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Pastor's reality food show pitch: Christians and Jews bonding over hot dogs
February 23rd, 2011
06:00 AM ET

Pastor's reality food show pitch: Christians and Jews bonding over hot dogs

By Gabe LaMonica, CNN

It was the hot dogs that broke down religious barriers.

Megachurch pastor Phil Hotsenpiller and his wife, Tammy, invited their Muslim, Jewish and Buddhist neighbors over to their Southern California home for an interfaith, multicultural meal.

But not just any meal: This one was being filmed as a pilot for a reality TV show based on Tammy Hotsenpiller’s book, “Taste of Humanity" – which she described as an attempt to “bring cultures together through cuisine.”

“I had everyone bring something from their country,” Tammy Hotsenpiller recalled, “and I thought, ‘Well what is America known for? I mean, apple pie and hot dogs.’ So I brought apple pie and hot dogs. We did a hot dog bar with all the condiments and everything else."

Their neighbors hadn’t gotten together in 20 years.

“And the first thing [our guests] asked was, ‘Was it kosher? Are they beef? Are they pork?’

"So it gave us an opportunity to talk about their conviction and why they don’t eat pork and what that means, and it really opened up some great opportunities of dialogue and conversation – just really over cuisine – all of us sitting down and talking about what our beliefs are."

The Hotsenpillers won’t say which networks they’re pitching the reality show to. Ashley Williams, who has worked as a segment producer for ABC's "The Bachelor," filmed the pilot. In 30 minute episodes, the Hotsenpilles say, the program would showcase dinners held in the homes of people from neighborhoods across America.

They’ve also shot two international pilots in Ethiopia and India.

Because of changing U.S. demographics, American food is defined less by hot dogs and apple pie and more by the cuisines of a multitude of cultures.

As Phil Hotsenpiller notes, “There’s no atheist food."

“I have friends that are atheists,” he said. “I can dialogue with them – we don’t agree – but it’s a whole lot easier to sit down and talk to someone of a different belief or non-belief system if we’ve got a piece of food in our hand and a fork in our hand and we’re trying to break down some barriers and build some understanding.

“I’m not going to become a Muslim, but that doesn’t mean I can’t eat with a Muslim, respect a Muslim, dialogue with a Muslim, and try to understand their perspective,” he said.

The Hotsenpillers are well traveled. In December they were in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where they attended a dinner with representatives of more than two dozen embassies.

"As we sat next to each other filling our plates with one another’s cuisine – our plates were so beautiful – you could taste the culture through the basic food groups," Tammy Hotsenpiller said. "[Despite] the wars and prejudice and all kinds of issues [that] were going on in each of these people’s countries, cuisine was a way we could sit down and really bridge that.

"Most of us use the same basic ingredients in every culture – it’s just how we use the ingredients," she said.

"Just trying each other’s cuisine, not being afraid to try something new, will hopefully then open doors to conversation."

Hotsenpiller, who calls herself a “culture coach,” said, “Most people are intimidated by each other until you can sit down and really taste each other’s culture, through cuisine, conversation, costume, customs, so that’s really what the reality show is based on: merging into one another’s culture by sitting down and tasting humanity.”

In terms of their beliefs, Phil Hotsenpiller said, “We’re both of the Christian faith and we believe Christ is our savior and the Bible is our guide. At the same time we hold a really strong belief that we live in a world that we have to live together, and we want to find ways to respect people and honor people and the way they live their life and live with the freedom to choose and to thrive.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Africa • Belief • Christianity • Church • TV

soundoff (165 Responses)
  1. Sam

    I think everyone is missing the point of this article. Yeah, it has to do with people and their different faiths but more importantly it's talking about those people coming together and establishing relationships. I think we can all pretty much agree that to many wars, opressions, and suffering has occured because of religious ignorance. And whether you believe in a God or you don't believe in the same God as someone else it shouldn't cripple your ability to relate to that person and treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve. And I think that's exactly the point of this show, to bridge the gap between different cultures and religions so that we can all just love each other the way that we know we should.

    February 23, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
  2. Bee

    James 3 (The Message)13-16Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here's what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn't wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn't wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn't wisdom. It's the furthest thing from wisdom—it's animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you're trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others' throats.
    17-18Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor.

