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Babette's Feast

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Perhaps this will help:

As to the film itself, which I have treated in some detail in other analyses - one of the things that sets Babette's Feast aside from other films until that time is that it made a complete break with the negativistic cinematic covenant that often related food and greed and pays a more pure homage to the creation of great cuisine. The chef (Babette) much to be admired here, is seen as the artist who has survived harsh and unwelcoming circumstances; the preparation of the meal she has planned is treated with respect, even with a touch of awe; and the food, especially as seen and commented upon by the General, is held out for devout admiration.

Food is, of course used throughout the film as a metaphor, for when Isak Dinesen wrote the short story on which the film is based she used this single superb dinner to make a host of moral observations. Here are forced exile, a brand of Puritanism so strict that it borders on the perverse, and a group of people locked into self-defeating (even self annihilating) moral codes. Although one may extract a multitude of readings from the text, at its simplest level the film is dedicated to the notion that the creation of great food is no less uplifting to the artist than to the audience. More than anything, however, Babette's Feast shatters the hypothesis that there is something inherently antithetical between film and cuisine.

Of one thing we can be sure – the research for the film was done with exquisite attention to culinary detail. In fact, as hard as one searches, there is only one "fault" to the entire film and that is when Babette confesses that she was a chef-de-cuisine at Paris' great Café des Anglais. This simply could not have been because the various chefs of the Anglais, including famed Adolphe Duglere were so fixed in their ways that they would not even allow a woman to visit, yet alone work in their kitchen. I can only hypothesize here but I feel strongly that Dinesen (Karen Blixen) was well aware of this and used this as a subtle insult to certain male chefs.

Following, hopefully not to bore people completely to tears is one of the many pieces I wrote about the film, this one appearing in the Jerusalem Post in February 1992. As to the byline – that is one of several I used when writing for that paper. Believe me, the only people who will ever know why I chose that name are the women who choose to share my bed.

Notes on Preparing Babette's Feast

T.W. Lapereau

Considering that the fictitious Babette was said to once have been chef de cuisine at the famed Cafe Anglais, each of the dishes that she prepared was made with scrupulous adherence to the rules of haute cuisine. The sauces, the stocks and even the creams were done in the manner of the ancien regime: slowly, with great patience and with what some might even consider an exaggerated sense of care for the food under preparation.

It is my own feeling that to fully enjoy this particular feast it should be replicated in the spirit within which Babette worked. That is to say, whether for vicarious enjoyment or dining pleasure, one should adhere as closely to the rules of haute as is realistic. I admit that there might be some several problems with this. This simply is not the way one cooks today and one might, for example, have difficulties in finding a live green turtle, and neighbors might then object to having it slaughtered and then hung out on the terrace to bleed. In such a situation, one may, obviously, hunt out tinned turtle meat and make the appropriate substitutions. (If anyone thinks dealing with a live turtle makes for a problem, I have one recipe that starts out with the instruction "...with 12 strong men, crack the jaw bone of a large blue whale").

As to other substitutions, it is probably beyond most budgets to supply 1/2 kilo of Beluga caviar. Any real caviar (sturgeon roe) is an acceptable substitute, but salmon roe or other "so-called" caviars are not. It is also legitimate to substitute smoked salmon for the caviar, so long as those that do this are aware that they are then serving Blinis Romanov and not Blinis Demidoff.

There are also some who may balk at devoting 18 hours to preparing the chaud-froid sauce for use with the quails. Those who do not feel up to this challenge may find nouvelle-cuisine versions of this sauce in many good general or French cookbooks. (The recipe in Julia Child's book is excellent as a substitute. That in The Joy of Cooking is acceptable but not great).

Each of the recipies will serve 12, the number for which Babette prepared her feast.

The First Course


(Green Turtle Soup)

This recipe was taken from the notebooks of Adolphe Duglere, the

best known chef of the Cafe Anglais.

1 live green turtle (about 5 kilos)

1 recipe for consomme (recipe follows)

1 recipe for chicken-meat stock (recipe follows)

Madeira (or sherry)

l bouquet garni (basil, marjoram, rosemary, savory,

thyme and parsley tied together in muslin)

l bouquet garni of peppercorns and coriander

4 medium carrots

l small cabbage

1 turnip

1 large unpeeled apple

salt and pepper to taste

croutons for serving (recipe follows)

1. Slaughter the turtle and hang it to bleed for 3 - 4 hours.

2. Butcher the turtle, setting aside separately the breastplate

and carapace, the meat and the innards. Clean the innards well.

