Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

Book of the Month Club: Bread and Wine November 1, 2013

Thanks to everyone who joined our book of the month club for October! Our selection was Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist, which I introduced here.



Here’s how it works: I’ll throw out a few discussion topics, and you can respond about these topics or anything else you’d like to talk about in the comment section below.


Discussion #1: A Call to Hospitality

I love the way Shauna reclaims eating together and sharing meals with others as not just something we do to sustain our bodies, but something that feeds the soul as well. “Food is one of the ways we love each other,” she says, “and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather.”


Having grown up with a grandma who can do a hundred magical things with a pie crust and her bare hands, and a mom who made every person who crossed the threshold of her home feel welcomed and loved, I have always understood at some intuitive level that the intersection of food and home is where relationships are cultivated and love takes root. But I appreciate the way Shauna puts those feelings into words and affirms the sacredness of hospitality in a world that is increasingly busy and fragmented.

“While it’s not strictly about food, it doesn’t happen without it. Food is the starting point, the common ground, the thing to hold and handle, the currency we offer to one another.”


What are your experiences with hospitality and making food for other people? Was that a priority in your family when you were growing up? How have you done things the same or differently in your own home?


Discussion #2: A Place for Vulnerability

One of the highlights of the book for me was the way Shauna emphasized that making food and inviting people into your home isn’t a performance; it’s an opportunity to create space for authenticity. When we break bread together, we can slow down, be real, let down our guard.


I loved her tradition of sharing toasts on someone’s birthday—saying something that person has brought to your life in the last year or a prayer for the year ahead: “The heart of hospitality is creating space for these moments, protecting that fragile bubble of vulnerability and truth and love. It’s all too rare that we tell the people we love exactly why we love them—what they bring to our lives, why our lives are richer because they’re in it.”


I also appreciated the way she made peace with things not going according to her own plans and being open to what God had ordained for the gathering:

“It was just as it should have been, and nothing close to what I could have planned. And that’s what makes a good party—when the evening and the people and the conversation and the feeling in the room are allowed to be whatever they need to be for that night.”


Have you ever hosted a party that didn’t go at all the way you planned or expected? Were there any unexpected blessings in that experience?


Discussion #3: Embracing a Healthy Relationship with Food

Shauna’s perspective on having a healthy relationship with food was very refreshing, and I especially appreciated her take on how there are some seasons to fast and other seasons to feast.

“I’m learning that feasting can only exist healthfully—physically, spiritually, and emotionally—in a life that also includes fasting. . . . The very things you think you need most desperately are the things that can transform you the most profoundly when you do finally decide to release them.”


Do you agree that we all need seasons of both feasting and fasting in our lives? What does that balance look like for you?


Discussion #4: Recipes

If I had one complaint about the book, it’s that I sometimes felt like a kitchen slouch when I read it. I know that wasn’t the author’s intent, and I realize the principles apply whether you’re whipping up homemade risotto or making Kraft macaroni and cheese, but sometimes I felt like I couldn’t relate to her stories about dinner parties with lobster and steak au poivre with cognac sauce.


That said, I did attempt a few of the recipes, and I appreciated the author’s conversational tone as she talked readers through the recipes. I felt like I had a sister in the kitchen, coaching me through the steps. I made the lentil soup, which wasn’t too hard, even for the likes of me. When my husband tried his first spoonful, he said tactfully, “It tastes like it’s good for me.” But to his credit, he ate it all. I also attempted the blueberry crisp (I made mine it peaches), the scrambled eggs with goat cheese (pretty good, but I prefer my eggs more solid than the recipe calls for), and the toffee (which I’m pretty sure I botched somehow because it just may crack your teeth). There are several others I’d still like to try.


Did you try any of the recipes? How did they turn out? Which one should I attempt next?



I would give the book 4.5 stars. I loved the bits about relationships, hospitality, faith, and the sacredness of the table. Maybe I just needed the “for dummies” version for the recipes.


4.5 stars


How many stars would you give the book?

{Remember: I’ll send a free book to one randomly selected commenter!}


12 Responses to “Book of the Month Club: Bread and Wine”

  1. maggierowe Says:

    I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet but look forward to obtaining a copy and doing so, because I resonate with the themes of hospitality and inviting people in to put their feet under our table. We have had countless people live with us for anywhere from 2 weeks to 5 years at a time, and one of my regrets with my current FT work/PT school/FT ministry schedule is that I have so little time to cook from recipes. The importance of biblical hospitality is a drum I bang often – it has everything to do with the size of our hearts and very little to do with the size of our homes.

  2. Kelli Says:

    I love this book – read it this summer and still pull it out to review sections I particularly loved. I do enjoy cooking, so the recipes and that part of it were very interesting to me. However, as I grow older, I’ve also relaxed my standards a little and realized (as she said), it is NOT a performance, it’s opening up our home and welcoming in people – giving them a safe place. Ordering Chinese food works just as well! 🙂 If I decide to make homemade foods, then that’s my choice and I’m doing it because I like to, not because I’m trying to impress. If that makes sense.