    February 23, 2011 at 6:12 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      Oh come on, Bee! Do you honestly believe that one cannot be atheist and still "Live well, live wisely, live humbly"? That Christians are the only people who get along with others, are gentle and reasonable? That is both arrogant and insulting. It is great that the Hotsenpillers are trying to do something to bring cultures and religions together in understanding and tolerance, but I don't find that to be the case with most religious people, unfortunately. What I usually hear is "I'm right and you're wrong. My god is the one true god." That's not tolerance.

      February 23, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Bee

      Kate not everyone that claims to be Christian lives the way Christ taught. It's a practice. You are right we fall short in many ways. This is why we needed Christ to pay for our sins. I agree with you, what the Hotsenpillers are doing is a way to bring us together. That has to be a step in the right direction. Christ teaches that the most important commandment is to love God and to love our neighbors. He also teaches us to be peacemakers. “Taste of Humanity" seems to me to be a really good way to begin.

      February 24, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
  3. keith

    Atheists have no food...ha. Also they have no logic....Nothing takes a radical leap of faith like good ol' atheism.

    February 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm |
  4. Shmeat

    No surprises here. The IGNORANT who have imaginary friends and PRETEND MORALS eat SHMEAT. NOSHMEAT.COM is exactly for these fools, if they know how to read - so they can stop the hypocrisy.

    February 23, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  5. WitsEnd

    @SeanNF,

    It's not so much about feeling uncomfortable as it is a lack of understanding why your ego so desperately seeks some sort of attention. If that were not the case, if you were not so insistent on finding a victim that will turn your insecurities into some sort of twisted character, then we wouldn't see so many hateful remarks from people such as you whose very happiness rests in the (failed) attempt at crushing religious belief. You can continue trying, Sean, but you won't succeed in making anyone uncomfortable, though you will be the recipient of pity.

    February 23, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      I think what bothers many of us atheists is that so many of our laws are culturally based, and so much of our culture stems from the dominate religion, namely Christianity. It sometimes seems as if Christians want to dictate what the rest of us can read, see, and do, and that does rankle more than a little. Just think about the FCC and censorship laws as an example. There are particular words that cannot be said, certain body parts that cannot be shown, and so forth and so on, mostly driven by Christian ideas about what is and is not "decent." I would like to decide for myself what I consider decent, but the Christian majority has made many of those choices for me. It breeds resentment.

      February 23, 2011 at 6:28 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @WitsEnd: What Kate said.

      I have no need for an ego stroking, and I'm not trying to crush *your* religious belief. If someone who's sitting on the proverbial fence wanders by however, I'd like them to know there's a differing viewpoint that they shouldn't be embarrassed to embrace.

      February 24, 2011 at 12:41 am |
  6. QS

    "...we hold a really strong belief that we live in a world that we have to live together, and we want to find ways to respect people and honor people and the way they live their life and live with the freedom to choose and to thrive.”

    Curious if this only applies to other cultures or if in this guy's mind it also applies to, say, gay people. As a Christian I would think he would inherently not be able to 'find a way to respect and honor' gay people and 'the way they live their life'.

    Honoring and respecting the way I live my life and my freedom to choose and thrive means no more bans on gay marriage, no more pulpit hate speech, no more "hate the sin, love the sinner"....can you get onboard with that or are your words merely targeted at bringing other religious groups together so they can then discuss all their differences...as well as the usually across-the-board similarity of hating gay people.

    February 23, 2011 at 5:20 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      Sorry, I think I clicked Report Abuse by mistake when I meant to click Reply.

      Anyway, well stated, but maybe a show that looks at cultural and religious differences in an open-minded manner is a start? At least they didn't do any gay-bashing in their discussion of the possibility of this TV show. If they air this, perhaps tolerance of other lifestyles NOT based on religion can be brought into the forum.

      February 23, 2011 at 6:22 pm |
  7. Ry

    All you atheists out there that are leaving these people bashing comments claim that Christianity is built on falsehood and hate. maybe take a look at how you are reacting to this article. You are spewing much more hate then you claim the Christian religion does. If you bleieve that there is no God then go ahead and keep beleiving that but SHUT UP already and stop reading all these Belief Blog articles if you dont like it.

