Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes|Hardcover (2024)

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bread & wine

A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

By Shauna Niequist


Copyright &copy 2013Shauna Niequist
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-32817-9



my mom's blueberry crisp

My mom's dad is Irish, a storyteller and twinkling-eyed joker, and her mom is German, a rose gardener and meticulous baker. They met in the third grade in Vicksburg, Michigan. My grandpa's family moved away at the end of that school year, but my grandparents reconnected at the end of high school, and my grandpa insists he remembered her beautiful face all those years. They were married just before my grandpa joined the navy, and my mom, their first child, was born at Pearl Harbor.

Neither one of them grew up in religious homes, but when they married, they decided that religion was important and that they wanted to join a church. They visited all sorts of churches before settling at Lake Center Bible Church. Over the years they were members at other Bible churches for a few seasons, but these days they're active members and volunteers at Lake Center once again, almost sixty years later.

My dad's family is 100 percent Dutch, and they built a large produce company in Kalamazoo, Michigan. They owned farms all over the world, and a warehouse, and their trucks delivered produce to stores, restaurants, and hotels all over the country. My dad and his siblings all worked at the warehouse or in the fields or driving trucks. When each child turned five years old, they began spending Saturdays at the warehouse with little wagons, moving produce around, filling orders.

They were faithful members of a Christian Reformed church in Kalamazoo, a church that was strict and orderly, that emphasized observance of the Sabbath and thriftiness and looked down on frivolity and high emotion.

They were meat-and-potatoes people, men who worked long days on the farm and ate accordingly. Some days the farm lunch was a loaf of white bread and a pound of bologna per person. They'd fry the bologna in a frying pan with butter and make a tall stack of sandwiches for each of them.

And then six brothers—my grandfather and my dad's five uncles—all died of heart attacks before they were fifty-five. When I was born, my parents knew something had to change, that my dad had inherited those same dangerous genetics, and that nutrition was a way to stand up to what seemed terrifying and inevitable.

My mom was enamored, like all new moms are, with how perfect and pure her new baby was. She only wanted to feed me things that were healthy and whole. Because of that, and because of my dad's scary family health history, my mother became a health food person way before it was fashionable.

When other kids were eating Froot Loops in whole milk and Twinkies and Little Debbie snack cakes, my mom fed my younger brother and me whole grains, tofu, and skim milk. We ate almost no processed foods and very little red meat, and we never had "junk food"—soda, chips, store-bought cookies—in our home. While our friends were having hamburgers and sloppy joes on soft white buns, we were eating tuna over whole grain pasta and lentil burgers and muesli.

This was a time and place—the suburbs of Chicago in the early 1980s—when yogurt was weird and hummus was downright horrifying. In my school lunch, I had whole grain bread, all-fruit preserves, and the kind of peanut butter that had been ground from peanuts at the health food store, a place that smelled like vitamins and mulch. I also had a massive bag of carrots and sometimes an apricot fruit leather, which is just as luscious as it sounds. Why would anyone ever want to eat something whose greatest selling point is its textural similarity to leather?

These were the days when trading at lunch was a major feature of social politics, and I was deeply embarrassed about my lunch. I longed for white bread, American cheese, Cheetos, Hawaiian Punch. This was before Whole Foods and Trader Joe's and farmers markets with live music and cute, scruffy organic farmers peddling kale. This was when health food stores, tofu, and lentils were all vaguely suspect, and not at all upscale and respectable. Now half my friends get CSA boxes and many of our playdates involve the farmers market. Our friends and family are an assortment of gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan. Whole grains and quinoa are ubiquitous. Back then, though, this kind of stuff made you weird.

Exhibit A: the year my mom handed out mini-toothbrushes on Halloween, feeling that after all that sugar, a good brush would be thoughtful. Seriously? I was already hanging by a thread socially. I was already a pastor's kid, which is uncool on a thousand different levels. I already had a weird, organic, all-brown lunch. Now we're the toothbrush-on-Halloween family? Mom, you're killing me.

Now that I'm an adult, I appreciate how much effort this must have entailed, how expensive it was, how loving it was for her to feed us in that way. But as a child, all I knew was that my lunches were weird and that my cousins didn't want to sleep over at our house unless they could bring their own breakfast because they were absolutely terrified about what might turn up on their plates at our house. My cousin Melody always packed her own cinnamon-raisin bagel because she didn't want to risk Grape-Nuts or whole wheat pancakes for breakfast.

My parents and their friends started a church the year I was born, and part of being a church family means that your weekly calendar runs on a different rhythm than other families'. Sunday mornings were workdays, and often Saturdays too, so the weekend really began for us on Sundays after church.

After we got home from the early service, my mom and my brother and I would wait to hear my dad's heavy footsteps coming down the long, tiled hallway after the last service. He always went straight to his closet to change from his church clothes into his Chicago Bears sweatshirt, and when he walked through the study door, the weekend began. He was tired but happy, loose, easygoing.

Sunday afternoons were family time—private, casual, silly. We got to watch the Bears game while we did our homework in the study instead of doing it at the kitchen table like we usually did. My mom made sushi for lunch, and for dinner, blueberry crisp.

My mom baked her blueberry crisp in a round, blue earthenware baking dish, deep enough for there to be several inches of warm, bursting berries under the sweetness of the crisp topping. The dish had a fitted lid and handles on each side, and she would bring it down to the study with potholders and with the lid on, so that even if we had seconds, it was still warm.

She topped each bowl of crisp with a scoop of Breyers vanilla bean ice cream, flecked with dark specks of vanilla, and the ice cream melted into the crisp layer and the hot berries in thick, creamy rivers. Those Sunday nights were some of the only times we had ice cream at home, a special treat. More than that, it was a treat to taste summertime in the middle of winter, to taste the flavors of the lake back at home in the suburbs.

Since my brother, Todd, and I were little, our family spent every summer in South Haven, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan. South Haven is a beach town an hour from where my parents grew up. My dad's parents had a cottage there, and both my grandfathers had sailboats in the marina. It's the town where my parents had their first date, and the setting for most of our family's richest memories.

South Haven is the blueberry capital of the country, and at the end of the summer every year we'd bring home bags and bags of blueberries to freeze. I remember getting home from the lake just in time for school to start, and while we unpacked and sorted sandy towels to wash, my mom covered the kitchen counters with towels, picked through the berries, washed and sorted them, and p

Excerpted from bread & wine by Shauna Niequist. Copyright © 2013 by Shauna Niequist. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes|Hardcover (2024)


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