That lovely little thing you see above is quails encased in a sarcophagus of puff pastry, served with a jus that must simply be heavenly. I haven’t tasted it but I know, for what is the body but a temporary state of being? No. I know because I have seen the chef and I have seen a miracle.
Ok, I’m still sorta drugged out after watching Babette’s Feast, a Danish movie about genteel and geriatric puritans living on part of a Danish coastline having their lives turned upside down by one singular, if extravagantly lavish meal. The poor sods don’t even know they’re having Veuve Clicquot or Caviar or Truffles in their Cailles en Sarcophage. In fact, just before the meal, they thought they were going to dine in hell after they see live animals and a variety of exotic ingredients brought into town. They do their best to stifle what their tongues tell them but eventually cave in, as much as you’d expect elderly puritans to do so.
The film starts out dead slow, introducing the main characters Martina and Phillipa, named after Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. Babette is surprisingly marginal for the first half hour or so. Which had me interested but the pacing and the subject matter at hand at the time seemed terribly dull. Yet, I now realise that that was the point, to amplify the contrasts. The film crawls onto the screen, barely igniting any interest until suddenly bam, you’re sucker punched by Babette deciding to hold an authentic French feast after winning the lottery. Cut to scenes of truffles being sliced, pastry being cut, quails being prepped with the utmost attention and skill. Then cut to the feast itself, where we are saved from all the drudgery by a longtime (geriatric long) admirer of Martina, a general who savors every dish and tells the viewer all about it. He caps it off with a memoir based upon Cailles en Sarcophage. Suddenly, the food comes in, the color comes in, the emotions start running, the noise and excitement builds. Its still dampened by the fact that pretty much every cast member has gray hair but if grannies could rock out, this was as close as you’d get.
Its a great story, one that is inspirational, that asks you to indulge and to wonder if that same indulgement is as good as refrainment or if neither is important at all.