3. Cut the carapace and breast plate into pieces and plunge these

into a large pot with rapidly boiling water. Let the pieces

blanch for 5 minutes. Drain rapidly, run the pieces under cold

water and remove and discard the outer sheilds that cover them.

4. Place the cleaned pieces in a large saucepan and cover

generously with the consomme. To the saucepan both bouquet

garnis, the vegetables and the apple. Over a high flame bring

just to a boil. Immediately lower the flame and simmer gently,

uncovered, for about 7 hours.

5. While the consomme is simmering, bone the turtle meat and cut

into 1 cm cubes. Place the meat in the chicken-beef stock, bring

just to a boil, reduce the flame and let simmer just until the

meat is tender (about 2 hrs). Keep the meat warm in the stock.

6. When the carapace and breast plates have finished cooking,

strain the soup through a cloth, heat through and add 2 cups of

Madeira (or sherry) to each litre of stock. Heat through. A few minutes

before serving stir in two-three tsp. of the Amontillado sherry to be served with the meal.

7. Immediately before serving place the turtle pieces in the

soup. Garnish with the croutons and serve at once.

Note: This soup should be served with a medium-dry Amontillado


Note: If using tinned turtle meat, follow all of the above steps

simply substituting additonal turtle meat for the carapace and

breast plates used in preparing the stock.


Consomme is nothing more than a stock that has been perfectly

clarified until completely clear and sparkling. The following

consomme (consomme blanc de veau) is considered ideal for making the turtle soup, above.

2 kilos uncooked veal bones, cracked

1 stewing hen, cut into convenient pieces

1 1/2 kilos uncooked veal shank meat

2 medium carrots

2 medium onions

2 stalks celery

l bouquet garni with 2 unpeeled garlic cloves and

2 whole cloves added to 3 or 4 sprigs of parsley,

1/2 bay leaf, 2 sprigs fresh thyme

2 tsp salt

1. Place the veal bones and veal meat into a kettle, pour over

cold water to cover, bring to the boil and let boil very gently

for 5 - 6 minutes. Drain and rinse well under cold water. Rinse

the kettle. Return the bones and meat to the kettle, pour over

fresh cold water to cover and bring just to a bare simmer. Skim

and then add the vegetables, chicken, bouquet garni and salt.

Continue this bare simmer, partially covering the kettle, for 4 -

5 hours, adding boiling water only if the liquids evaporate below

the level of the ingredients. When cooking is completed discard

the bouquet garni and strain the stock into a clean bowl.

2. To degrease, let the stock settle for 5 - 6 minutes and then

skim the bulk of the fat from the surface with a large spoon. Draw

pieces of paper toweling across the surface of the stock to absorb

the last remnants of the fat.

3. Taste the stock. If it is to weak, boil down to concentrate

the strength. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.

Chicken-Meat Stock

about 1 1/2 kilos each mixed meat and

poultry bones and meat scraps

2 medium carrots

2 medium onions

2 stalks celery

l bouquet garni (see recipe for consomme)

2 tsp salt

1. Place the meat and bones in a kettle, pour over cold water to

cover, bring to a bare simmer and skim the surface. Continue to

simmer, skimming often, until scum no longer rises to the surface.

Add the remaining ingredients and continue to simmer, partially

covered, for 4 - 5 hours longer, skimming occasionally if

necessary and adding boiling water if the liquids evaporate below

the surface of the ingredients. Before adding the turtle meat

discard the bouquet garni and strain the stock through a cloth.

The Second Course


This is a recipe that is Russian in origin but that was later

refined at the Maison Doree, a restaurant Count Demidoff

frequented with the many women to whom he paid court.

2 cups clarified butter (see note below), melted

1/2 kilo malossol (lightly salted) caviar, ideally Beluga

2 cups sour cream

2 cups milk, scalded and then cooled to lukewarm

l cup each buckwheat flour and white flour,

both sifted

4 eggs, separated

l envelope dry yeast (1 oz)

1 tsp each salt and sugar

1. In a large warm bowl soak the yeast in 1/4 cup of warm water.

After about 10 minutes, add l cup of the milk.

