The Feast

When Anthony Bourdain reviewed for Lucky Peach the film Pope Francis listed as his favorite, I knew I had to see it. The narrative is a no-fuss, unambitious one: Babette's Feast is about Babette, a maid who, in an unmentioned previous life in France, was the reputable chef at the legendary Cafe Anglais. Civil unrest in Paris led her to an off-the-grid community in Denmark, a coastal town devoid of the frivolities of the city. She had to shed her past and move on to live with two women, both of which are members of a cult-like congregation who live simply and abstemiously, singing songs of worship and subsisting on bland food. (At one scene, she was taught how to make a stew out of salted fish, crusty bread and ale.) All those years snuffed out the passion Babette used to have for cooking. That is, until things got interesting: when she found out through a letter from France that she had won the lottery, she knew she had to spend all 10,000 francs to cook for the two sisters a "real French dinner".

That meant exotic fruits like figs and pineapples, quails and turtle soup, expensive wines--the kind of food the townsfolk have never imagined in their entire life. It felt too decadent a supper that they initially deemed it as sinful and evil--until all of them were too hammered to function. Wasting everything for good food is gluttony at its finest. But when Babette was confronted by the sisters at the cost of the meal, she was forced to reveal that she spent it all in the lavish dinner. "Now you will be poor the rest of your life," one of the sisters mourned. To which Babette said: "An artist is never poor."