This past summer I ventured into unknown territory and lead a book club. It was a bit of a nervy move for me. I read this book, "Bread and Wine" by Shauna Niequist and I had absolutely no idea that this was in store for me. The book melded my loves, cooking and feeding people and then made the spiritual connection between the two. I do believe that I stunned Husband Jared when the book was finished within one day of it arriving in the mail. Yes, it was that good. Then I began missing the book. Recipes were included with each chapter and I can not even tell you how much underlining there is on these pages. Nor the splatters and spills from having the book open while I was cooking. Well loved, that's what I say. Back to book club. I had been talking incessantly about this book to Husband Jared and lo and behold there was a book club guide in the very back. Complete with menu ideas and questions for each week's meeting. Ding, ding, ding! Thus, book club was born. At this stage in the game I was unsure of whom to invite. I prayed and then wrote an email, my formal invitation if you will, to friends that God placed on my heart.
Our Book Club, Jennifer's house meeting #3
Two weeks later we were meeting in my home for dinner. Not just any dinner mind you, we were cooking together. Five other women and myself, gathered around the table, but first side by side in the kitchen, creating recipes that we were not familiar with. Out of my comfort zone? A tad. Outrageously fun, yes! I had prayed for this group, spoken to the other members and eased their fears, anxieties, addressed the unknowns. But still, women, a kitchen, varying levels of cooking experience, it was a gamble, and one I am so very grateful I took. A bold step into the unknown. I had never even been part of a book club, yet alone one that required sharing my kitchen with other women. This one stretched me, maybe all of us.
That first night was inspiring. We were each responsible for a different part of the meal and we decided ahead of time that we would bring our own ingredients and then prepare everything together. So that is exactly what we did. The oven was on, the burners too, pots everywhere, ingredients scattered. Small talk being exchanged and family histories divulged. The kitchen was full and so was my heart. Since I was hosting I did not have a main dish or side dish or even a dessert to prep so I stood back taking it all in. These other five ladies whom I love and call my friends were now meeting one another and all because of a book.
Anna's kitchen, meeting #2
The club took on a life of it's own. There were four meetings with four different menus and four sets of questions to focus the discussion. Each week we met at a different house; Hospitality at it's finest. Never was the status or quality of one's home front and center, not once did the subject of cleaning arise. Everyone flew open their doors and welcomed us in. Dog hair on the floor and all. Well at least at my house there was. Late into the night we sat, drank wine, sipped coffee and leaned in a little closer. Listening intently. Really hearing the heart of the matter. Sharing history, hurts, struggles and lessons learned. Breaking bread as a new community was birthed.
Toasting to chocolate mousse at my house, meeting #4
At the end of our four meetings I must say I loved the book even more than I had to begin with. Moreover I loved each member of the book club more. The fresh revelations that came as a result of this group are really too sweet. I could go on and on and I must for a moment. This is my book. And these are the notes I took my second time through.
I am telling you each page looks like this. Some with more writing in the margins than others. Such is life, right? There is more ad libbing, heavy note taking, memory making and just plain more, depending on the season. So after cooking, sitting at the table and eating we would switch gears from food talk to the real "meat" talk. A great piece to this was that the questions varied. While there were thought provoking, deep questions there was also a sprinkling of light heartedness. Such as, sharing your favorite kitchen memory as a child, or your go to meal when there's company. Others were challenging, talking about women and the shame we often feel in relation to our homes and our bodies, or fear and embracing faith in stead of that emotion. Yes, there were some tears and always a healthy dose of laughter to accompany it. Most nights I was left with my cheeks hurting from all the smiling and laughing. Good for the soul.
Then in a blink of an eye we finished the book. Meeting four came and went and we really weren't sure where to go. Until Martha came up with a plan to meet once more at her home after the start of the school year. This time, a chocolate themed dinner. Well, who could say no to that? Not me, or anyone else in this group. There we were, all six of us, cooking together once again and laughing and toasting around the table to friends and fellowship and this beautifully chosen group. Another scrumptious meal and even better conversations lead us to deciding to continue our club. I'm not exactly sure of what it will transform into, maybe cooking club, eating club, another book? That remains to be seen. And see we shall as we take a walk around Lake Calhoun before the weather turns and let someone else do the cooking this time at Burger Jones.
I really do intend to share with you the heart of this book and how it speaks to my soul. It deserves a post of it's own. Just as soon as I have the words I will post them here. For now I am recreating recipes and rereading my notes and all the underlined text in the book. Here's a quote from the author herself to give you a taste of what's to come...
"Learn, little by little, meal by meal, to feed yourself and the people you love, because food is one of the ways we love each other, and the table is one of the most sacred places we gather."
Shauna Niequist, "Bread and Wine"