Book Review: By Bread Alone

It’s pretty common these days for me to find (and subsequently follow) creatives on Instagram through other creatives I follow on Instagram. For as many negative qualities exist regarding social media accounts, their ability to inspire, connect and positively influence us with new creative stimulation are just a few reasons to stick around.

One writer, or artist, or thinker, will promote the writings, art or thoughts of another, and before I know it, I’ve been taken on a journey across multiple IG accounts. That’s precisely how I first heard about Kendall Vanderslice (yes, she says, that is her real last name), founder of “Edible Theology” and author of We Will Feast and By Bread Alone.

After following Kendall for a week or so this past winter, I realized she was in the process of launching her newest book and she was offering opportunities for interested followers to join her online launch team & community. To do so, all one had to do was preorder the book and commit to participating in the group conversations/leaving an eventual review on Amazon or Goodreads.

Lord help me when I need to assemble a dedicated book launch team because this isn’t the first time I’ve been super tardy and unhelpful in promoting the work of an author. In fact, when my pre-ordered copy of By Bread Alone came in the mail, I had completely forgotten there were things I was supposed to do with it. But, I was interested in the title (as a baker myself) and I loved the idea of Kendall’s synopsis that “our spiritual lives are deeply connected to bread.” So, late one night I cracked open the cover to get a taste of her story. 

In small bites, over a few weeks, I really savored this book, which is broken into four sections: flour, water, yeast and salt. It was a lovely way to draw parallels between preparing for and consuming both food and theology. So much of the content of By Bread Alone really resonated with me; most particularly, Kendall’s description of her career hopes, dreams, dashed expectations and unanticipated pivot moments. Perhaps it’s because we are close to the same age and I’ve experienced similar highs and lows in regards to career choices, romantic relationships (mostly the lack thereof), a love of travel and a desire to build community.

“Humans are created with a need for communion as well—communion with God and with one another, communion with our bodies and with the created world. We are created to know God and navigate the world through our bodies, not just with our minds.”

By Bread Alone (2023) p.31

Full disclosure, the kardemummabullar in the photo are not from one of Kendall’s recipes. I was just conveniently making a bread/roll/bun recipe the day I wrote this blog. But, I think that’s maybe her point. It doesn’t actually matter what you choose to do for work or pleasure. The goal in life isn’t to accomplish a particular task; it’s about the people you meet, the experiences you have, the meals you share, the big questions you wrestle with, and the humility you adopt along the way when you realize (again and again) that you will never “have it all” or “have it all together.” It’s ok to question what you grew up to know as truth. It’s better to do that in the company of community.

Kendall’s writing is easy to grasp and relatable, even on topics which I haven’t had much exposure to (Church of England, life of a professional pastry chef, eating disorders, suicide, parental divorce, or owning a dog). All that to say, By Bread Alone is not a sensational memoir. In fact, my one complaint (which honestly isn’t even a complaint; more of a note) is that when the book ended, I was felt like there was more to the story and that hitting publish was premature. I think that’s because the author wasn’t quite out of the stage of life in which she was writing from.

My personal recommendation is to read By Bread Alone, bake something (even frozen cookie dough counts—although I’m a believer that anyone and everyone is capable of more than that), and ask your questions. Wherever you are on a faith journey, make sure that you’re walking with other people. They don’t have to all be experts or seasoned followers, but it sure helps when you surround yourself with the wisdom of others.

On that note, follow some inspirational people on whatever social media platforms you use, being careful to not make them idols, but to consider what they say and who they associate with. There’s so much potential for good things to come by exploring your own creativity as you allow yourself to be inspired by others.

A final good reminder & challenge: it doesn’t matter if you are single (by choice or circumstance) or part of a large family, there should always be room for one more at table. Life (and dinner) is better in community.

“The beauty of this communion with God can’t be adequately captured in theological terms. It resists being pinned down by words at all… The Bread of Life is not just a metaphor for spiritual truth: when we bake bread and break bread, both individually and in community, we know God in a rich, creative, and intimate way.”

From the preface of By Bread Alone

This book may be for you if you also like: baking (or just eating) bread; Christianity; deconstruction; ballet; careers that go down unconventional paths; Mercy Ships; travel; memoir; nonfiction; Church of England; hospitality; pastry chef; communion traditions.


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