When Babette serves up a sumptuous feast she rocks her small Danish community. When your normal fare is fairly bland then turtle soup, quails and fine wines are like a tidal wave on the taste buds.
Set in the 19th century, this is a fabulous story of celebration and grace. Babette wants to bless her strict village. She works as a servant to the late pastor’s daughters who live frugally, charitably and carefully. Everyone is poor and life is rather serious. Then Babette comes into some money. So she makes plans, and invites all the village around to eat together. Little by little, as the food and wine are shared, colour comes into their lives.
Phillip Yancey dedicated a whole chapter of his book What’s So Amazing About Grace to this film. It’s a great enactment of kindness towards a people who have not done anything to earn it. And it’s sumptuous kindness too, it’s colourful and lifegiving. It breaks down the walls of loss and pain and heartache. When Jesus wanted to leave behind something that would profoundly remind us of his presence and his redemptive power, what did he choose? A bumper sticker? A t-shirt? An emoji? A tattoo? No. Food. He took a feast which celebrated freedom from slavery and asked us to remember him with it. Food and drink. Bread and wine. The basics of life. Tea and biscuits. Coke and crisps. Burgundy and beef wellington. Food sustains us. It nourishes us. Jesus told his disciples in John 4 v 32 that he had food they didn’t know about, a different kind of sustenance that came from connection with his father, and when Jesus spoke to a group of believers in Revelation 3 verse 20 his offer was simple. ‘Let us eat together.’ It was a deeply symbolic and meaningful invitation. Our lives shared with God’s life though his son. At a time when we are unable to meet with others to break bread, there is something here too about the promise of a feast to come. A time to come when all is new. The now and the not yet. Jesus fed thousands of hungry people with bread and fuelled a celebration with the best wedding wine. Bread and wine. A basic reminder. We need food, we need drink, we need Jesus.