2. Sift both flours together. Resift the flours and salt and

stir 1 cup of this mixture into the yeast. Cover and let rise for

1/2 hour. Add the remaining milk and flour. Lightly beat the egg

yolks and add these to the mixture. Beat until smooth and then

let stand and rise until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour). Add 3

tbs of the clarified butter. Beat the egg whites until stiff and

then fold these into the mixture. Let stand to rise for « hour.

3. To make the blinis, use a cast-iron or other heavy 5" (8 cm)

skillet. To the skillet add 1 tsp of the clarified butter and

heat. Pour in 1 tbs of the batter at a time and cook for 1

minute. Over the pancake spoon a bit of butter, turn and cook for

« minute longer. Remove the blini and keep warm in a low oven.

Continue cooking until all of the blinis are made.

4. To serve, place the blinis on a preheated serving platter.

On one half of each blini place heaping spoonsfull of the caviar.

Pour over the remaining clarified butter and then, on the second

half of the blinis, pile the sour cream.

Note: Such blinis are ideally served with the dryest possible of

Champagnes, very well chilled.

To Make Clarified Butter

To make clarified butter, very slowly melt about 1 1/2 times the

required amount of butter in a skillet. Let stand for several

minutes and then strain carefully, not letting the residue or

water pour back into the butter.

The Main Course


(Quails in Pastry Cases)

12 quails, dressed and half boned, with heads intact

1 recipe for game stock (recipe follows)

1 recipe for brown chaud-froid sauce (recipe follows)

12 pastry cases (recipe follows)

250 gr fresh foie gras (goose livers)

250 gr truffles, finely diced

4 large truffles, sliced thinly

36 large seedless grapes

3 tbs butter

2 tbs each Cognac and Madeira wine

1. In a heavy skillet melt the butter and in this lightly saute

the goose livers. When they are just beginning to brown, remove

from the heat. Let cool for several minutes and dice the livers

finely. Add the diced truffles and moisten with 2 tbs of the

Madeira wine. Mix gently but well and with this salpicon, stuff

the birds.

2. Wrap each bird in a piece of muslin cloth, folding the head

under a wing. Poach the birds in the game stock for about 15

minutes. Drain the birds and set them aside to keep warm.

3. Strain the liqueur in which the quails were cooked. With a

spoon remove most of the surface fat, and then, by running paper

towelling over the surface, completely absorbe the remaining

grease. Reserve « of this stock for use in making the chaud-froid

sauce. Return the other « of the stock to a saucepan, add the

brandy and bring to a boil. Reduce the flame and let simmer until

the stock is nearly jelly-like in consistency. Keep warm.

4. When the chaud-froid sauce is ready take the following steps:

a: Transfer the birds to the pastry cases, with the heads

proturuding from the cases.

b: Gently spread the birds with the now jellied stock.

c: Coat the birds with the chaud-froid sauce.

d: On the breast of each bird place 1 large, thin truffle

slice and three large grapes.

e: Serve on preheated plates.

Ideally served with a red Burgundy wine such as Clos de Vougeot

Game Stock

Note: As many of these ingredients are not always available, one

may substitute brown meat stock (see recipe which follows later

on) but with the addition of the white wine, peppercorns, juniper

berries, and sage as listed in this recipe.

1 1/2 kilos breast or other cuts of venison

450 gr trimmings of hare or rabbit

l small pheasant or partridge, trussed

3 onions, halved

3 medium carrots, quartered

1 1/2 cups white wine

1 bouquet garni (with 3 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig thyme,

1/2 bay leaf, 2 unpeeled cloves garlic and 2 whole cloves,

tied in muslin

6 - 8 peppercorns

l tsp juniper berries

1/2 tsp sage

salt as required

1. Prepare as for brown meat stock (recipe which follows) but

deglaze the pan after the meat and vegetables are browned with the

white wine instead of water.

Chaud-Froid Brune

Brown Chaud-Froid Sauce

This may be the most complex of all French sauces as it is

dependent on the use of a brown stock, a jelly stock and two other

sauces. Although time-consuming, it is not a difficult sauce to

make. As I mentioned earlier, substitute recipes (which may be

good but will not be great) may be found in many cookbooks. Any

cook who goes all out and prepares the sauce in its original form

will feel well rewarded. That is a promise.

