Friends, this book is a must read for everyone. It is a glorious collection of essays about the power of food, community, faith, and the combination of all three. Shauna Niequist shares stories about her own communities and their hardships, joys, and most of all, the thread of food that runs through it all. She includes recipes that sound absolutely delicious (I would recommend starting with the enchiladas and then moving on to the salad dressing…). Her tales of food and community are accessible and magical all at the same time.
Shauna deals with everything from the ministry of food in times of grief to food allergies. She discusses tips on how to throw a successful dinner party, how to make a risotto for the first time, and how to slow down to incorporate the grace of a dinner table.
She writes, “The heart of hospitality is about creating space for someone to feel seen and heard and loved. It’s about declaring your table a safe zone, a place of warmth and nourishment” (pg. 114).
My time here in this college town has taught me more about hospitality than almost anything else. I have learned about 5 meals I can throw together at the last minute to have a house full of people fed. I have learned how easy it is to stretch the meal, double the recipe, or add dessert to make sure there is plenty to eat. I have learned to be more impromptu and more intuitive about when people just need a break from cooking for themselves or eating alone. I have learned the importance of having a designated dinner time each evening and the importance of eating on the couch with a baseball game on TV every now and again. I have learned that I may be introverted, a so-so cook, a planner, and a bit selfish with my evenings, but I have also learned the power, grace, and love that a simple meal shared can bring.
This is what I needed to learn here. As a newly-wed in a new town almost 3 years ago, I would have laughed out loud if you told me I would have someone over for dinner that I cooked at least once a week. I would have started twitching at the idea of cooking meal for someone else. I would have stared at you wide-eyed if you told me I would fit 18 people in our 500-square foot apartment at one time.
But in the past three years, I have learned differently. And for that I am forever grateful and indebted to my patient and gracious community here. For it is here I learned to be hospitable and to find grace and community around the table.
I look forward to reading Shauna’s book again — this time a copy that I own– and underlining passages and taking her words to heart. And then, as she requests, I hope to “bring it to the kitchen with [me], 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 [I] cook and chop and play, music loud and kitchen messy” (page 10).
Because sometimes the world can be a tired, sad, dark, and broken place. But grace always shows up at a table full of food, prepared with love, and eaten in community.