Book Review: Bread and Wine

bread and wineSitting around the table for dinner remains one of my favorite childhood memories. Something about eating together creates an atmosphere of relaxation and comfortability with one another. It was a time for talking and just being together.

Author Shauna Niequist writes about her love for food, cooking, and fellowship in “Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes.”

She reminds us of the importance of coming together to partake, “What’s becoming clearer and clearer to me is that the most sacred moments, the ones in which I feel God’s presence most profoundly, when I feel the goodness of the world most arrestingly, take place at the table. The particular alchemy of celebration and food, of connecting people and serving what I’ve made with my own hands, comes together as more than the sum of their parts.”

Part of the genius is that Shauna goes on to show through short memoirs the sacredness of dining together with friends and loved ones, as well as the sustaining nourishment that physical food offers to our spiritual being.

Shauna shares memories of her mother making blueberry cobbler every Sunday evening for dinner as a special treat. They’d pick blueberries during the summer and freeze them, so they could keep up the family tradition year round. (And she shares the recipe of course!)

But she also ventures off the path of happy nostagia to talk about the hard parts of life too. For example, her miscarriages and struggle with infertility, or the time her newborn son had to go to the hospital.

Coming to the table is not just about sharing during times of feasting, but about nourishing one another through times of sorrow as well: “We don’t learn to love each other well in the easy moments. Anyone is good company at a cocktail party. But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you.”

It’s about doing life together—learning about the other person. Each household has its own unique take on food & cooking that’s like a window into the heart and soul :f that family. For example, some of my cousins and in-laws put ketchup in everything, while I seem to put cayenne pepper in everything. Eating with another family opens up a new avenue for gathering insights about others.

But more than that, it can bring people together. At one point, Shauna points out that bread is often considered a poor man’s food and wine a rich man’s, but those are the elements Christ used to implement the sacrament of communion, a rememberance of his bodily death and resurrection.

Gathering together, eating with one another, breaking down walls: “When you offer peace instead of division, when you offer faith instead of fear, when you offer someone a place at your table instead of keeping them out because they’re different or messy or wrong somehow, you represent the heart of Christ.”

As we come to the end of this Thanksgiving week, I am grateful for the blessings God has bestowed and enjoy the chance to celebrate with mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie (and maybe a bite or two of turkey).

But, I am also reminded of how important it is to see the spiritual truths that God teaches us through food and dining together during the normal every day meals.