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Catholic Foodie strives to bring people back around the table

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Jeff Young, founder and producer of  The Catholic Foodie, uses social media and his background as an educator to make the connection between food and faith. (Courtesy Photo)
Jeff Young, founder and producer of The Catholic Foodie, uses social media and his background as an educator to make the connection between food and faith. (Courtesy Photo)

By Eileen Connelly, OSU
The Catholic Telegraph

“I just love to cook,” said Greg Young, during a recent telephone interview with The Catholic Telegraph. “God gives you certain gifts and interests and you put them to good use.”

Young has found a way to put his talent and passion to use as founder and producer of The Catholic Foodie, a podcast and blog that strengthens faith and families by highlighting how food can be a sign of God’s love and care for us. The show’s tagline, “where food meets faith,” “speaks volumes about the importance of family, which is so often developed around the kitchen table,” Young said. 

Body & SoulThe married father of three (a fourth child is on the way), was born and raised just outside of Baton Rouge, La., where, he said, “Food is life. We love to eat. We’ll be sitting around the table eating lunch and talking about what’s for dinner. Eating is very much a communal event.”

A former seminarian and educator, Young was teaching high school Spanish and religion and using podcasts and blogging in the classroom, when it occurred to him that he could also use technology to make the connection between food and faith. He launched The Catholic Foodie in November of 2008 and was amazed at how quickly it took off as people from all walks of life became engaged in his efforts. The blog and podcast currently have more than 15,000 monthly followers.

“Food is a neutral ground. Everybody loves to eat,” Young said, explaining The Catholic Foodie’s popularity. “But when you break it down, it’s not really about the food; it’s about the meals. And, it’s not really about the meals, but the relationships and family and friends coming together.”

“It’s been personally edifying for my faith to see people inspired to get back into the kitchen and back around the table,” he added.

For Young, the food/faith connection is obvious. “Food is the bounty and blessing of God,” he explained. “God created us to seek communion – with himself and with others – and one of the primary ways we experience communion is around the table… the table of the Eucharist at Mass, and also the family dinner table at home. From Genesis to Revelation, food plays an important role in God’s relationship with his people and in our relationship with each other. But it’s not just the food. It’s the meals. It’s the families around the table. It’s communion.”

Among the favorite recipes of The Catholic Foodie are Crawfish Monica, New Orleans Beans and Rice and Barbequed Shrimp. Young points out that his ministry is about much more than recipes, though. For him, the catechetical aspect is also significant. He has penned a number of articles offering Catholic culinary inspiration, including “The Sacramental Principle,” “What so Catholic about Food,” and “How to Grow in Faith around the Family Table.”

In addition to his website and podcast, Young is also the co-host of “Around the Table,” a radio show that is broadcast on Catholic Community Radio in Baton Rouge and New Orleans on Friday afternoons. He is also a frequent guest on radio shows across the country.

Earlier this year, Young made the first of what he hopes will be many “Food and Faith” pilgrimages, this one to the Holy Land, where pilgrims grew in faith around the table of the Eucharist and dinner table, while being immersed in the culture and food of Jesus’ land. “I’d wanted to go to the Holy Land for a long time,” he said. “It was an amazing experience and made the presence of Jesus very real for me. It was life changing.”

The next “Food and Faith” pilgrimage, handled by Select International Tours, is scheduled for Feb. 15 – March 8, 2015, and Young said a similar journey to Italy next fall is also in the works.

Young’s latest venture is his first book — Around the Table with the Catholic Foodie: Middle Eastern Cuisine (Liguori Publications) — which takes readers on his recent travels to the Holy Land for an experience of food and faith, and includes 60 original recipes and stories about the history of Middle Eastern Cuisine. “As I was writing the book, I prayed for the people of the Holy Land and the process of writing it allowed me to share their stories in a very specific and meaningful way.”

Young said his own family, wife, Char, and children, Christopher, Annabelle and Grace, are huge supporters of his ministry, serving as his taste testers for many recipes and his inspiration. “Being a husband and father is how God has called me to live out my life. Through my family, I grow in love and in my faith every day,” he said.

For more information, visit the Catholic Foodie’s Facebook HERE or CatholicFoodie.com

Body & Soul is a feature that hopes to highlight faith-filled folks who nourish others through their ministries, other food related topics and perhaps even heavenly inspired recipes. Please send any story ideas to Eileen Connelly, OSU.

This Body & Soul feature originally appeared in the December 2014 print edition of The Catholic Telegraph.

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