Bread and Wine; this book is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together. Written by well-loved writer and blogger, Shauna Niequist, this mix of Girl Meets God and the Food Network is a funny, honest, and vulnerable spiritual memoir. Bread andamp; Wine is a celebration of food shared and life around the table, and it reminds us of the joy we find in connection and relationship. It’s about the ways that God teaches and nourishes us as we nourish the people around us. It’s about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two. Recipes are included for the dishes you can almost taste as you read about them. From Butternut Squash Risotto to Apple Crisp with Vanilla Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Sauce, you will be able to recreate the comforting and satisfying meals that come to life in Bread andamp; Wine.

Believe me when I say that this was one of the best books I have read in a long, long, long time. Part memoirs, part recipes, this book has it all. Shauna Niequist shares her deepest inmost thoughts and life experiences, from family gatherings and dinner parties to the struggles of motherhood and pregnancy, to struggles with weight and self-image, she encourages people to embrace their imperfections and experience life to its fullest, one laugh, one tear, and one bite at a time. Food is an integral part of who we are -whether we realize it or not- and to be able to gather together and share that experience with one another is a a sacred thing.

In light of that, she shares some of her favorite recipes, encouraging the reader to bring their loved ones to the table and just “start where you are”, with what you know, perhaps making a salad and ordering pizza, and growing from there. Here I have to blush with shame as I look into my dining-room-turned-music-room, dominated by our piano and devoid of any table or chairs. In my house, the only table eaten off of is our over-sized coffee table in front of the tv. It does, however, bring me right back to the fondest memories of my childhood- the mouth-watering home-made dinners my mom made from scratch, sitting at the table and conversing with my family, and best of all, Sunday dinners at my grandfather’s house where he would whip up the most incredible traditional hungarian recipes passed down through his family. It made me think of all those wonderful moments where we’d laugh and tell stories, sharing our struggles and our achievements with the ones we loved most. It makes me miss that table more than I ever knew- and that is precisely the point that the author wished to make, to bring us back together again to love and to share and to feed one another as best  we can, regardless of our shortcomings.

The recipes were all so tempting that I had a very hard time choosing which ones I wanted to make for this review, but I figured regardless of which ones I chose I would hardly be making a bad choice. Here are the ones I went with:

Garlic and white wine risotto – I have never actually made risotto before, and to be totally honest, I was a little nervous..  but the directions were very straight-forward and easy to follow, and Shauna’s vivid “what it should look/sound/smell like” depictions were immensely helpful- I am very pleased to say it came out quite delicious! I chose to make the recipe with vegetable stock in place of chicken, because I am vegetarian, and added some sauteed mushrooms which I deglazed with a little more white wine, as suggested in the book.

Sullivan Street Bread – This was much more in my comfort zone, as I have been experimenting with bread baking for quite a while now. This bread is a no-knead recipe, similar to another one I typically make, however it calls for a fraction of the yeast, and at least a 12 hr rise time- the difference was a far more developed flavor and large, glorious holes… something I have been striving for a long time to achieve. One thing I will try differently next time is the size of the pot I bake it in (yes, you bake it in a pot). The recipe called for a 6-8 qt pot with a lid. I used an 8 qt pot and wrapped the top in foil, and the bread spread out more than up. Next time I will try a much smaller pot, which hopefully will force the bread to rise upwards a bit more. But oh my this bread was amazing- just look at the crackly crust and the deep fissures in that loaf!!!!

And I’m not finished there! There are so many other recipes in this book that I am so excited to try- like Blueberry crisp with a maple-crisp topping, dark chocolate sea-salted toffee, Annette’s Enchiladas, and many, many more….

So there you are…if you love food, if you love stories of friendships and family and overcoming adversity, stories of faith and love, you have got to read this book, and I mean it! It is well worth the time, and it’s well worth getting for just the recipes alone.

Rating: 5 stars

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Recommended for: people who love food/cooking, people who are intimidated by cooking but want to learn, anyone who loves stories of friendship/familly

Thanks to Handlebar Publishing for hooking me up with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review!

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