Monday, April 22, 2013

Bread and Wine... and Jellybeans!?

There are some books that are simply "plow books" as my friend Winnie liked to say. Winnie and I both liked to read and talk books when we worked together in the double digit floors of a North Carolina bank, she 40 years my senior and a true professional mentor. Every now and again she'd describe her current read as a plow book, one that either in part or in whole caused the reader to have to trudge through each page by sheer force of will like a determined farmer laboring to turn hard clay into softly tilled soil.

Often there is a happy return for all of the effort, but not always and one never really knows for certain until the book is finished if the plowing was worth it.

It is another kind of book altogether whose pages seem to turn with too much speed and too much pleasure...kind of like eating Starburst jellybeans which aren't around very often and taste so good and go down so fast that before you realize what you are doing, you've come to the bottom of the bag...or so I'm told.

The thing about two-fisting Starburst jellybeans until your bag has run out is that there is no small bit of sadness involved - not, as you might expect, a sadness about the result of all of the calories and sugar you've ingested*, but instead, the sadness of facing the reality that there will be no more jellybeans left to look forward to enjoying tomorrow, in fact there may not, unless you aren't opposed to robbing Easter baskets, be any more shiny, colorful, special-tasting jellybeans until next Easter (which is rather late on next year's calendar...I've checked).

I've just finished reading a book that made me feel like I was eating Starburst jellybeans.

Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table With Recipes by Shauna Niequist is a book of essays about food and eating, about sitting around the table with those you love, about faith and belonging and about so very much more. Between most chapters there are recipes-delightful, different, and defining recipes. I've made almost half a dozen of them so far and they've all been keepers. 

The recipe for Gaia Cookies, the author's take on cookies from the Gaia Cafe in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has caused my gang and possibly Meg's piano teacher to do a happy dance or two.

And Cole and I nearly had to arm wrestle for dibs on the left over Mango Chicken Curry at lunchtime the other day until I remembered that he is taller and stronger than I and that I am older and more likely to sustain lasting injury that will prevent me from making any more Mango Chicken Curry in the near future and that just wouldn't be prudent!!

 {Mango Chicken Curry prep chef}

It was not an accident that I finished, with a sigh, this written-just-for-me book curled up on the crumb-dusted floor in front of the oven waiting for bread to finish baking. I've not been without this book in the kitchen since it came in the mail just a little over a week ago. I'm not sure whether reading the words makes me want to be in the kitchen, slicing and stirring OR if  it was being in the kitchen with thoughts of feeding my family that caused me to want to read more and more of Bread and Wine.

And so tonight, I ate the last jellybean, turned the last page, arrived all too quickly to the end and I'm a bit melancholy - not because I won't get to read it for the first time ever again, all shiny and new, though there is that, but because there are no new pages waiting on my eager eyes tomorrow, my book mark no longer necessary, I've come to the bottom of the bag.

There are however, a few recipes still awaiting my best efforts...watermelon feta salad anyone? Blueberry crisp?

See ya around the table!

*A note about calories from Starburst jellybeans: the calories from Starburst jellybeans do not count if eaten during the week of Easter. Neither do they count if eaten the week after Easter but ONLY if eaten out of a plastic egg. 

From the author:
My prayer is that you'll read these pages first curled up on your couch or in bed or in the bathtub, and then after that you'll bring it to the kitchen with you, turning corners of pages, breaking the spine, spilling red wine on it and splashing vinegar across the pages, that it will become battered and stained as you cook and chop and play, music loud and kitchen messy.
And more than anything, I hope that when you put this book down, you'll gather the people  you love around your table to eat and drink, to tell stories, to be heard and fed and nourished on every level.

"They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I believe that's absolutely true. Not that the way to land a guy is by baking him cookies, although it never hurts. But that if you can satiate a person's hunger, you can get a glimpse of their heart. There's an intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of one's stomach, that is, necessarily, tied to the heart." ~Shauna Niequist

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