In Bittersweet, Shauna Niequist shares her "thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way." No matter what she is going through in her life at any given time, the act of cooking a homemade meal and sharing it around the table with family and friends helps to ground her and remind her of what is important in life. It reminds her to slow down and savor every bite. It reminds her of God's continual presence in our lives.
It is up to us to choose to pay attention to Him and allow Him to walk with us on our journey. Food is what allows Niequist to do this.
What is "Bittersweet"?
"Bittersweet is the idea that in all things there is both something broken and something beautiful." In life, we are all going to experience moments of bitterness that test our strength and moments of sweetness that give us hope. It is the combination of the two that bring depth, meaning, and complexity to life.
For Niequist, the table becomes the place of healing. When the table is full with food and drink, and she is surrounded by loved ones, she feels a deep sense of God's presence and happiness. By offering someone a place at the table instead of keeping them out because they are different than her, she represents the heart of Christ.
Bittersweet has made me rethink food. I have always loved to cook from scratch. The joy I get from finding a recipe, going to the farmers market, preparing the meal, and sharing it with my family makes my heart full. Niequist reminded me of the importance of making time to cook, of making time to sit down with family and friends and enjoy the meal and the time spent with them.
As I was reading Bittersweet over the summer, I had the realization that I was not making enough time to do the things that bring my heart joy. I found myself getting caught in life's busyness, worrying about the little things, and forgetting what is truly important. Shauna's words reminded me of why I love to cook.That night, I pulled out my dark chocolate banana bread recipe, turned on my favorite song, and baked for my family. I made a promise to myself to never let life get in the way of making time for the things that nourish my mind, body, and soul.
When we make time to gather around the table and eat a homemade meal, we are honoring both our bodies and God. We are not machines. Our bodies and spirits require nourishment.
When we slow down to enjoy the food and the company, we bring nourishment not only to our bodies but also to our spirits. Cooking, eating, and making time to do the things we love is one way we can slow ourselves down and enjoy God's creations. It is another form of prayer. When we pay attention, we realize that every meal can be a sacred meal if we let it.
With Thanksgiving fast approaching, it is important to keep these things in mind. I now have a new appreciation for my Thanksgiving traditions with my family. Every year, my Aunt Molly and I wake up early to start baking the pies, two pumpkin and two coconut cream. We prep the turkey and stuff it. Family slowly gathers at my grandparent's house, each person bringing something they have made. We all sit down at the table to enjoy the food and each other.
Bittersweet is a beautiful reminder to savor both life's bitter and sweet moments with God, family, and friends by our side. A reminder to come to the table and allow ourselves to be nourished. I urge you to gather the people you love around your table and feed their physical hunger with food made by your hands and their spiritual hunger with stories. Come to the table and live.