Monday, January 27, 2014

Bread & Wine

I have always appreciated that my mom creates home-cooked meals for our family.  Every now and again she would stop in on her way home to grab a pizza or some seafood, but for the most part everything is picked from a garden or produce stand, sauteed in some type of old school pan sauce and marinaded in a tried and true recipe.   Our family always jokes about how she can never leave the kitchen without flour, oil or grease splatters all over her clothes.  But what I am realizing more and more.. is that that is a translation of the gospel.  Stirring, kneading, creating something beautiful in the mess around us.  Fulfilling a need.  Feeding our hunger.

For my birthday this year, my sister-in-law got me a cookbook.  She wrote me a note saying that a review of this book "screamed" my name.  A review that ultimately said cooking a love song, an ode to the people you love.  That in cooking there is healing power in food that was prepared with love and joy and creativity.  I love that Sidney acknowledged that.  Because that is what I want. Not for people to acknowledge the things I like, but to know that I believe there is power in your knives and wooden spoons.  Probably something I picked up from watching my mama manhandle the kitchen for my 20 plus years of life.

I just finished an unbelievable book called Bread & Wine.  A book that I plan on giving as housewarming or newlywed gifts from here on out.   It is a book that is heart warming from page one.  The kind of book that you read when candles are lit and you are curled up in a knit throw.  It's the kind of book that truly inspires you to get in the kitchen and invite people into your messy homes.  To nourish their stomachs as well as their hearts.  To share your life with the people you love with nothing but a table between you.

"When you eat, I want you to think of God, of the holiness of hands that feed us, of the provision we are given every time we eat.  When you eat bread and drink wine, I want you to think about the body and the blood every time, not just when the bread and wine show up in church, but when they show up anywhere - on a picnic table, or a hardwood floor or a beach."  - Shauna Niequist

 Last week, I decided to make baked spaghetti for supper.  It was about 5 o'clock and I knew Colby would be headed home soon, so I started making my mama's famous spaghetti sauce  that takes both time to cook and practice to perfect.  Then my wheels started really turning.  What if Colby came home to Italy?  While I was stirring sauce and boiling noodles, I tossed a salad and threw a baguette into the oven to get nice and crusty.  I laid out an absurd amount of candles in the dining room so we could have a candle-lit dinner.  I set the table and poured tall glasses of water and small glasses of wine.  I drew a menu to sit on our plates and laid out a small bowl of blackberries for us to munch on until supper was ready.  I found an Italian Pandora Station, Bluetoothed it out the Bose speaker and cranked it up.  But Colby came home like 30 minutes earlier than I had expected.  I locked the back door, so he couldn't get in and ran frantically around the house to find a box of matches to light all those candles.  Then the timer was going off, telling me it was time to lay a hefty layer of cheese on the top of the spaghetti and I had planned on changing into a dress.  Instead, as Colby was walking in the door, half of the candles were lit,  I was burning my hands getting the spaghetti out of the oven and I was wearing a wrinkled flannel shirt, skinny jeans and cowboy boots.

In Bread & Wine, Shauna (aka my new BFF) says it perfectly... "I'm not talking about cooking as performance or entertaining as complicated choreography of competition and showing off.  I'm talking about feeding someone with honesty and intimacy and love.  About making your home a place where people are fiercely protected, even if its just a few hours, from the crush and cruelty of the day."

Colby couldn't care less what I was wearing or that every thing wasn't perfectly in place by the time he walked through the door.  He appreciated the fact that I was being creative in how I was loving him.  He praised me for my efforts for the rest of the night and kept saying sweet things like, "Man, Italy was great.  We should go again next week."

And then Shauna says it perfectly again, "What people are craving isn't perfection.  People aren't longing to be impressed; they're longing to feel like they're home.  If you create a space full of love and character and creativity and soul, they'll take off their shoes and curl up with gratitude and rest, no matter how small, no matter how undone, no matter how old."

I believe feeding and being fed is life-giving.  Both physically and metaphorically.  After reading Bread & Wine, I have the greatest desire to invite more people to my table.  To create conversation between mouthfuls of bread.  I'm not talking about super fancy dinner parties (which I hope to conquer one day, but today is not that day).. but just inviting our college roommates to catch up over for some take out Chinese or pizza.  Or inviting our siblings over and all of us taking part in the menu.  One on sides, one on the grill, one setting the table.  Or inviting our parents over for dessert and coffee and board games.  Or inviting new friends, that you know nothing about and learning their middle names over salads and steaks.   Ultimately, inviting people into our homes, into our lives.  Showing their place around our table and exchanging the hard and good and sour and delightful things in each of our lives.  To feed and be fed.

(PS.  This is a blueberry crisp.  A recipe that Shauna so graciously reveals in her book.  It is delicious!!)

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