Thursday, April 4, 2013

Bread & Wine

I'm quite certain that I've mentioned before how thankful I am to have been introduced to the writing of Shauna Niequist. Her first two books Cold Tangerines and Bittersweet were some of the most enjoyable books I've read in the past year or two. Her stories resonate with me in a deep place. It reminds me of the way I connect with the music of Sara Groves or JJ Heller. It's like someone has finally put into words feelings that I've had pent up for so long and could never express in ways others could understand . . . and then, all of a sudden, there they are right in front of me. Articulated so perfectly.

Well, Shauna has a new book coming out soon :: Bread & Wine: a love letter to life around the table with recipes. It is a memoir of sorts. Shauna loves food and loves entertaining and so many of her memories are inextricably tied to food and time around the table with those she loves that she combined the two into a very unique type of book. Stories from her life. Times as a family. Times of birth and death and crisis and how people always bring food when they want to be helpful and are at a loss for what else to do. Many of the book's chapters end with a favorite recipe for a dish with a connection to the story that had just been told.

No one who knows me (even just a little bit) would ever call me a foodie. I don't enjoy cooking, and I'm a picky eater. So I know it is probably surprising for me to be excited about a book that is part cookbook and is so tied to food, but Shauna's stories draw you in and her descriptions of the intimacy found around a table are something I enjoyed thoroughly.

Being the font snob that I am, before even cracking the book open I was in love with the chosen typography. The title itself had a hand-lettered look, completely with feather-like flourishes. LOVED it! And when paired with the sans-serif, all lowercase subtitle and authors name, it was even more lovely. So we were off to a good start before the book had even been opened. Now I know that "you can't judge a book by its cover", but a good cover sure doesn't hurt either.

Then once you dive in to the "meat" of the book (pun intended), it only gets better. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the book ::

From the chapter titled "run" ::
But I have also long held the belief that one's tears are a guide, that when something makes you cry, it means something. If we pay attention to our tears, they'll show us something about ourselves. Against my preferences, watching people cross marathon finish lines makes me cry. Crazy, deep, ugly cry. Specifically, watching average-looking people cross marathon finish lines makes me cry. Professionals who finish in two hours are amazing, but it doesn't move me the same way. And not all physical feats move me like marathons do. I don't cry when I watch the Olympics or the Super Bowl. There's a thing I have with marathons.
 If you know me at all, that one is so very me! I'm a crier too. I guess I better start paying better attention . . . and in case you're curious, she did eventually run (and finish) a marathon ::
I got an e-mail from my friend Nate. Registration for the upcoming year's Chicago Marathon was open, he said. Was I still up for it? I immediately wrote a reply: No, not this year. Next year. And as soon as I wrote it, I knew it would always be my answer: next year, next year, next year. I deleted those words and began again.
Yes, I replied, before I could change my mind. Yes. I'm signing up. And I did. And then I dug out my running shoes -- shoes that had been to the coffee shop and the farmers market but had never been running.
Another favorite from the chapter titled "morning, noon, and night ::
I've long wanted to be better at accepting help, better at admitting weakness, better at trusting that people love me not for what I can do buy just because they do. It would have been lovely to learn those things on my own terms, when I wanted to, the way I wanted to. But we never grow until the pain level gets high enough.
. . . love isn't something you prove or earn, but something you receive or allow, like a balm, like a benediction, even at your very worst.
And as a fellow midwesterner, (she is from the Chicago area) I resonate strongly (especially this year) with the opening to that same chapter, which begins :: "Winter turned to spring just when we were sure it never would." Right about now I would like to say those same words about Minnesota and this particularly long, cold winter.

And from the chapter titled "open the door", we read
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.
So, I echo Shauna's thoughs :: pay attention to your tears, accept help, admit weakness, trust in love and let people see your imperfection.

Oh, and she also talks lots about babies . . . and you know how I feel about babies! (If you were at the Y the day I was on the stationary bike reading through my tears the chapter titled "hail mary". No surprises there. Baby stories bring me to tears.)


  1. I can't wait to read this one, Shana: loved her last two. Thanks for the preview!

  2. Thanks so much! What a beautiful post! XO, Shauna


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