Guest blog by Etta Worthington, producer/director of FOODGASM
It’s almost the weekend again. A good time for dinner and a movie. Or you could try movie in a movie.
If you didn't catch it on the big screen when it was released in 1987, or if you haven’t seen the DVD, this is a movie you’ll have to see. Or maybe you’ll want to watch it again.
A Danish film directed by Gabriel Axel, it has a dreariness and darkness one comes to expect from that part of the world. But it’s not all grey and cold, in this world created by author Isak Dinesen. (Yes, the same author whose book Out of Africa was adapted as a movie starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.)
Martina and Philippa are two older spinsters, sisters who live and carry on the work of their deceased Father/preacher on the Jutland coast. They cart soup to the poor and try to keep the congregation of the faithful together.
Into that dreary grey world blows in a French woman, Babbette. She’s escaping Paris and the Revolution, and she bears a letter of reference from a former suitor of Philippa. The sisters take in Babette who cooks and cleans, in exchange for room and board.
They show her how to prepare the salted cod and the gruel made of dried bread and ale that they live on. She takes on the cooking and soon makes improvements.
Fourteen years pass. Babette is a fixture in the sisters’ home and in the congregation that seems to always be at odds. And then a letter arrives. Babette has won the lottery. And all she asks is that she be allowed to cook a French dinner for the 100th anniversary of the father’s birth.
Reluctantly the sisters agree but when the provisions that Babette procures from France arrive, they regret their decision.
What follows is an incredible feast in an austere dining room transformed into a fine restaurant. First there’s Soupe a la tortue a la Louisianne (turtle soup). This is followed by Blinis Demidof a l'Oobleck (small pancackes served with caviar and sour cream). And if you’re not hungry yet, there’s Cailles en sarcophages, or quail stuffed with black truffles and backed in puffed pastry. (And this wasn’t the frozen puffed pastry!)
Each course is accompanied by a tantalizing wine, which leaves the parishioners stunned and silent. But their pleasure then erupts into some significant reconciliation. And only the visiting General comments on the food, lauding "the ability to transform a dinner into a kind of love affair, a love affair that made no distinction between bodily appetite and spiritual appetite."
And if you’re really ambitious, you might want to recreate this experience some day. Really—recipes are available online.
But for now, rent the DVD and watch the movie (again). I recommend you cook something quite wonderful to go along with this. And uncork a lovely bottle of wine. And of course have someone to share it with.
Is this the best meal on film? Or is there a film you’ve seen with a meal in it that seems more foodgasmic than this one? What's your favorite food movie?