Come to the table. Just come. Because it is there that you will find hunger satiated. Friendships deeply rooted. Families grounded. Relationships and sharing and communing, with each other and with God. Communion, literally and figuratively.
You’ll find all of this in Shauna Niequist’s new book, Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes. Her essays read more like a letter from a dear friend, seemingly wandering from one topic to another to another as a good conversation does, but always ultimately revealing profound truths — about relationships, about faith, about trust, about loving. Shauna writes about parenting, grace, making choices, being tired, practicing relinquishing control, welcoming people into your life, scary moments of pregnancy, and seeing the world. The end-of-chapter recipes range from comfort foods and desserts to busy weeknight standbys to menus for entertaining.
The best part of the recipes is the way she writes them. They are less about measurements and timing than understanding and responding and experiencing.
“The rice sizzles and pops in the oil for a while, so stir, stir, stir, and then when it seems to be coated thoroughly, add in a big glassful of wine, and stir, stir, stir. Wooden spoon, by the way.” And “Serve immediately, like, right that second.”
I can tell I would like her. I want to listen to her stories and tell her mine, see what we have in common. See how we relate, how our stories of faith compare and how we can learn from each other. A little part of me is jealous of her, of her life that seems somehow glamorous and a little bit privileged, but to be fair, she’s not at all pretentious. Her experiences are interesting and relevant, and I like the way she looks at the world and the connections she’s found between spiritual and physical hunger, how life around the table with people we love can teach us and nourish us in both ways. She’s real and approachable. The only place she lost me was the recipes themselves. And that’s really not her fault but mine, since I’m more of a mac ‘n’ cheese kind of girl than a fan of quinoa and almond flour and mangoes. Many of the recipes are gluten-free and probably quite delicious if you are more adventuresome than my kids and I are. My son is severely allergic to dairy and nuts, too, and I would find it difficult to adapt many of these. But don’t let my food quirks stop you — this book is worth reading, no matter what kind of eater you are, and the recipes seem doable.
In spite of my aversion to goat cheese, though, deep in my soul, I feel a stirring, a hopefulness, as a result of her invitation to come to the table.
She writes, “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 sun of their parts.” And, later, she says, “if you can satiate a person’s hunger, you can get a glimpse of their heart. There’s an intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of one’s stomach, that is, necessarily, tied to the heart.”
All we have to do is come to the table. I will, because I want to find what she’s found there and adapt it to fit me. My way may not contain quinoa, but I still sit at the table, hungry, expectant. My plate is empty, ready to be filled.Bread & Wine will be released on April 9. I hope you will pre-order it now.