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Tim Cawkwell's Cinema

Intelligible writing on intelligent film, plus some poetry

Babette's Feast

Surprised by amontillado - General Lowenhielm

is taken aback at finding himself sipping sherry

in deepest Jutland

'Babette's Feast' is the title of a short story by Karen Blixen (1885-1962), made into a remarkable film by Gabriel Axel in 1987. The feast in question is served in a poor, remote village in Calvinist Denmark, where the staple diet is ale-bread soup; the chef is Babette, a Catholic exile from France. Her menu for the feast is as follows:

Turtle soup - Amontillado

Blinis Demidoff - Veuve Clicquot 1860

Quails ‘en sarcophage’ - Clos de Vougeot 1845



Fresh figs - Vieux marc fine champagne


The story is an allegory about the Last Supper, when divine fruitfulness overwhelms human sin and meanness. Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, said that it ought to be compulsory viewing for every student trying to get to grips with the Eucharist, and here is my take on the story in verse form. I've altered some of the feast's ingredients in order to accommodate the menu to rhymes and cadences:

The chef of chefs prepares the meal,

Le repas ultime, food-dreams made real:

Champagne fine and bouillabaisse,

Terrine of pheasant, of exquisite taste,

Quails en sarcophage, tarte aux asperges,

Swallowed with red-rich Lynch-Bages.

Yet none of these can be so fine

As The Last Supper: bread and wine.

And here is how you make blinis demidoff:

(c) Tim Cawkwell 2013