“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.”
You don’t have to be a great cook of fancy food in order to have people over for a meal…trust me, I’ve been doing it for years! Even though I don’t love cooking like some people do, I have always been committed to the family dinner because it works like glue in our lives. There’s something about breaking bread and sipping wine and enjoying conversation with family, friends, or colleagues that is more than the sum total of its various parts. Whatever age your children are, whatever your home looks like, whatever you can or can’t cook (Uber eats?), being committed to at least one meal together everyday as a household and having guests often, will bring tremendous blessing to your life. Hospitality in my mind has always been about being welcoming and real and being ‘present over perfect’ which also happens to be the title of Niequist’s next book (Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living). I think I will read it but the title is almost enough already.
Shauna Niequist brings a down-to-earth perspective in her book Bread and Wine. She makes herself vulnerable with the funny and honest stories she tells about her own life with themes of hospitality, spirituality, community, food, friends, family, infertility, love, and shame, AND there is a recipe included at the end of every chapter! I loved this book and read it slowly, trying out her comforting and easy recipes along the way, many of which have already become favourites and are simple enough to memorize and/or tweak to your own tastes.
Pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass of wine, and enjoy the conversation at Niequist’s table!
First things first, it’s pronounced KEEN-wah (or maybe kee-NO-wah). Secondly, I have not gone dotty on cooking lately, that is not the reason for yet another cookbook post. I dislike cooking, but I enjoy eating and I love having people over for dinner – thus I need good cookbooks with easy recipes that still allow me to spend less time in the kitchen and more time in the sewing room, at the gym, or reading in the armchair. This book has tasty, easy recipes, many of which can be prepared in advance and served hot or cold.
Quinoa is a remarkable grain and everyone seems to be talking about it. And if you haven’t heard about it, well, now you have, and you can happily enter the conversation if it does come up. Quinoa is easy to cook. It is a little pricy but anything trendy usually is. Because it has protein it’s a wonderful choice for vegetarians and gluten free folk. The book begins with an introduction which gives a great overview of everything from nutritional value to a history of the grain. It was created with a bitter coating which originally protected it from being eaten by birds or insects. But we humans found a way to rub off the coating, that’s probably why it is a little more expensive. But when you compare it with the cost of meat and cheese, it’s actually pretty reasonable, and it doesn’t have cholesterol or trans fats.
This cookbook will be really useful to you for the summer when you are looking for interesting salads and quick dishes to cook up to round out the bbq meal. It cooks just like rice and actually triples itself, so it could be more economical in the long run. Because it is so good for you, you could even cook a little to keep in the fridge and sprinkle over a salad or add to a thin soup or stew. Presto! Healthy meal!
There are some interesting and unique dishes in this book, many of which could also be done with rice instead of quinoa, and vice versa. Any of your own rice or couscous recipes could be made by substituting quinoa. There is a substantial dessert section in the book, some of which looks so good, I might be tempted to cheat and substitute regular flour. And if you have babies or grand-babies, there’s even a section on baby food.
There are two people who give me recipes that end up being my favourites. One is a sister-in-law and the other is a friend. One day the sister-in-law recommended a cookbook to me. I ordered it immediately! It was fabulous, so on impulse I bought it for the friend and guess what? She had it already!! Duh, I should have known. Well, that told me something about this cookbook and that is why I want to share it with you. Here is why I like it so much.
– are tasty (why else would I make them?)
– are easy (I don’t bother with complex ones, too busy for that)
– call for available ingredients (no obscure or brand name stuff)
– are heart healthy and wholesome (I’m over 50 and so is my husband)
– are EASY (did I mention that?)
– have pictures which are “eat off the page” gorgeous
(aesthetics, but I also steal presentation ideas!)
– do not require complex tools I don’t have (small kitchen)
– don’t have words or foods I don’t know or can’t pronounce
(my beef with Jamie Oliver)
– are EASY (did I say that already?)
– have both ‘cups’ and ‘ml’ listed (handy if you live in UK)
– come with a nutrition chart (if this excites you that’s good, you should read labels!)
– have simple directions (read: EASY)
Now, I know what you are thinking. “I already have 50 cookbooks, do I really need another one?” The answer is yes. But, you must be ruthless and weed out every cookbook you have not glanced in for 5 years. I know you have some, we all do. They are probably the ones you picked up at a rummage sale. Bring them back to another rummage sale and you won’t feel guilty for ditching them. It’s the circle of life. Then, voila!, you have room for a nice new shiny one. This one you will use or I will eat my words. Bon appetit!
“The greatest meals, like the greatest musical performances, must always seem simple, no matter how complex the execution of them really is. Strive for the good rather than the fancy…cook to please your guests, not to edify or amaze them. Your dinner party is an act of love, not a lecture on gourmandise.”
The Supper of the Lamb is a cookbook (first written in 1967 and recently republished), but also a glorious literary treat. No fast food here! There is one whole chapter devoted to the peeling and chopping of an onion! When I was re-reading it, I went to write down a recipe from it (for pan frying fish), and found the recipe was already word for word in my recipe book! I had put it in 10 years ago when I read it the first time. I use the recipe all the time, but had forgotten where it came from.
His directions are simple, but with a flourish so you are motivated to follow them. He celebrates the everyday and common, but points you to eternity and the heavenly realms. Like watching Julie & Julia, you just want to go to the kitchen and cook and eat and when you do, it is a spiritual experience! You learn how to shop for knives, not to fear fat, to be smug if you cook on gas instead of electric, and with this cookbook there will be no need to run out for a can of Campbells or a block of Philadelphia. The ingredients are wholesome and basic, and likely something you already have in the house. And I love what he says about wine:
“Wine. . .the way it complements food and enhances conversation; and its sovereign power to turn evenings into occasions, to lift eating beyond nourishment to conviviality, and to bring the race, for a few hours at least, to that happy state where men are wise and women beautiful, and even one’s children begin to look promising.”
One reviewer said reading Capon’s book feels like you are sitting on a bar stool in his kitchen, listening while he cooks. How true! Bon appetit!