July 10, 2014

book review: bread and wine by shauna niequist

I am a lover of food. I bet you couldn't tell by my oh so hollow cheekbones and willowy frame, but I come from a family of food lovers and kitchen wizards.  So many of my favorite memories revolve around being seated at a table with food set in front of me. Whether you enjoying cooking, eating, or some combination of the two, I guarantee that you will love this book.

I found Shauna's book through Lindsay Letters and asked for it for Christmas because I totally judged a book by its cover. I really had no idea what the book was about but it looked pretty and had to do with food. I was sold. When I first opened it, I remember thinking, "This is a little small to be a cookbook." I didn't realize that it was both a cookbook and a memoir, but I'm pretty sure that's my new favorite genre.

One of the really wonderful things that she does in this book is share a story, specific time in her life, lesson, etc. and then pairs it with a recipe at the end of the chapter. There are several chapters in the book that are without a one, but for the most part, the last several pages will contain a recipe. I loved how she wove together her heart and her stomach. I hope that reads as flattering as I intend it to be. Her book reminded me of my own family's food traditions and how special those are to us. There's nothing in the world quite like a Novello Christmas Eve meal and my mouth is watering just thinking about the lagana (not lasagna), ravioli, sausage, and meatballs that my aunts make by hand.

In the last several years, I've been beginning to see the kitchen table as less of a place for me to stuff my face (still guilty though, friends) and more of a place to share stories, experiences, and spend time over full dishes with loved ones. Shauna's book helped me to develop that further and gave me bravery to experiment, permission to fail, and grace for when things turned out far from perfect. I've fallen in love with my kitchen and filling my Great Nana's table with bowls, plates, and friendly faces.

"The art of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It's about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment."
Shauna's writing style made me feel like I was reading a long letter from an old friend. Within several pages, you'll feel like you know her and you'll long to sit across a table from her  dining on literally anything that's been created in her kitchen. She instantly makes you comfortable, even from the very description on the back of the book. She begs you to wreck the book: to spill on it, to dog ear the pages, to dirty it with food remnants. I loved that, I loved the initial invitation to engage with her and others not only through written words, but through action.

While this book is predominately about cooking and her life, it's about  more than that. It's a call to live in community with others. It's a challenge to live presently and engage with others holistically. It presents the notion that not only can we feed each other's bodies, we can feed each other's souls. It's about love, heartache, and everything in between.

I've already lent this book out several times, that's just how much I love it. It's one of those books that you finish, want to place on a shelf because it's so beautiful and meaningful, but you know that in doing so, you'd really do the book and those that you love a disservice. I'm so excited to read more by Shauna. I picked up her book "Bittersweet" yesterday at the library and plan to read it in its entirety this weekend. I'm not one for savoring books or food, when I find something that I love, it must be devoured.


  1. I received this book for Christmas too, and I still have yet to read it. I need to change that asap!
    My sister Erin read it awhile back, and she couldn't stop raving about it.

    1. You will love it so much. I just started reading another of her books and I can hardly put it down! It's incredible.

  2. I follow Shauna's blog sporadically and always enjoy her writings that I come across. I've been wondering about this book for a while and now I definitely want to buy it! It sounds phenomenal. Your recommendation has confirmed my desire to purchase it :-) I bought Haylie Duff's "The Real Girl's Kitchen" cookbook over the summer and loved reading through it and trying some of the recipes (she also gives personal anecdotes and stories to go with reach recipe, though it sounds like Shauna's goes into more detail and puts on even stronger emphasis on hospitality). Thanks for sharing, Jessica!


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