Years ago, I heard a reference to a podcast that sounded like it would be interesting, if irrelevant to me. The friend recommending it, herself an avid cook, thought the idea of food meeting faith was both novel and applicable. I quite agreed.

I do not, however, really like to cook. And while I like to eat, I couldn't imagine that spending the time listening to a cook talking would be very interesting, however Catholic they may be.

I kept hearing about this Catholic Foodie guy, though, and he seemed pretty interesting. He seemed like someone I would like, even if *I* don't like to cook. Out of curiosity, I finally tuned in.

Now, close to six years since I listened to my first episode, I'm looking at a book by Jeff Young, the Catholic Foodie. It's a natural progression, really: all that energy of his had to spill over into something that could get dog-eared and ingredient-stained.

Published by Liguori, Around the Table with the Catholic Foodie: Middle Eastern Cuisine is filled with foods I'm pretty sure would cause a riot in my house. That doesn't matter, though, because if anyone has convinced me that I should at least try it, it's Jeff Young.

His Catholic Foodie apostolate has grown over the years, and it has embraced, at every turn, the fact that food and faith go hand-in-hand. His vision is that families need to eat together (and so do friends, by the way), and that this is inspired by none other than Jesus himself. Mass, after all, is a banquet.

Around the Table isn't just a cookbook, though it assuredly is a cookbook. It's also a story chronicling Jeff's pilgrimage to the Holy Land, the background of his cooking and his vocation, and the founding of Catholic Foodie. The photographs are big and lick-worthy and the pages are full-color, partial gloss, with those cover flaps that you can tuck in so you don't lose your place.

When I was testing the book out (though not, ahem, by actually cooking anything out of it...yet), I found that, glory of glories, it would lay flat on my counter, on my bed, on my couch: I could actually USE it in the kitchen! It's magazine-sized, too, so those of us in denial about the state of our vision have hope of using it and getting the measurements right.

And if I know Jeff Young, that's what he had in mind. He poured a lot of his heart and passion into this cookbook, and it shows. But the reason he did it, the driving force, is so that we would get off our couches and away from the takeout order line.

Who knows? I may find myself inspired to try something sometime soon I've been feeling adventurous in the kitchen, and between the stories and the pictures included in this collection, I'm feeling all foodie-wannabe.

Who Is this Book for?

It's for you. It's for anyone who seeks to grow in faith around the table. It's for anyone seeking Catholic culinary inspiration to get into the kitchen and to gather with family and friends around the table.

My sincere prayer is that the stories and recipes in this book will inspire and encourage you to find God with you around the table of the Eucharist and around your family dinner table.