Shauna is a bread and wine person – a Christian. She recognizes them as food and drink yet much more. They represent the sacred as well as the material. So she writes about family, friendships, and the meals that brought them together. She writes about God nourishing us as we nourish others. “Food is a reminder of our humanity, our fragility, our createdness.” Every meal is, or at least can be, a reminder of what Christ has done for us.
Shauna is honest about her own lessons learned from eating, like the experience of finding that her husband needed a gluten-free diet. She shares her passion for food and how she has come to her own rhythm of feasting and fasting.
She has included recipes that have become meaningful in her life. Being pretty much a vegetarian, many did not appeal to me (meet, chicken and fish eaters will love them). But I did make Robin's Super-Healthy Lentil Soup. It was delicious! And even now, Sullivan Street Bread is ready to go in the oven.
Appendices include suggested discussion questions and menus for four weeks of meetings, be it book group or cooking group. She gives suggestions for week night cooking, including pantry lists. Next she gives tips for entertaining, including sample menus.
Even if you are terrified of having people over for a meal, she has great ideas on how to start. We learn by doing. Recipes are the training wheels, Shauna says, leading us to two wheeled adventures.
Shauna wants us “to stop running from thing to thing to thing, and to sit down at the table, to offer the people you love something humble and nourishing...” Put down your phone and your to-do list. “The table is where time stops. It's where we look people in the eye, where we will tell the truth about how hard it is, where we make space to listen to the whole story, not the textable sound bite.”
Shauna's book brought to mind so many memories of my mother's Sunday dinners for our family of four sisters. My mother was one who showed her love through the food she made and the atmosphere she created as we ate. Mom is in heaven now, as is my oldest sister, but we three still get together once a month for Sunday dinner. We take turns hosting so the hourly drives are a small price to pay for keeping the tradition alive. I treasure the varied menus (two of my sisters spent decades overseas) as I do the family ties.
As my mother, born of Dutch immigrants, would say before our family meals on Sunday, “Eet smakelijk!”
Shauna Niequist is the author of two previous books. She lives outside of Chicago with her husband, Aaron, and their sons, Henry and Mac. Shauna writes about family, friendship, faith, and life around the table. Find out more at www.shaunaniequist.com.
Zondervan, 288 pages. See the publisher's page here.
I received a complimentary galley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.