It is an honor to review Shauna Niequist’s newest (and most amazing) book, Bread & Wine. You can buy it here and follow her blog over here. Her previous books, Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet, are also phenomenal reads. I highly recommend them all. :)
Because I loved this book a lot, and because I process in stages, I’ll be writing my review in parts. I’ve never been a fan of word vomit on long blog posts, and I’d like to think the suspense will keep you coming back for more. so, onward.
The Top Five Reasons You Should Read Bread & Wine
The reasons I love Shauna are many, as I’ve followed her closely every since the release of her first book. I’ve quoted her in thank you cards, I’ve been given her books as gifts, and I’ve retweeted her maybe 42,000 times. She spoke at APU while I attended, and I was lucky enough to be included in a luncheon afterward where she sat and chatted with a dozen of us about why she wrote the book and what she wanted to communicate through it. I was starstruck for a large portion of our time in the same room, but I remember asking her what she hoped her book would mean to people. She answered, “I hope that people can read it no matter what season they are in and find something that they can relate to.” Well, my dear: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. So, to each of you who think maybe you aren’t going to relate to what she has to say because you haven’t experienced a certain whatever, you’re wrong. The universal truths she communicates will make you feel like this is a letter directly to your heart.
No matter where you are, read this book. Here are five reasons why:
1. If you’re stuck between ten hard places. || Things often get complicated, and usually when your life unravels, it isn’t at a convenient time. It’s in between jobs, or paychecks, or kids. Or it’s after bad news from a doctor, or right before a big exam. That’s why I loved her gentle reminder to start where you are, with what you have. She talks about this concept specifically with cooking, but I find it to be true in other facets of my life. I often get stuck thinking thoughts like, “Well I’m never going to be Amanda Freitag, so I probably just shouldn’t cook anything.” Or, “I’ll never finish a marathon, so I probably just shouldn’t run at all.” I forget that things take work, and everyone has to start somewhere. If you have so many projects you can’t wrap your brain around all of them, then don’t; start with just one. If there’s a job you want, a master’s program you think would be perfect, or a skill you desire to learn, then figure out what the first step is and begin. And sometimes certain moments will catch you completely off guard, and you’ll have to readjust for next time. But just start where you are.
2. If you’re lacking community, or you’re in the middle of a great one. || A college professor told us once that after we left this place, community would be something we would have to fight for. I didn’t believe him because I had a zillion awesome neighbors and I planned on making sure my life recreated the TV show Friends as soon as I graduated. Well, I was wrong and he was right; you have to fight for community and you have to work hard to keep in contact with your people. It takes immense strength to be vulnerable and ask for help, it takes courage to open your door even though your house is a disaster, and it takes tenacity to celebrate birthdays and babies and new jobs. But you do it anyway, and she sums it up the ‘why’ perfectly with a story about her cooking club, and why it’s important: “That’s what this is about. This isn’t about recipes. This is about a family, a tribe, a little band of people who walk through it all together, up close and in the mess, real time and unvarnished…You don’t always kno what’s going to come of it, but you put the time in anyway, and then, after a long, long time, you realize with great clarity why you put the time in: for this night, for these hours around the table, for the complexity and richness of flavors that are so lovely and unexpected you’re still thinking about it the next day.”
3. If you’re not a huge fan of your body. || Candidly, I haven’t loved the way the mirror looks lately. I’m constantly blaming it on one thing or another, and the resentment grows like a desease. Bread & Wine has a chapter called Hungry and I read it three times with tears all over my face. At one point I had to literally put the book down because I was crying so hard I couldn’t read the words. I’m still processing what these words mean for me, but what’s important is this: Shauna didn’t write a book that contains recipes without acknowledging the important issue of hunger and body image. And she does it right away, within the first 30 pages. She reminds us that in order to extend anyone grace, we must have first tasted it ourselves, and there is no better person to practice on than yourself. She reminds us that appetites are a good thing, and the only weight that matters is the weight of shame we allow ourselves to walk around with — those are the pounds that have got to go.
4. If you live at a very high speed. || I go fast, most days. I take multi-tasking to a new level and even if it looks like I’m only doing one thing, I’m thinking about at least five more. One huge takeaway from this book for me was this phrase: Slow is cheap. She first uses it when she’s talking about scrambled eggs (which is also completely accurate, by the way!) but I am finding value in taking it to other parts of my day besides breakfast. I keep repeating it to myself; it’s like a phrase has gotten stuck in my head instead of a song. I want to live a bit slower so that I don’t go too fast and ruin the whole thing. Low heat, longer time.
5. If you’ve never cooked before, or have cooked forever. || When I heard Shauna’s new book would contain recipes, I almost died. Of course! Has this even been done before? Recipes + Non Fiction? Each recipe has brought with it so much more meaning, because I can recall the story or the friend that she tied that particular recipe to. But what I appreciate the most is that she speaks in human terms, and explains her reasons for altering certain ingredients. Her recipes are easy to read — and I’m not a big fan of recipes to begin with. But her instructions are simple and it shows that she has learned to rely on her senses to guide her and not strictly what the rulebook says. Which is good life advice, now that I think about it.
So there you go. Five reasons to get yourself a copy of this gem.