Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist is a book that expands on this quotation by C.S. Lewis: “God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. He uses material things like bread and wine to put new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: he invented eating.”
I have a natural bent to the mental and I’m very good at missing the sensory entirely. Lost in thought, I can wander along and be oblivious to the colors of the blooming rosebush, the curl of the wave before it crashes on the sand, the song of the bird in the tree outside my window. I’m trying to be more aware of the world through my senses, though. Shauna’s book is ideal for me because she revels in the physical beauty of food. She describes the crunch, the sizzling, the chopping, the swirling, the delightful oozing of sauces, the pungent smells. And of course, the taste of the delicate, spicy, sweet, sea-salty, vinegary (my favorite — I pour balsamic vinegar on everything, and Shauna loves it, too!). All senses engage in the food.
This book will give you a new eagerness to experience this matter God invented called food — in its endless and wondrous forms. You have permission to experiment with flavors and combinations and enjoy foods in whatever way they speak to you.
The real focus of Bread and Wine is not the food, though, but the people who share the food. “Sometimes food is the end and sometimes it’s a means to the end; and sometimes you don’t know which it is until it happens.” When family, friends, strangers gather around a table and enjoy a meal, somehow that act of sharing food opens up people to become more vulnerable, to relate to the others at the table on a new level. “The heart of hospitality,” writes Shauna,” is creating space for these moments.”
And that’s the heart of Bread and Wine. We are encouraged to start where we are, not wait until we are ready to serve a four-course gourmet dinner. Serving a meal is “an act of love, not a performance.” I appreciate that Shauna makes it clear from the first pages that she is going to give us recipes, but we should make them our own. There’s no right and wrong, just start here and experiment and add flavors we like. Throw in what’s in the cupboard; no need to run to the store for a certain ingredient. It’s not perfection we’re after; it’s people feeling at home at our table.
The heartwarming stories in Bread and Wine will have you laughing and crying. The recipes will have your mouth watering. The real food for thought, though, is the way we see that sharing a meal can trigger profound moments of connection with others. If this happens over a bubbling blueberry crisp, all the more reason for celebration.
Bread and Wine released April 9 for your reading — and eating — pleasure. Enjoy!