely collection of short essays, just like Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, but this time with easy, delicious recipes. And can I just say? I love that her recipes are long and rambling – that’s how I write directions and recipes, too.

Bread and Wine was exactly what I wanted it to be – approachable, rich to the senses, heart-breaking at times, and hilarious. It reminded me to slow down and be present in tangible life, with friends and family, pots and pans, meat and vegetables.

*Disclosure: I was provided with an advanced reading copy of this book. But, the content of this review is my own opinion.

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