    February 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      Oh, I'm sorry. Does it make you uncomfortable?

      February 23, 2011 at 5:06 pm |
    • QS

      Oh if only it were as simple as just a mere difference of opinion regarding the belief in god.

      The problem you religious people have is that you claim moral superiority over others who don't believe as you do, then claim to be victims when your discriminatory and backwards religious views are called out.

      And when your cult is one of the main contributors to the negative stereotypes about gay people, for you to claim Christians don't "bash" others is laughable.

      February 23, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  8. saganhill

    Kind of funny that these people of faith would get together and talk about something that doesnt exist. Those hotdogs have more being than any mythical god.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  9. TriciaE

    What an awesome idea!! Eating together, sharing stories, opening up the lines of commmunication....all positives!! I would love to see this show and watch how relationships are buillt. What an awesome example for all of us to consider and what a great way to bridge gaps and learn to understand each other better!!

    February 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  10. Luis Wu

    So a lot of ignorant morons got together to discuss their various fantasy worlds and eat. Ha ha ha ha. Funny, but not really very interesting.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • james

      aww, come on. why be so condescending? it's not your thing, ok. why such vituperation?

      February 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm |
    • Ryan

      They'd probably love to hear about your fantasy world. You know, the one where nothing explodes and it creates the universe, monkeys turn into humans, dinosaurs into birds, and nobody was there to observe it, thus it can't be proved either.
      Science is the observation of nature, such as biology, physics, gravity, and weather, not the ramblings of some old man who was disgruntled with the Bible and decided to make up something that supposedly happened billions and millions of years ago.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      Name-calling the best you can do? I'm an atheist myself, but when more than 90% of the world's people believe in a supreme being in one form or another, isn't it arrogant to refer to all of them as morons? It seems to be in the human genome to need to believe in a power greater than ourselves. I may not have the "god gene" and obviously you don't either, but this article was, at least, about Christians acting in a Christian manner and wanting to bring understanding and tolerance to the table. What's moronic about that?

      February 23, 2011 at 6:14 pm |
    • Denizen Kate

      Oh, by the way (forgot to mention), your name is virtually the same as one of my favorite characters in a Science Fiction novel. I like that.

      February 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm |
  11. Arlon

    My main argument with this article is not so much the coming-together of people of different religions, but it tries to portray the foods as being connected with a specific religion. Food is more cultural than religious. True, in a number of regions, religion is a major part of their culture, but their culture, and many of their cultural cuisine, was around before the religion. Food dishes aren't born because God, Allah, or Shiva decree "this is what you shall eat, and this is how we shall be known". It's more along the lines of someone put a few things that they had available to them on a plate together, or in a pot/pan/etc, and cooked them together, and at the end of the meal were like "well, that was pretty good" (obviously in whatever language they speak). And of course, who doesn't like sharing culinary expertise with their friends, relatives, and neighbors?

    February 23, 2011 at 4:26 pm |
    • Ryan

      I agree with most of what you said about food being cultural, not religious. I love trying new foods from different cultures when I travel. The only instance where food might be religious would be not when a food was created, but when it was decreed out of bounds in the culinary world by a religious deity. Jews were forbidden to eat the meat of split-hoofed animals, such as pigs and deer. Hindus are forbidden to eat the meat of a cow. Ever notice it's almost always a meat that's forbidden?

      Also, I'd like to point out to you as well as Hersh, I still say God exists. If you can say He doesn't, and that proves it, then I can say He does, and that proves it! Hey, Hersh – I double DOG dare you to disprove me!

      February 23, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
  12. james

    i don't really see a show being made of this.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      They tried it already. It was called "Dinner For Five," and it aired on Sundance or IFC or one of those channels.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm |
    • Frogist

      @SeanNJ: Wasn't "Dinner for Five" a movie where this group of friends keeps inviting someone over for dinner then killing them? I coulda swore...

