PRAISE THE LORD, AND PASS THE MASHED POTATOES

By Marialisa Calta Modified: September 26, 2013 at 8:41 am •  Published: September 26, 2013
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Diane Cowen lives a double life. As an editor at the Houston Chronicle, she oversees both the Religion and the Food sections. The first "beat" has offered her the chance to interview such megachurch pastors as Joel and Victoria Osteen of the Lakewood Church in Houston (the largest congregation in America, with 43,000 in attendance per week and 20 million broadcast viewers), and Bishop T.D. Jakes, and his wife, Serita, of The Potter's House in Dallas (30,000 congregants), along with clergy from churches all over the South and West. The second hat that Cowen wears has prompted her to ask these clergy, quite naturally, what they eat. Thus, Cowen's professional lives converged in a new book called "Sunday Dinners: Food, Family, and Faith from Our Favorite Pastors" (Andrews McMeel, 2013).

"Sunday Dinners" reveals that Rev. Kirbyjon and Pastor Suzette Caldwell, returning from preaching to the 17,000 members of the Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, might serve up a bunch of Grilled Chicken, Mac and Cheese, and Apple-Walnut Salad to their family and friends; and that Rev. Dr. Jim and Barb Dixon of the Cherry Hills Community Church in Highlands Ranch, Colo., are partial to Avocado and Shrimp Fettuccine and Carrot Cake. It also reveals that, though they may be from different denominations, all of the clergy interviewed share the belief that eating together with family and friends cements connections and helps teach, especially to children, such values as respect and appreciation. These are values shared by a wide range of people, religious and not.

The beauty of "Sunday Dinners," which focuses on Christian clergy and their families, is that its message is quite inclusive. You don't need to be Roman Catholic (or Vietnamese, for that matter) to appreciate the recipe for Fresh Shrimp and Pork Spring Rolls contributed by Rev. Martin Lam Nguyen, a Da Nang-born priest at the University of Notre Dame. Even if you've never heard of, much less attended, the New Season Christian Worship Center and Cantico Nuevo in Elk Grove, Calif., you can savor Pastors Samuel and Eva Rodriguez's Cheese Flan. And Randy and Rozanne Frazee, who preach at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, volunteered a recipe for Pulled Pork Tacos that may have even non-believers singing "Hallelujah."

Certainly, most parents of teenagers can understand Pastor Ron Carpenter, of the Redemption World Outreach Center in Greenville, S.C., when he speaks of Sunday dinners as a way to enjoy his children while they're still home. "We won't have these times forever, so let's enjoy them now," he tells Cowen. "My youngest is a freshman in high school, and for the next four years I'm going to milk every moment I can." Amen to that.

PULLED PORK TACOS

Yield: 10 servings

3 pounds boneless Boston butt pork roast

1 (28-ounce) can whole fire-roasted tomatoes

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