I loved Shauna Niequist's style from the minute I picked up her first book, Cold Tangerines. Literally, the first minute. She got me right in the introduction.
Well, she did it again with her third book, officially due out tomorrow. I jumped around my kitchen for a good five minutes when I found out I was getting an advanced reader's copy of Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes. Lots and lots of jumping.
Like her earlier books (Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet), Bread & Wine is a collection of essays- beautiful, honest essays that make you feel like you're curled up on the couch with your best girlfriend.
She talks about love, vacation, babies, losing babies, prayer, body image, and meals with friends. A lot of meals with friends.
She talks about both the food and the moments that nourish her. Maybe that nourish us, too.
Shauna has built a strong support group of friends to whom she opens her home and, in turn, who open their homes to each other to celebrate, cook, hug, laugh, and listen. She reminds the reader of a simple truth:
What people are craving isn't perfection. People aren't longing to be impressed; they're longing to feel like they're home. If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they'll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how odd.
That's what I found myself saying over and over while reading this book. Yes. Yes, that. Yes, I understand. Yes, I've been there, too.
I don't even know how to choose a favorite chapter. First it was the introduction (seriously, she sucks you in with her introductions), then it was "start where you are," until it was "on tea and pajamas," but then maybe "open the door," and then… well, really, any chapter called "love and enchiladas" has my attention.
And then, oh, and then just when you start drooling over her blueberry crisp or risotto or sweet potato fries with sriracha dipping sauce, she gives you the recipe- right there at the end of the chapter. How cool is that?
I've already made the breakfast quinoa from "on tea and pajamas"- first following her recipe (yum!), then kicking up the leftovers in my own way by adding diced ham, green peppers, and pineapple. (What? Shauna said I could. She said the best way to cook is to follow a recipe once, then make it from memory, then make it your own.)
If you're like me, you'll appreciate her notes within the recipes that explain why she uses a particular ingredient over another or that you should serve bacon-wrapped dates "warm or at room temperature, but definitely not hot, unless you want to burn the roof of your mouth so badly you don't taste anything for days."
I could go on about this book for more time than you probably have right now. I took lots of notes, dog-eared pages, underlined passages. But really, all you need to know is that I laughed to myself while reading this book. My eyes welled with tears when she got brutally honest. I have talked about it far too much to my husband and my friend.
The thing about Shauna is that she is the kind of writer I want to be. Her books are the kind of books I want to write. The comfort I feel when I read her words is the comfort I can only hope to share with someone somewhere someday with mine.
She's that kind of writer.
Add this book (and Shauna's other books) to your list. Read, cook, enjoy.
In case you want more, here is a video of Shauna talking about Bread & Wine:
Find Shauna Niequist here:
Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes on Amazon
Disclaimer: I received the advanced reader's copy to review for free from the publisher. That doesn't affect my actual opinions written here in any way. I would have bought the book regardless and will be buying copies to give to people I love. I liked it that much.