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Babette's Feast and its Theme of Food as Culture and Identity

Transforming Dough into (a Life) of Sweet Success

Maria Florencia Borrello

on 30 July 2013

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Transcript of Babette's Feast and its Theme of Food as Culture and Identity

Babette's Feast and its Theme of
Food as Culture and Identity María Florencia Borrello
Professor Dr. Ella Kirk
Transforming Dough into (a Life) of Sweet Success
April 4th, 2013 The Story The Story: Analysis Setting in place small town of Berlevaag, northeast of Norway
Setting in time late nineteenth century
Main characters two elderly Norwegian spinsters: Martine & Philippa
a Catholic French refugee: Babette Reasons for Choosing Babette's Feast as the Unit of Analysis Love for Literature + Love for Food & Cooking = Babette's Feast
Myself an international student from Argentina
now living in the United States
interested in exploring the idea of food culture
The present research exploratory in nature
Aim analyzing the interrelation between food, and culture and identity. Preliminary Questions Have you ever read or seen Babette's Feast? If so, could you explain what the story is about?
If not, let's watch the trailer together. Make sure you pay special attention to setting, language, author's details and other key features. At the beginning of the story, the sisters do not really know what to do with a servant. However, they take Babette in, and she soon becomes rather indispensable to almost everyone at the village.

Fourteen years go by and the sisters start making plans to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of their father’s birth. At this point, Babette receives a letter from France with the news that she has won ten thousand francs in the state lottery. After thinking about the best way to spend her money, Babette begs the sisters to allow her the honor to prepare and pay for “a real French dinner” (Dinesen 37) in commemoration of their father’s anniversary.

The sisters, though being suspicious of and even fearing the dishes Babette will prepare, reluctantly grant her request in the belief that such will be Babette’s last meal before she returns to France now that she is a rich woman. Nevertheless, it is not in Babette’s plans to go back to France for she spends her entire lottery winnings on the dinner. The Story: Brief Summary In what ways do Babette's dishes serve as an epitome of acceptance –as opposed to othering–, union and communion? First: Babette insists on the quality of food ingredients

Secondly: the melancholic mood of the austere lifestyle of the members of the community starts to brighten up

Thirdly: the disciples stop criticizing one another

Finally: a gradual transformation has taken place from what was at first the cold, bleak and piteous world of the Lutheran community into a now much warmer and much more spiritual place. What this boils down to is indeed what Podles explains in her essay as follows: “The pietists eschew worldly illusions for an ascetic, religious life but find real religious experience in Babette’s very earthly food and spirituous drinks” (562).

Though being an outcast to this Lutheran community, religion and culture, it is Babette herself that ends up providing all the members of the party with both food for the body and food for the soul.

It is the members of the community who “find themselves the recipient of the far greater gifts of charity and the outpouring of [Babette’s] grace” (Podles 562) through the food she prepares.

The dinner is in fact an occasion to be brought together and recreated anew. Food helps the local community of Lutherans to awaken, and open their eyes, hearts and minds to both the grudges and differences among themselves, as well as to overall cultural differences.

Food, therefore, transcends otherness, diversity and ethnic biases, and celebrates acceptance, union and communion instead. It is food itself within the larger conception of culture that speaks and bespeaks of identities, and brings cook and consumers on an equal footing.

Food is whatever individual has in common and it nourishes both one’s body and soul.

Food can also be a way of acceptance, sacrifice or simply a gesture of love.

Friends, family and people as a whole come together regardless their culture, race, ethnicity or religion thanks to the power food has on our lives.

In Babette’s Feast, in particular, food has the power to transform lives and allow for a real sense of union to be born among all brethren Conclusion Bibliography Beck, Ervin. “Dinesen’s Babette’s Feast.” Explicator, Vol. 56, Issue 4, (Summer, 1998): 210. Ebsco. Web. 22 March 2013.

Dinesen, Isak. Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard. New York: Vintage Books, 1993. Print.

Ferguson, Priscilla Parkhurst. Accounting for Taste: the Triumph of French Cuisine. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2004. Print.

Podles, Mary Elizabeth. “Babette's Feast: Feasting with Lutherans.” The Antioch Review, Thinking: Books or Movies? Vol. 50, No. 3, (Summer, 1992): 551-565. Jstor. Web. 22 March 2013.

Thurston, Anne. “Babette's Feast.” The Furrow, Vol. 39, No. 11 (Nov., 1988): 725-727. Jstor. Web. 22 March 2013. Setting and Main Characters Babette's Feast was written by Danish author Karen Blixen (Isak Dinesen)
Originally written in English in 1953
Translated into Danish and republished in 1958
In 1987, director Gabriel Axel produced the film adaptation of Blixen’s story Main Theme Othering & Accepting achieved through religious metaphors and the use of food as a motif that brings people together.
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