Here’s the thing.
I don’t cook.
I never really learned the real cooking basics and the perfectionist within me has a little anxiety attack every time I read words like braise or soufflé and I picture myself running out of my house covered in flames, waving a Teflon frying pan, taking a swig of the lone bottle of cooking wine I was able to save heroically while the rest of my life goes down in smoky flames.
Dramatic, I know, but I’m lucky enough to be married to a man who makes my eyes roll back in my head in pure ecstasy on a nightly basis, and I don’t only mean in the bedroom.
Me? Cook? Uhhhh….why?
Mr. Smitten cooks like it’s his purpose in life and I eat like it’s mine, and me and Jack Spratt have existed just fine this way for many years thankyouverymuch. Still, there is something about the act of nourishing the people I love, about the magic of sizzling onions and melting gouda that I admire with the kind of jealous longing I usually reserve only for bestselling authors and mothers with green thumbs who actually look good in skinny jeans and never yell at their children.
When I had the opportunity to review Shauna Niequist’s Bread & Wine, I didn’t pause for a second, even though I knew the book was primarily one that was going to involve recipes which included ingredients I had never heard of. Shauna is one of my very favorite writers and I would probably buy her grocery list if it was for sale. (If you haven’t yet read Bittersweet or Cold Tangerines, it sucks to be you. Get thee to a bookseller, STAT. Thank me later.)
Bread & Wine arrived in the mail, the cover all wistful and beautiful, and it sat on my kitchen counter for weeks. I swallowed the lump in my throat every time I walked past it, afraid to jump inside, afraid that Shauna’s awesomeness would inspire me to soufflé something…and we can all guess how that might turn out.
Eventually, though, I opened it…took in the words with trepidation. And in the way she does so gracefully and beautifully, Shauna brought me to tears and laughter with her narrative, her heart all over the pages, stories splashed with wine and the smell of Grand Rapids, Michigan, shimmery with love and grace and carefully crafted words.
She invited me into the kitchen again, inspired me to care more deeply about what I put in my body, encouraged me to laugh and love and drink and dine and weep with the people I love, because that’s what the table is about…communion with life, communion with God, communion with mystery and grace, pain and loss.
Suddenly, I was baking something called Gaia cookies utterly fearless of charbroiling the bottoms like I always do in my ancient, finicky oven (which I think might be made of aluminum foil and paper clips, but I digress). Picture me in the Dollhouse kitchen, chopping dates and wielding a pastry blender like I knew what I was doing, and at Safeway buying goat cheese and almond milk like a completely different woman than the one who came through the grocery line last week with three bags of Cheetos and store-brand baloney.
Of all the mouth-watering recipes Shauna includes in the text, I started with cookies because she calls them breakfast cookies and well, let’s face it, any reason to justify chocolate for breakfast is a good one in my book. The process was simple, even if I was tempted to forget the whole baking bit and just eat the batter by the fistful. Oh Mylanta, were they good. Soft, chewy, and ten times more satisfying than the mushy banana remnants I generally pick off Caleb’s plate and call breakfast. I didn’t even burn the bottoms, which was surely a sheer act of Divine intervention.
Do yourself a favor and buy a copy of Bread & Wine, then sit down and read it all in one sitting like I did because you just can’t bear to put it down and if you stop mid-chapter, you might put an entire French silk pie inside your own face in the span of a minute.
Buy it for the recipes. Buy it for the soul-squeezing stories Shauna tells. Buy it so you can have cookies for breakfast like me. (They have granola in them. You’re golden.)
Once again, Shauna, you rocked my world, nourished my spirit, and you’re totally to blame for the cookie crumbs in my keyboard. What an honor it has been to sit at your table, even virtually, to chop walnuts under your inspiration, and to taste the beauty of life at its ripest. <3 p="">