Mandan News

Epic Food Fight: a review

By Dustin White
Mandan News, editor

Writing a review for a theological work can be quite difficult. When that work comes from a different religious perspective than one’s own, that difficulty factor rises considerably. That was the case for Father Leo Patalinghug’s new book, “Epic Food Fight: A Bite-Sized History of Salvation.”

Patalinghug comes from a Roman Catholic background. He attended seminary at the North American College in Rome, where he developed a love for cooking. Continuing through his education, he was later ordained as a priest. Merging his love for cooking, and his background as a priest, Patalinghug has been able to provide a unique form of ministry.

In part, that has included writing several books that delve into the topic of theology, while relating it through a means nearly all can relate to: food. As his most recent book suggests, they are bite-sized works, which can be easily digested by the general public.

While some theological works come off as jargon filled messes, that are hard to decipher unless one has considerable background in the subject, Patalinghug writes in a fashion that is easily understandable.

The work itself comes out of the Catholic tradition, which can easily be recognized with just a brief reading. This comes as no surprise as Patalinghug is, after all, a Roman Catholic priest. His theology as a whole appears to be a bit more conservative, but not so much that it alienates those who may be of a more liberal stance.

Patalinghug begins, from the very introduction, an engaging dialogue. His introduction, titled “The Appetizer,” serves it’s intention wonderfully. It immediately draws the reader in, and sets the tone for the rest of the work.

Following along, the meat of the book expands on the foundation built in the opening pages. However, unlike a stale sermon, Patalinghug goes beyond basic preaching and places himself within a conversation.

Instead of simply laying out a theological argument, Patalinghug pushes the reader to further explore the topic. This exploration, as Patalinghug must understand, has the possibility of leading the reader to come to a conclusion that is different than his. Such differences though only lead to a greater conversation.

Besides allowing for further exploration, Patalinghug also poses a series of questions at the end of each chapter, which is an effective way of refreshing and applying the information that was presented in the work.

While Patalinghug does seem to have a theological view that is a bit conservative, its not a theology that is stifling. A main point that he seems to stress throughout his work is the concept of a global community.

This partially means that one must be open to the possibility that that person sitting across the table may be of a completely different point of view. As Patalinghug showcases, by relating a personal experience, the person may even be somewhat hostile to the ideology that one holds. Even in such cases though, there are means to find some common ground.

As with a shared meal, there is a sense of equality as well. More importantly, Patalinghug promotes an understanding. While there may be people present who are of different views, it is necessary to try to gain some understanding of each other. Instead of shutting individuals down because they have different beliefs, Patalinghug instead suggests to remain more civil, and accept that it is not always possible, or maybe even desirable, to change others beliefs and views.

He does highlight what this sort of gathering, a shared meal, could accomplish. He speaks of religious leaders, from a variety of different perspectives, sitting down for a common meal, with the only goal being that they eat together. As Patalinghug expresses, such a meal could serve as a “reminder of humanity’s common need for fellowship and food.” He stresses this point by showing that they would all have a basic thing in common: being human.

Such practices help foster deeper communication, which appears to be one of the central ideas of Patalinghug’s book. The communication is not meant just for strangers, or people one shares a meal with though, but also extends to more familiar and intimate relationships, such as with one’s priest (or minister) or spouse.

Specifically for spouses, the need for communication becomes important as to strengthen their relationship. It also serves as a means for reconciliation, as a reminder of such.

One of the largest shortcomings of the book is that the audience is narrowed considerably because of portions of the theology. While there are some very great global messages within the work, the audience will be limited because of the nature of the theology expressed.

One specific example of this narrowing is the relatively brief discussion of contraceptives. Patalinghug does subscribe to the view of the Catholic Church, that generally, one should not use such. He states that the use of the pill, for the most part, is motivated by selfishness.

Whether one agrees with such view or not, it certainly does limit the audience of the work, which I find regrettable as there are many other points that are beneficial for a larger viewership.

There are also portions in which Patalinghug stretches a statement to the point of breaking. There are instances in which he speaks of belief, or religious ideas that are held as truth as if they are concrete facts.

In one specific example of this over reaching is in regards to a statement regarding the results of unchecked sexual hunger. Patalinghug makes the claim that the effects of unchecked sexual hunger are quite widespread, and include such things as child sexual abuse, spread of sexually transmitted disease and the normalization of sexual perversion. The problem with the statement is that it implies that one who has an unchecked sexual hunger will be guilty of such acts. It ignores the psychological problems that is at the heart at a few of these issues, as well as other factors that do come into play.

Without offering support for such a claim, Patalinghug stretches his argument to a point that is quite thin in places.

Even though there are a few shortcomings, that may isolate some readers and limit the overall audience, Patalinghug does provide a work that is compelling. For the right audience, it can be a wonderful source, which may help them further their own understanding.

For readers who may not share some of Patalinghug’s views, it can still be a good read though. As with nearly any theological work, the reader will most likely find points in which they disagree. If one is able to get past that obstacle, this work can have a great impact.