Book Review: Bread & Wine, by Shauna Niequist

I (Helen) first read Shauna Niequist’s work while we were in Mexico in the Fall, starting with her second book, Bittersweet. I loved her honest writing style immediately, and quickly set about reading her first book, Cold Tangerines. Bread & Wine is Shauna’s third book, and my favorite of the three. Not only is it beautifully written and thoughtfully presented, it includes recipes! There’s no better way to describe this book than its subtitle: “a love letter to life around the table with recipes.”


Bread & Wine is an appropriate read for me right now, as I am currently managing Food Services at YWAM Turner Valley. This means I set the menu each week, do the grocery shopping, and cook many of the meals we eat as a community. While I can get pretty grumpy when a quiche takes twenty minutes longer to cook than the recipe says, on the most part, I really love this job. I love developing menus I know will be appreciated by the staff and students in our community, whether it’s because I know so-and-so really loves gravy and mashed potatoes, or because nothing gets anyone more excited than naan bread, or because I know the majority of our community loves Thai food and has tasted the real thing in Thailand. I love catering the menu to what people will enjoy, while doing my best to be a good steward of the resources we have. It’s creativity and problem-solving together, two of my favorite things.

Another reason Bread & Wine is a good read for me right now is because I just got back from a trip to Edmonton, where I was shown exemplary hospitality. Shauna puts language to hospitality when she says “the heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved.” This sentence sums up hospitality in so many ways for me, and it sums up the hospitality I received in Edmonton as well. The sentence comes from a chapter about hosting those with food intolerances and allergies, which is important to me as someone with a long list of things I can’t eat, but more than that, this sentence is a reminder that hospitality doesn’t have to be matching napkins, woodland village centerpieces, and a remodeled bathroom. Hospitality is about making people feel safe and welcome: comfortable. I felt so welcomed into the home I stayed at in Edmonton; every allergy was accounted for, but more importantly, I felt part of the life of the house for a few days. Hospitality was extended by the youngest and the oldest, and it was so encouraging and rejuvenating.

Bread & Wine is a collection of short essays about life around the table, but it’s also a discussion about the role food plays in our lives, our homes, and hospitality, whether your “table” is a coffee table or a dining room table, a nightstand or your own hand as you grab something on the way out the door. It’s about baby showers and weeknight meals, dinner parties and the occasional dinner in front of the TV. I loved it.

As for the recipes, I’ve made Shauna’s basic vinaigrette, gaia cookies, and an updated version of her mango chicken curry, available on her blog. I can’t wait to try more, as all three recipes have been excellent, adaptable, and dependable.

If you have a heart for hospitality, or if you feel God calling you to community-building where you are at, I encourage you to pick up Bread & Wine. Read your way through it, cook your way through it, and open your home, table, and heart to those around you.


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