03 April 2010

Weekend Cooking: Babette's Feast by Isak Dinesen (Short Story)

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I don't know if you remember that I reviewed the film Babette's Feast earlier this year. I have always wanted to read the story and was pleased to see that my library had Isak Dinesen's collection Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard, which contains "Babette's Feast."

The summary for the story is, of course, very much like the summary for the film.

In a small coastal village in Norway, live two old women, the spinster daughters of a very conservative protestant leader. In 1871, Babette arrives at their doorstep after having escaped a war-torn France, looking for work as a cook and housemaid. The sisters, take her in, although they are not comfortable with the facts that Babette is both French and a Catholic. But once they explain that "luxurious fare" is "sinful" and that their "food must be as plain as possible," Babette seems to settle in.

Twelve years later, Babette wins 10,000 francs in the French lottery and begs the sisters to let her cook a feast in honor their late father. At the banquet table, the righteous have no idea what hit them, and they cannot remain unaffected.

Unfortunately, the food-related quotes I'd like to share would spoil the story. But I can assure you that this quick read will appeal to anyone who believes in the magic of superior food and drink.

Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard at Powell's
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Published by Vintage Books USA, 1993
ISBN-13: 9780679743330

Challenges: Support Your Library, 100+
YTD: 31
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Rating: B


caite 4/3/10, 7:15 AM  

I do remember that you reviewed the movie...and i really need to put that movie on my Netflix list and watch it again...but I didn't really know it was based on a story. Are the other stories in the book as good?

Sandy Nawrot 4/3/10, 7:27 AM  

I watched that movie for the first time maybe a year ago, and I was ENTRANCED! What an amazing movie! I wanted to be Babette, cooking to open people's hearts. I really need to get my hands on this story!

Beth F 4/3/10, 7:29 AM  

Good question Caite. Yes, they are good. The collection contains four or five stories (maybe I'll do a fuller review later, I returned the book to the library already). The stories take us around the world and each one captures our full attention. "Babette's Feast" was originally written in English, which means it is not affected by translation issues.

Beth 4/3/10, 8:09 AM  

I had never heard of the movie or the story until this post. It sounds like a great one for me--I'm going to add it to my Netflix list.

JoAnn 4/3/10, 8:13 AM  

I remember your movie review (really need to watch it again!) and would love to read this story, too!

Chris 4/3/10, 8:51 AM  

I like that your read the story even though you saw the movie.

caite 4/3/10, 8:55 AM  

thanks Beth for the answer. I will have to check that book out...where is my library web site...

Julie P. 4/3/10, 8:58 AM  

Sounds tempting! I wasn't familiar with this one! I'll be back tomorrow with a foodie post!

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 4/3/10, 9:12 AM  

what a tease! If the quotes would give away the story, I'm quite curious.

Did you read the other stories in the collection?

Heather 4/3/10, 11:01 AM  

I started listening to 'Julie and Julia' and 1 1/2 hours in, I am not impressed. The reader (which I think is the author) just seems to heavy. I will try it further and see if it improves. It's too bad as I had really been looking forward to this story.

Dorte H 4/3/10, 11:02 AM  

Karen Blixen (her real name) was a brilliant storyteller. I think it is fantastic that you can create a whole universe around a single meal.

Blixen set her story in Norway, but the film (actors + locations) is Danish.

Margot at Joyfully Retired 4/3/10, 11:27 AM  

I really enjoyed reading about the movie and put it on my queue. I just went to my library's online catalog and they don't have the book. However, after reading Dorte's interesting comment, I'm going to go back and see if it's under the author's real name. Enjoyable search you've sent me on. Thanks.

Dorte H 4/3/10, 12:27 PM  

Good idea, Margot.

And it is so funny to see that she is often called by her male pseudonym abroad; no one would ever do that in Denmark nowadays.

Beth F 4/3/10, 2:13 PM  

Sandy: I know. We have it on tape, I'm going to have to re-buy on DVD.

Chris: The short story and the movie are different enough that each is excellent for its own merits.

Heather: Thanks for the heads-up on the audio. I think I'll stick with print.

Dorte: I never know what to call her! She seemed to have gone by several names (according to a biography I read). She is a fabulous storyteller. I hope to visit her home next time I'm in Denmark.

Margot: Really, you would like both the story and the film.

Dorte H 4/3/10, 2:54 PM  

Yes I know, and I didn´t mean to criticize. She wrote under male names because women could not write books, of course!

Sadly it seems that it is still easier for some women to sell books if they change their name.

Beth F 4/3/10, 3:41 PM  

Dorte: Of course I didn't take your comment to be negative. It's just interesting that she had to write under a male name -- and that was in the 20th century!

Denmark has produced some the world's best storytellers.

Debbie 4/3/10, 3:49 PM  

I'll have to Netflix this also... today would have been a good day for a movie.
Thanks for your meme...it's fun to participate.

Amy 4/3/10, 6:05 PM  

Thanks for hosting this!

Jill 4/3/10, 9:12 PM  

You hooked me with "food-related quotes I'd like to share..." This just went on my list!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) 4/3/10, 9:42 PM  

I have heard of this film and book before and every time I hear about them I find them intriguing. I wish I had a reading clone because i absolutely now that I won't get to them anytime soon.

bermudaonion 4/3/10, 10:18 PM  

That sounds wonderful!

porcelaine 4/4/10, 2:04 PM  

Beth, I'm so glad you showcased Babette's Feast. I discovered the movie some time ago and never got around to seeing it. You've given me a much needed memory jog. Thank you!

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