Friday, February 14, 2014

Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist

Although it contains recipes, Bread and Wine is not a recipe book. It is a book about loving people lavishly around your dining room table. At a time when people are becoming increasingly overweight because they are looking to food to fill their need for comfort, you may wonder how anyone can celebrate tables that are groaning under the weight of sumptious food. But there is a fine distinction between overeating and eating well.

Frankly, when we eat to feel comforted, we are bound to get fat because no amount of food can ever satisfy that need. BUT when we sit around a table with loved ones and the meal is incredible, we feel loved and satisfied in two ways: primarily by the people around us and secondarily by the delicious meal.

Niequist explains her book title: Like every Christian, I recognize the two as food and drink, and also, at the very same time, I recognize them as something much greater - mystery and tradition and symbol. Bread is bread, and wine is wine, but bread-and-wine is another thing entirely. The two together are the sacred and the material at once, the heaven and earth, the divine and the daily. This is a collection of essays about family, friendships and the meals that bring us together. It´s about the ways God teaches and nourishes us as we nourish the people around us, and about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two. (p.11)

Modern life has pushed us into faux food and fast food and highly engineered food products cased in sterile packages that we eat in the car or on the subway - as though we were astronauts, as though we can´t be bothered with a meal... But many of us, men and women alike, at a certain point, are wandering back to the kitchen and fumbling and learning and trying to feed ourselves and the people we love, because we sense it´s important and that we may have missed something fundamental along the way. Especially for those of us who make our livings largely in front of computer screens, there´s something extraordinary about getting up from the keyboard and using our hands for something besides typing - for chopping and dicing and coaxing scents and flavors from the raw materials in front of us. There´s something entirely satisfying in a modern, increasingly virtual world about something so elemental - heat, knife, sizzle. (p. 14, 16)

I´m coming to see that the table is about food, and it´s also about time. It´s about showing up in person, a whole and present person, instead of a fragmented person, phone in hand and a to-do list in the other. Put them down, both of them, twin symbols of the modern age, and pick up a knife and fork. The table is where time stops. It´s where we look people in the eye, where we tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite. (p. 257)

Not all the essays are about food. Some are about her struggles with infertility. Others are just about the craziness of life. As a non-drinker I found the free-flowing alcohol at her gatherings to be a bit bewildering, but I withheld my judgement because the primary theme of the book really resonated with me. Sharing our lives around the table is one of the easiest ways to reflect the lavish love of Christ.

Footnote: Babette´s Feast is a Danish film that excellently portrays this "grace upon grace" at the meal table.


Susanne said...

Funny you should mention Babette's Feast, I've been wanting to watch that. This book sounds interesting.

Carol said...

A friend told me about Babette's Feast many years ago & I never got around to watching it. Thanks for the reminder. The book sounds interesting too.