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Posts Tagged ‘Shauna Niequist’

“I’m a bread person,” Shauna Niequist confesses in the introduction to her new memoir-cum-recipe collection, Bread & Wine. “Crusty, golden baguette; hearty, grainy, seeded loaves; thin, crispy pizza crust – all of it. Flaky, buttery croissants; chewy pita; tortillas, warm and fragrant, blistered by heat.”

A few lines later, she adds, “And I am a wine person – the blood-red and liquid gold, the clink and glamour of tall-stemmed glasses, and the musty, rich, almost mushroom-y smell.”

Like Shauna, I am a bread person. I am not quite as much a wine person, but also like Shauna, I am a bread-and-wine person, which is to say, a Christian. I believe in the mystery and the power of bread and wine together, the body and the blood of Christ, broken and shed for us. And I am a table person. I believe in the life and community that happens around the table.

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I’ve read and deeply enjoyed Shauna’s first two books of essays, Bittersweet (published second, but I read it first), and Cold Tangerines. She writes with warmth, lyricism and honesty about family and friendship, about incandescent moments of joy and the sharp pain of losses that come suddenly and bruise your heart.

In this third book, she turns her attention to life around the table: to beloved recipes from childhood, monthly gatherings with a cooking club of friends, meals shared with family and strangers, recipes she has tweaked and modified and made over and over again. Each recipe comes with a story (though not all the stories have recipes), and each chapter feels like a glimpse into Shauna’s (often messy) kitchen, her real (complicated, joyful) life.

I’ve written before about how my family believes food is love, how my mom made it her mission to have all four of us around the table, eating dinner together, as many nights a week as possible. I’ve written about how, when I lived in Oxford and shared several kitchens with various groups of British and American students, the best stories and conversation happened in those kitchens. I’ve written about the liturgy of dinnertime at our house, and the fun we have when we invite friends over, and how everyone ends up either in the kitchen or around the table, talking and telling stories and laughing.

This book made me want to open up my home more often, to welcome the people I love to share their stories around my table. And it made me want to get into the kitchen and start cooking – which I did. I’ve already made Shauna’s hearty, spicy white chicken chili, her delicious mango chicken curry and her mom’s blueberry crisp. All three were hits, and will definitely be making repeat appearances. There are a dozen more recipes I can’t wait to try, and at least a dozen people I can’t wait to share them with.

If you love books about food and friends and family, I think you’ll love Bread & Wine.

I received a free advance copy of this book for review; opinions are my own. I’ll also be reviewing it for Shelf Awareness closer to its publication date, April 9. This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.

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On the T, tucked up in bed, curled up on the couch, at my desk while I eat lunch…I read everywhere. Here’s what has occupied my book-time this month:

The Chocolate Cupid Killings, Joanna Carl
The Chocoholic mysteries are like cheap milk chocolate – sweet but a little bland (though the chocolate shop in the series sells gourmet treats). I like Lee, the main character, and it’s interesting to see how the plots turn out. Not on a level with Maisie Dobbs or Dorothy Sayers, but entertaining.

The Weird Sisters, Eleanor Brown
I’d been hearing the buzz about this book  – and Dawn’s review at She Is Too Fond of Books convinced me to pick it up. And oh my, I loved it. The three sisters, all named after Shakespearean heroines, are such complex, fascinating characters, and the first-person-plural voice is true wizardry. I savored every page of the wonderful writing and the rich story. Especially recommended if you’re a fan of the Bard.

Hattie Big Sky, Kirby Larson
Erin and Jet both recommended this book after my lament about the lack of World War I stories for young adults (and American readers in general). Sixteen-year-old Hattie Inez Brooks heads to Montana to “prove up” on her uncle’s homestead claim – and what adventures she has, and what hardworking, compassionate people she meets. The ending is bittersweet, but the story is wonderful. I lent this to a friend who’s moving to Montana this summer.

The Mapping of Love and Death, Jacqueline Winspear
The best Maisie Dobbs novel yet – and I’m a big fan of the whole series. Maisie continues to uncover important truths about World War I’s effect on individual families and England as a whole. She also falls in love again – with the last man I’d have expected! – but it’s a good match. And the supporting cast of characters is, as always, well drawn.

Tender at the Bone: Growing up at the Table, Ruth Reichl
Shauna rightly compared Ruth to Anne Lamott – they do have the same sense of humor. My favorite parts of this book dealt with the hilarious (if disgusting) concoctions Ruth’s mother made when she was little. The book got less interesting as she moved out to Berkeley – more chronicling and less reflection. Still enjoyable, though.

The Moon By Night, Madeleine L’Engle
Book #2 in the Austin series, which I can’t believe I missed as a child. I still identify with gawky, uncertain, thoughtful Vicky, though – especially as a stranger in a strange land. A compelling story sprinkled with L’Engle’s signature gems of truth.

Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life, Kim Severson
I found this on the remainder table at the Booksmith, and read it in less than a week. Severson paints fascinating portraits of some famous cooks – and her mother – who helped form how she feels about food, and ultimately about life. Since I believe food is love, this book rang true from beginning to end. “Making food for the people you get up with and go to sleep with is the best thing ever,” she says. I agree.

The Blessings of the Animals, Katrina Kittle
A compelling, funny, heartbreaking story of a woman putting herself back together after a divorce – with help from friends, her teenage daughter, and a cast of ragged, sweet animals (Muriel the Houdini goat is my favorite). I could have done without some of the profanity, but I did enjoy this story.

Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson
A young adult classic I somehow missed – and mostly enjoyed. I sympathized with Louise, the narrator, at first, but I started to wonder why she didn’t just snap out of her bitterness and do something. (She finally did build her own life, though.)

Cold Tangerines, Shauna Niequist
I won this book in a giveaway from Zondervan, and enjoyed it – though I did like Bittersweet (her more recent book) better. Thoughtful, honest essays on celebration, family, coming to terms with your body and your place in the world, faith and doubt, and the little things worth savoring.

The Young Unicorns, Madeleine L’Engle
I turn, often, to young adult lit and/or Madeleine for comfort – though this book offered precious little of that. A much darker story than the previous two, with questions about freedom and power at its center. But the part that made me cry had to do with a lonely, hardened boy finding, at last, a real family.

Sarah’s Key, Tatiana de Rosnay
Two fonts, two narrators, two time periods – two families linked by a dark secret, which Julia Jarmond, American daughter-in-law to a French family, cannot let rest. I wondered at her tenacity, especially as her marriage was falling apart. A compelling story, well written. And heartbreaking.

Blessed are the Cheesemakers, Sarah-Kate Lynch
Recommended by Jet. A light, amusing story of cheesemaking and love in Ireland. Lots of coincidences make this tale a bit unbelievable at times, but it’s definitely entertaining.

The American Heiress, Daisy Goodwin
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, and enjoyed the tale of an American socialite who marries an inscrutable English lord. (Coincidentally, her name is Cora, like the American mother in Downton Abbey.) The story was entertaining and full of fun period detail, though I saw the plot twists coming long before Cora did, and the ending felt rather unsatisfying.

The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
After seeing a quote from this classic on Sarah’s site, I pulled it off the shelf to read again for the first time in years. What a gorgeous story of rebirth and awakening – and as I walked around Boston Common at lunchtime, I found myself willing the trees to bud, just as Mary and Dickon and Colin urge the crocuses and other green things to grow.

(These monthly book roundups are getting unwieldy in their length. Perhaps I should start splitting them into twice-monthly posts? Opinions?)

What have you been reading lately? I’m always curious.

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