    I’ll try to remain vague on this point because it’s public…but hospitality and friendship – it’s not perfect. And when we invite others into our lives, we invite their stories too – when I looked around my table at a recent thing we hosted, I realized how different everyone’s paths were and none of their situations look even remotely like mine (mother of three, etc). It made me smile, actually, to see how unique we all were, and yet how we were all joined together at that moment. Which I think is her point – but I’m just saying, sometimes it’s not all pretty suburban mommies with their adorable toddlers gathering and getting along! Maybe if I see you sometime in person I’ll tell you the true story behind this and how my “event” made me laugh inside because of how perfect her book makes it seem and how reality doesn’t exactly match up. 🙂

  3. SarahM Says:

    I’m right there with you on #4! I was intimidated by a lot of the recipes thrown out, and especially by the way they’re mentioned so casually. There’s nothing casual or easy about that kind of cooking for me, even while I like doing it. However, I have tried the breakfast quinoa (or my own variation on it) and the breakfast cookies with pretty good results. And I think I’ll try several of the others eventually; they seem like more of a time investment than I’m willing to make most days but also like a challenge I want to take on. I did love the big-sister tone talking the reader through the recipes, too.

    I’ll admit, I’m still intimidated by the discussions of hospitality, even while I wholeheartedly agree with the picture of community she paints. The idea of opening up my home, of not worrying about the food being perfect, of opening up space for vulnerability, really appeals to me. The reality of doing it…still working on that. Reading these sections, I went back and forth between wanting to emulate the hospitality she talks about and feeling overwhelmed and a little annoyed by how out of reach it felt.

    The section on feasting and fasting was one of my favorites in the book. I appreciated Shauna’s take on having a healthy relationship with food, and the way it seems this is still developing for her. To me that felt freeing, as though it takes some of the pressure off to get this figured out once and for all. And throughout the whole book, I just enjoyed the way she clearly loves food and is done being embarrassed by that, even while still trying to be healthy. It’s a nice reminder that it doesn’t have to be one extreme or the other – deprivation or gluttony. And since reading this book I’ve thought a lot about how the feasting/fasting rhythm applies to other areas of life too.

    Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The hospitality and food themes are beautifully done, and she touches on so many other areas with depth and insight. Obviously it’s most enjoyable if you’re a fellow foodie, but there’s much more to take away. I think I’ll go back to both the recipes and the essays quite a bit; they’ve given me a lot to chew on. (Sorry, couldn’t help it. 🙂 )

  4. aimee Says:

    I LOVED this book and am so thankful that Kelli suggested it to me! (Thanks Kelli- I love you! 🙂 ) I really resonated with the discussion of not having a perfect presentation/food for your guests, but just being present with them. This is something that I feel like I can battle: wanting everything to be perfect and then feeling like I have to apologize profusely to my guests when it invariably isn’t. I love being with people and having them over and creating a space to connect with people, and when she talked about how in her past she had been a brittle, frustrated hostess because things weren’t going as she had planned, I was sad to have to nod my head with her, relating completely. I never want people to feel like their presence is a burden, and I am sure that at times I have conveyed that to the very people I wanted to love.

    I also loved how she talked about being authentic, and how that can be an easy thing to talk about wanting to do, and a really hard thing to live out. Inviting people into our messes (both physical in our homes and emotional in our hearts) is scary, because we want to believe that people will see the best version of ourselves that we spend so much time and energy projecting. But I think if anything I am learning that people love and relate more to the flawed, real version of me than they ever would to the “perfect” one I want to present, and it’s only by being authentic with people that we can grow, encourage, and love one another well.

    Loved the book, loved reading this discussion, and love you Stephanie!! See you Sunday!

    • Thanks for the note, Aimee! You definitely have the gift of hospitality and you create such a warm, welcoming environment in your home. You invite authenticity…and with it, all of us quirky people!

  5. Nancy Rische Says:

    I read through most of the book and perused it all. I liked that she had to learn to cook. It is not natural to some of us. I, too, had to learn. I have had some flops with enteratining. Looking back they seem funny but at the time it was hard. Sometimes we wrap ourselves up too much in our actions. Most people don’t care so much about what we cook but want to be with us for who we are. I hope to try some of her recipes in the future. The important take away for me is that many great conversations and traditions happen around the dinner table. I want to be able to savor those times. I liked the book and am glad to have read it.

    • That’s a good reminder that she wasn’t born knowing how to cook, Nancy. And by the way, I’m so glad your son came back to dinner at my house a second time after I burned the first dinner I made for him! 🙂

  6. […] As a side note, if you liked this book, I’d recommend Bread and Wine, which we discussed here. […]

  7. […] How many stars would you give this book (out of five)? As a side note, if you liked this book, I’d recommend Bread and Wine, which we discussed here. […]

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