This spring marks so many things: eight years since I graduated high school and left home in Charlotte, Michigan for college in Chicago, Illinois. Four years since I graduated college and started a blog and got married. Three years since hubs and I moved into our own place and I became a fully employed writer. One year since I lost mom. And this year will probably be forever remembered as the birthplace of my book.
I was thinking about all of this on Saturday night, standing over my kitchen counter and chopping vegetables for dinner with my husband and best friend. There are few things that make me feel more grounded and capable and fulfilled than when I am preparing a meal for my loved ones, and that was when it hit me :
Somewhere in these eight years I became an adult.
And a wave of gratitude came with it. I am so deeply thankful for the community that helped me grow into myself, for the friends that have made themselves at home with me and poured into me all these years, and for the voices of other writers that have led me here.
Shauna Niequist’s voice was certainly among them. I was a sophomore in college when I was first introduced to her writing. She had just published “Cold Tangerines” and she came to speak for spiritual enrichment week at my school, and she also spoke to my nonfiction prose class. Since that first introduction when I devoured “Cold Tangerines” and soaked up her writing and faith insights, I’ve gravitated toward Shauna’s voice as a source of hope and nurturing. Her books have sat on my nightstand for months on end, in my own homage to patron sainthood and spiritual mothering.
It was her chapter “Hide and Seek” in Cold Tangerines that articulated the peculiar anxiety and joy of writing, and helped me cope with it. It was her chapter “Twenty-Five” in Bittersweet that taught me about the importance of self-care and authenticity in my early twenties. I vividly remember sitting on my dear friend Becky’s couch one afternoon, reading “Twenty-Five” aloud to her and Mackenzie, and how our discussion of that chapter lingered late into the evening over dinner and tea and dessert.
And now that I am 25, Shauna’s voice again nurtures my own, this time in her new book Bread & Wine. It’s a book about food and community, filled with delectable recipes* and beautiful stories.
But Bread & Wine is also a book about hunger, physical and otherwise, and learning to nourish one another. Her chapter “Hungry” is already the one that I flip back to and reread as a reminder to myself that it is beautiful to be hungry, not the shameful, joyless thing that society has made it.
“I wake up in the morning and I think about dinner. I think about the food and the people and the things we might discover about life and about each other. I think about the sizzle of oil in a pan and the smell of rosemary released with a knife cut. And it could be that that’s how God made me the moment I was born, and it could be that that’s how God made me along the way as I’ve given up years of secrecy and denial and embarrassment. It doesn’t matter at this point. What matters is that one of the ways we grow up is by declaring what we love.” (B&W, pg. 37)
We have an innate hunger, for physical nourishment and spiritual nourishment, for communion. And it is when we embrace and admit our hunger that we find the fulfillment and community we long for.
So, at 25, I am hungry.
I am hungry for good food and good company the way that I am hungry for the right words to express life. I am the kind of person that wakes up thinking about what I’ll eat for dinner, and who I’ll eat it with, and what words I will use to write about it later. I am hungry. And that is a sacred, beautiful thing.
Thank you, Shauna, for giving us the words to articulate our hunger and learn to feed each other well.
*I made the Mar-a-Lago turkey burgers, sweet potato fries with sriracha dipping sauce, Green Well’s Michigan Harvest salad, and the simplest dark chocolate mousse, every last morsel of which was divine. I’ve also made her bacon-wrapped dates for several parties, and they are usually devoured within the first five minutes.