Today I'd like to tell you about a few of my favorite people. They're pastors I've interviewed for my book, "Sunday Dinners: America's Tradition of Grace and Good Food."
The concept of my book is to capture where food and faith intersect because they're two significant traditions in American culture. The first chapter is a well-reported one, filled with family dinner traditions from people of faith. It also introduces what's to come in my book.
After that, each chapter is a narrative-style story about one family's Sunday dinner tradition, followed by a handful of their favorite recipes.
I'm fortunate to be BOTH the food editor and the religion editor at the Houston Chronicle, the 7th largest newspaper in the country. We're the largest paper to still have a stand-alone religion section. My jobs have me thinking about food and faith most of the time and they also give me the opportunity to meet and/or interview people from all over the country.
I'm three-fourths of the way into what I hope will be a 16-chapter book and two of the chapters are about people I'll tell you about now and will write about more later: Joel and Victoria Osteen and Bishop T.D. Jakes and his wife Serita.
The Osteens are just as kind and down-to-earth as you see on TV. If you live in Houston, like I do, you can see them in person at their Lakewood Church. You've never seen anything like their church: it's a ginormous facility where the Houston Rockets pro basketball used to play, renovated to seat thousands of people for Sunday morning and evening services as well as Wednesday evening services.
Victoria and Joel, food-wise, are yin and yang. Victoria was raised in a food-loving family, where meals were elaborate and flavors were intense. Their mother's dinner table was often filled with tradtional Southern foods, but she didn't stop there. Joel, on the other hand, was raised by a mother (father, too!) who didn't care much about cooking. Dodie Osteen cooked to feed her family, but without much flourish. If Victoria's family lived to eat, Joel's simply ate to live.
When she brought Joel home for his first Thanksgiving dinner with her family, he couldn't believe how many dishes they had. The one that stuck out most in his mind were their sweet potatoes, which he described as more like a dessert (think brown sugar and pecans) than a side dish.
The Jakes are pastors at The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, and are two of the nicest people I've ever met. They are funny and charming, and their kids are, too. When I interviewed them for my book I flew to Dallas and met them at their home. Their two daughters, Cora (Coleman) and Sarah (Henson) were part of the interview and you could tell immediately that they were a close-knit family, each anxious to finish the other's sentences. They were super-fun to meet because they were so open and friendly. Activities in their kitchen are almost like an episode on a Food Network TV show: they all compete to have the best pasta or banana pudding or any other dish.
So the next time you see the Osteens or Jakes giving their sermons on TV, know that they're not only good pastors, but they're good cooks too.