This past weekend we had the joy of hosting a Babette’s Feast at the Homestead.
From a fictional fjord community in Norway in 1871 to present-day North Carolina (and the world over), Isak Dinesen’s classic short story called Babette’s Feast has inspired many special gatherings at…
tables set and served with extravagant love.
The predominant plotline of Babette’s Feast is how food prepared with intentionality and served with gratitude in the context of a shared meal can transform the hearts of people. The backstory is the way that Beauty, both worldly beauty – like a perfect soup or champagne or smoked salmon or a warm fire and candlelight– can be a bridge to healing here and for all eternity: anticipating a divine feast.
Beauty is a balm for the body and the soul, given us by God.
For those of you unfamiliar with the classic short story of that name (later made into an Oscar-winning film), we can assure you that it’s worth the read and is worthy of the acclaim it has received since its publication in the summer of 1950. Ernest Hemingway, upon being awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for The Old Man and the Sea, famously commented that the Prize should have gone to Dinesen instead.
Our Babette’s Feast was orchestrated by Chef Josh White, and his young Sous-chef named Edison. The two of them redefined the phrase “labor of love” for us, working for days to purchase and prepare the food, and to help organize all the plateware, menus, name tags and the like. The food was served by six able servers. Everyone volunteered their time.
The tables were set with specially invited guests, each of whom had shared in the communion of suffering: each with a story that could make you hurt and rejoice in God’s goodness – in the same minute of conversation. It was a company of saints: what an honor to serve each and every one of them with the very best we could.
Nothing was “perfect,” of course. But everything was our very best effort and served with deep joy and an abundance of gratitude. As our “Homestead Babette,” Chef White, put it:
“Often times in life we, and those we serve, are better off by relinquishing control to properly execute the Plan Unfolding.”
The plan unfolded with wonder and glory. It’s been said that “the famine helps make the feast.” Rachel and I cultivated our appetites and ate only the scraps left over – but Oh! were those glorious scraps. The salmon was the best we’ve ever had; the short ribs sauce will be served at heavenly tables; the bread pudding (with a white chocolate frosting topped with a raspberry beer sauce) was to die for.
The full menu is attached.
Let us know who we might invite to the Winter Quarter Table for our next Babette’s Feast, so that once again “Mercy and Truth might meet together,” as General Lowenstein (who made a surprise appearance at the Homestead!) put it in his now famous toast.