      February 23, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @Frogist: Perhaps "Table For Five" then? It was a show hosted by John Favreau.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • james

      the movie was called "last supper"

      February 23, 2011 at 4:45 pm |
  13. wendy king

    I believe all people should try to get to know and understand one another ,thats what america was built on many different hopes and dreams as well as beliefs. Everyone wins that a way.I think other people that are different from me has many things to offer ,such as you can learn from them as well as be entertained.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
  14. Ryan

    @There Are No Gods! Care to prove it? ... Didn't think so.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Hersh

      Ryan-I can prove there are no gods by the simple fact that there is not ONE SINGLE SHRED OF REAL PROOF that any gods exist.
      NOT ONE BIT OF EVIDENCE EXISTS to support your "faith"....so go confess your "sins" and waste someone else's time...

      There. I have proved that no gods exist. And you can't prove me wrong. Go ahead and try. I double-dare you.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Arlon

      @Ryan, care to prove that there ARE any "God"s? ... didn't think so.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • geauxLSUtigers

      @Hersh & Arlon – better be careful of what you ask for. God can hear you and may just prove himself to you!

      February 23, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • james

      A strong urge to convince others to think as we do seems to be an inherent human trait. Thiestist link this urge to their beliefs, trying to convince others to believe as they do for the well-being of their souls. I never really have understood the athiest's urge to convince others about the inexistence of a diety. I can liken the phenomonen to my vehemently trying to convince people that there is not a live elephant standing in the middle of my living room. (there's not, ok.) So, if in my view of reality, there is indeed no elephant in my house, why should I waste my energy convincing people who believe in my elephant that they are wrong? It would behoove me to just leave the elephant seers in their own little vision and get on with my day. Why are some athiests so zealous about it...?

      February 23, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      @james: There's a difference between atheists and anti-theists. The latter is a subset of the former. To answer your question of why we care, I can only speak for myself: I am flabbergasted that people who, by all accounts, are of normal intelligence with a normal capacity for reasoning can believe in god without applying the least bit of scrutiny to the idea. Now, if they wish to maintain this belief in their own lives, so be it. Every year I believe the Flyers will win the Stanley Cup, despite all historical evidence to the contrary. However, when that silliness begins to color decisions that impact other people, I now have a problem with it. So gay people can't get married or serve in the military, a woman can't have an abortion and I can't buy alcohol in my town on Sunday because someone else isn't comfortable with that.

      That's why I care.

      February 23, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
  15. Ryan

    I almost wonder if people are able to come together over a meal because it's one of the most basic, if not the most basic, need of cultures all around the world. Wherever you go, no matter the differences people have, everyone needs food and drink. I also applaud the author and the families participating in the interview for not jumping into the whole "I'm right and you're not" ideal after the meal is said and done, but amicably parting ways and heading home for the night with full stomachs and ready for sleep.

    February 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
  16. Larry Barnes

    I have enjoyed many an Arab dinner, where there was a whole roasted sheep on a mountain of rice and you eat with your right hand only. I did it not because of any inter-faith reason, but because it was dinner time and I was hungry. And I have entertained many a Muslim in my home. They enjoy a good, juicy steak and mashed potatoes as much as anyone. We did not talk about the Bible or the Koran. That would just have highlighted our differences and not our mutual interest, which was friendship.

    February 23, 2011 at 3:54 pm |
    • R

      Isn't it wonderful, when we do not talk about religions, we can be friend with any one. As soon as we start talking about it, we are screwed.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Fernweh

      Well put.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
  17. Horse Crap Detector

    santa clause = not real
    easter bunny = not real
    tooth fairy = not real
    leprechauns = not real
    boogie man = not real
    jersey devil = not real

    god = real
    devil = real

    just because

    February 23, 2011 at 3:52 pm |
    • There Are No Gods!

      santa clause = not real
      easter bunny = not real
      tooth fairy = not real
      leprechauns = not real
      boogie man = not real
      jersey devil = not real
      god = not real
      devil = not real

      Just because you chose to believe in one fairy tale does not make it real. This blog is a waste of space and should be abolished as there are no gods, and jesus never existed. Your bible is written by men, like all other so called holy texts, and your religion like all other religions are made up and baseless. There are no gods!

