It’s not often I review a book this physically large (it’s sort of A4 sized, and is hardback) – or with this many (high quality, thankfully!) pictures, but Simply Eat: Everyday Stories of Friendship, Food and Faith is also the first cookbook I’ve ever read cover to cover. That’s partly because I’m slightly maverick in cooking, but also because most are not designed for reading pleasure. Simply Eat, though, is a different beast. Produced in collaboration with All Nations, The Great Commission and South Asian Forum of the Evangelical Alliance, Interserve, London City Mission (for whom I now work, though I didn’t at the time of publication!) and the Birmingham Diocese of the Church of England, this is a a really helpful book that could serve as a catalyst for evangelism and hospitality.
Simply Eat gathers a collection of stories, reflections and recipes, and is packaged as a gift. Certainly, some people I know are likely to get this as a present at some point! Drawing on real-life stories of people from across the organisations that have partnered together to produce the book, you could ignore the recipes and profitably be encouraged by the trophies of grace and challenges into mission that Simply Eat collects.
The book reflects a beautiful diversity in unity – one story is about how food united and inter-racial marriage – and the recipes reflect the diverse cultures that make up the church in the UK today. Yet the stories and recipes are just thoughtful vehicles for something better. This is ultimately a book about Jesus, and invites us to be more like him, perhaps echoing the controversial (but enticing!) invitation of Matthew 11:19; “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.“. One theme that consistently came out from the stories in Simply Eat was that eating together opens up the opportuntity for meaningful conversations about the things that matter, as well as being a practical and simple expression of love. My only criticism would be that my inner student/lazy person wished there was a reflection about the value of takeaway food – which sometimes is a great way to bless someone!
This is a book that you could read in a weekend but has a value that could last a lot, lot longer. The stories are encouraging and Gospel-provoking, and it is a really nicely packaged and produced physical book. The recipes look manageable and tasty – and handily are arranged in a practical index at the back (because, unlike ‘normal’ cookbooks, this one has lots of other words in it too!). I’d recommend this book to give as a gift to Christian friends and family, and also to serve as a catalyst for mission, hospitality and purposeful cooking in your own life.
A couple of people who’ve contributed stories to Simply Eat have written their own books, which would work well as ‘starter’ and ‘second course’…
- Helen Thorne (and Pete Nicholas) wrote the practical 5 Things to Pray for Your City.
- Chris Lane wrote one of my 2018 books of the year, Ordinary Miracles: Mess, Meals and meeting Jesus in Unexpected Places.