Monday, April 8, 2013

Book Review: More Delicious Than I Thought

I received a complimentary copy of Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.
     When I first sat down with my glasses on ready to dig into this book I thought I might be bored with Bread & Wine. When I realized how food-oriented the book was I questioned my liking for such material. It's not that I don't like to cook and bake, I enjoy it when I do get in there, but I am lazy. After a long day corralling my young ones and fighting and sometimes slaying the laundry dragon, I am tired and scramble to put something together. Or worse yet, feed each individual when hunger strikes. There's actually an appendix for me on that one. But, here's the thing: I'll read a book an any subject once to give it a try and see what insights that author brings to life.
      My goodness, to my delight and joy, I was enthralled by Niequist's ease and flow. Her work is more like a cohesive collection of essays that shifts one's thinking about food, the dinner table and life differently. Each chapter is her monologue to you, to bring you into her world, her thoughts, her life. It's in the process of listening that it dawned on me Niequist was rubbing off on me, stirring the cook in me. Bread &Wine is dusted with new recipes to try and play with if you want to taste the foods she describes so well. Even if you're not ready to jump head-first or even to toy with the idea of heading into the kitchen, your mouth will  be watering. She teaches you recipes are to be tinkered with until they become your own.
     For Niequist food is about life. There's the physical sustaining energy found in food. As well as the spiritual and emotional connections that food can concoct between family and friends between bites. Memories are recollected at the instigation of certain tastes and smells. Her cookbooks are the foodie's album as scrapbooks are to moms with a camera. Milestones are marked by food, sometimes in a celebratory manner or other times in grief. Food can comfort the soul as it nourishes the body.
     I would recommend this book for any woman. We all face trials in life and have moments full of joy. Bread & Wine contains both and celebrates life. It is a great book to have at your bedside for leisurely reading or in your purse as you wait at the doctors' office. The chapters are short and sweet, heartfelt and engaging, the perfect ingredients for a delightful read.

In similar fashion, I want to briefly share one of my memories that came about as food was shared.

A Sapphire Star and Remembrance

     Both of my grandparents have passed on now. In fact, I am still shocked at how long ago they departed. I consider them staples in my life I am unwilling to let go of. Lucky for me, love always remains. The funny thing is when I remember my childhood I often think of a particular table and the love that surrounded it.
      My grandparents' had a mid-century, dark wood table that hosted so many birthdays and family dinners the laughter and use ingrained themselves into the surface. The wood was warm and buttery almost, so smooth and covered in memories that its curves are etched permanently in my mind. It has been years since I sat there. My childhood birthday wishes were blown out on that table. I remember once playfully pulling back on my grandpa's finger as he sat at dinner, but I hurt him and hid in shame for a while. I would sit in my grandpa's lap and draw houses with him. He was an architect, so really the drawings were his. He had a real appreciation for stone and would always embellish the chimneys with penciled-in rock. I can see him sitting there still, inviting and warm.
      After grandpa passed away when I was 10, I would go stay with my grandma to keep her company. It was at that same table in her dining room I finally began to see my grandma as more than just Grandma. One evening after dinner was done, we sat at the table talking, sharing in this moment. I was probably 13 or so. She shared with me the events that unfolded in the ICU when grandpa was there. I was too young to see him in the hospital and never did say farewell. Tears were welling in her eyes and began to fall behind her glasses. I was seeing her vulnerability. Grandma was always my rock. In fact, she was the family rock. She brought us together, around that table to share life together. She recalled with grief those days in the ICU, when she lost the love of her life. As she shared her heart with me I knew she was sharing a part of herself that few grandchildren have the privilege to witness.
     I don't get to sit at the table anymore. Grandma gave me a necklace that night Grandpa had once given her. When I look at the star sapphire in its silver heart I see Grandma's heart, her love for family and I remember sitting at the dinner table.

Bread & Wine comes out Tuesday, April 9th!

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