      February 23, 2011 at 4:05 pm |
    • geauxLSUtigers

      Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:27 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      "No amount of belief makes something a fact." – James Randi
      Believe in all the fairytales you want. It won't make them true.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
    • Luis Wu

      @geauxLSUtigers – The bible is wisdom and instruction?? HA HA HA HA HA. Whatever. A multi-mellinia-old book of myths is wisdom and instruction... HA HA HA HA HA HA. Get a brain dude.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
    • geauxLSUtigers

      And when God is standing before you asking you why you denied him referring to the comment you make, don't be surprised if when you give him an answer he says, "ha ha ha ha get a brain dude... meet hell"

      February 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm |
    • Thunderlicious

      Go ahead and mock...when you meet Thor in the afterlife and he points his thundery hammer at you, we'll see who's laughing then!

      February 23, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • come on man

      @ There are no gods
      your post is written by a man or human if you will............therefore we should disregard your post.

      February 23, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Religious sects

      Seriously... you guys don't get that this was sarcasm?! It was pretty obvious.

      @come on man ... there are no gods' comment doesn't claim to be the word or God like the bible does.. huge difference, even you have to see that.

      February 23, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • sublime

      Faith is certainly based in no facts (hence the tern). What a person chooses to believe should never be a topic of debate. There is never a clear cut winner in these arguments nor will any opinion be changed as a result. As a Christian, I believe in a specific set of tenets that I choose to live by. That is my only fact. Within those tenets however, I choose to never belittle anyone for what they believe or how they lead their life. I find it quite unsettling that Christians continue to lash out against "Atheists" (and vice versa) with such a hate-filled passion. To be honest, it is an absolute waste of energy. Christians need to realize that there is no proof. Atheists need to realize that no proof is required. What is required on both sides is a mutual respect for people as individuals regardless of faith. It's a very sad state of affairs when adults can be reduced to belittling each other over something such as faith. It's like arguing the existence of love. There is no proof that love exists. There is merely examples of people displaying the actions associated with the emotion.

      While we all live together on this planet(regardless of what we believe happens after we die) we need to work together to solve problems not create them.

      Christians need to spend more time displaying the actions associated with their faith(love, peace, respect, compassion).

      Atheists need to spend more time displaying the actions associated with their own morality(love, peace, respect, compassion)

      Ultimately neither group can prove or disprove the existence of God. So isn't it about time to move on to something a bit more proactive like creating jobs or giving some extra clothes or food to a shelter?

      February 23, 2011 at 11:26 pm |
  18. Peter E

    Says a lot about 'American' culture that we present apple pie and hot dog (BOTH stolen from Germans) as our own. Hey, maybe we can continue to boast about our cultural dominance over some tacos, (Mexican) hamburgers, (German) fries, (Dutch) or pizza. (Italian) Or perhaps we can chat over some cheap Chinese take-out food?

    February 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm |
  19. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Wow, a religious article that does not immediately say that all muslims are terrorists, that all jewish people are zealots and that everyone has to convert to Christianity. Amazingly everyone, even jewish and muslim people came together and treated each-other as human beings!
    It's blasphemous! (especially for conservatives who think that everyone who's not a republican who gives lip-service to Jesus to raise campaign cash, while secretly receiving aduletrous pleasure from other men, must be a spawn of the devil himself)

    February 23, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
    • pinecone

      Jewish – capitol J. Muslim – capitol M. You just told us how you care about other faiths.

      February 23, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Religious sects

      Pinecone... nice catch on your subliminal meter!!

      February 23, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • mattifolks

      jewish
      christian
      muslim

      None of these cults deserve to be capitalized, proper noun or not.

      February 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm |
  20. Jdonaldson

    Carnac the Great:

    Apple pie, hot dogs and faith: Name two unhealthy poisons and one delightful dessert?

    February 23, 2011 at 3:42 pm |
    • tmichelle72

      ha ha ha ha ha ha ha....whew that was clever. :o/

      February 23, 2011 at 3:53 pm |
    • Arlon

      well done, good sir. Well done.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:17 pm |
    • R

      Religion is worst than Apple pie and Hot Dog.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • geauxLSUtigers

      apple pie and hot dogs = unhealthy poisons / faith = one delightful desert!

      February 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm |
    • Shane

      Name three things that should only be taken in moderation, if at all.

      February 23, 2011 at 4:39 pm |
    • geauxLSUtigers

      Self, idols, and pride

      February 23, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.