For the Brown Meat Stock

1 1/2 kilos beef and veal bones, cracked

1 1/4 kilos beef shank meat

2 onions, halved

2 medium carrots, quartered

2 stalks celery

l bouquet garni (with 3 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig

thyme, 1/2 bay leaf, 2 unpeeled garlic cloves

and 2 whole cloves, tied in muslin)

2 tsp salt

For the sauce brune

6 cups brown meat stock (preceding recipe)

1/2 cup each carrots, onions and celery,

all chopped finely

6 tbs clarified butter or rendered pork fat

1/4 cup flour

3 tbs boiled ham, diced

2 tbs tomato paste

l bouquet garni (3 sprigs parsley, l sprig thyme

and 1/2 bay leaf, tied together)

For the meat jelly stock 0Gֻ

450 gr beef, cut in cubes

350 gr veal knuckle

350 gr veal and beer bones, sawed

into small pieces and tied with string

115 gr lean chopped beef

l calf foot, boned and blanched in boiling water

115 gr each butter and bacon rinds

2 large carrots, sliced

2 onions, sliced

2 leeks, sliced

3 stalks celery, sliced

1 bouquet garni (3 sprigs parsley, 1 sprig

thyme and 1 bay leaf, tied together)

2 egg whites

1 tsp each tarragon and chervil chopped

salt and pepper

For the Chaud-Froid Sauce:

2 cups meat jelly stock (preceding)

1 1/2 cups sauce brune (preceding)

1 cup brown meat stock (preceding)

3 tbs Madeira wine

A: Prepare the brown meat stock:

1. Arrange the meat, bones, carrots and onions on a roasting

pan and place in the center of a very hot oven. Turn the

ingredients occasionally and let brown for 30 - 40 minutes. Remove

from the oven and drain the fat. Transfer the meat and vegetables

to the soup kettle in which the stock will be prepared. Into te

roasting pan pour 1 1/2 cups of water, place over a low flame and

scrape off all of the coagulated browning juices that have stuck

to the pan. Add these to the kettle.

2. Pour over cold water to cover and bring to a bare simmer.

Skim and then add the vegetables, bouquet garni and salt.

Continue the bare simmer, partially covering the kettle, for 4 - 6

hours, adding boilng water if the liquids evaporate below the

surface of the ingredients. Skim occasionally if necessary. When

cooking is completed, discard the bouquet garni and strain the

stock into a clean bowl. With a spoon remove most of the grease

and degrease completely by absorbing the remaining fat with paper


B: Prepare the sauce brune:

1. In a heavy saucepan melt the butter and in this slowly

cook the vegetables and ham for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Into this mixture blend the flour and, over a moderately low

flame, stirring constantly, cook for 8 - 10 minutes, until the

flour has turned golden brown. Remove from the flame.

2. Bring the stock to the boil and using a wire whisk rapidly

whisk the beef stock into the mirepoix (the vegetable mixture).

Beat in the tomato paste, add the bouquet garni and simmer gently,

partially covered, for 2 - 3 hours, skimming as necessary and

adding addtitinal stock if the sauce becomes overly thick. When

the sauce is done there should be about 4 cups and this should

coat the spoon. Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper if

necessary and strain, pressing the vegetables with a wooden spoon

to press out their liquids. Degrease the stock, first with a

spoon and then with paper toweling). Set aside to keep warm

(ideally in a double boiler, over but not in hot water).

C: Prepare the Jelly Stock:

1. In a large heavy skillet brown the beef, veal and bones

lightly in butter. Transfer to a large kettle and continue to

brown together with the carrots, onions, leeks and celery. Pour

over 9 cups of water. With a small amount of water dilute the

juices in the skillet in which the meat was browned and add this

to the stockpot. Bring to the boil, skim and add the bacon rinds

and calf's foot. Add the boquet garni, season with salt and

pepper and simmer gently for 6 hours, skimmng occasionally.

Strain the stock through muslin.

2. To the strained stock add the chopped beef, egg whites,

tarragon and chervil. Whisk lightly over a moderate flame until

the mixture is lukewarm. Carefully skim off all the fat. With

strips of paper toweling blot off whatever fat remains on the

surface. Bring to the boil, whisking constantly, and then lower

the flame and simmer very gently for 35 minutes longer. Strain

the remaining stock through several layers of lightly dampened

muslin cloth.

D: Make the Chaud-Froid Sauce:

1. In the saucepan, combine the remaining clear brown stock

and the sauce brune. Boil down over a medium-high flame, stirring

constantly wih a wooden spoon and add, a little at a time, the

jelly stock. Boil down until the sauce is at a consistency where

it can be used to coat the birds. Remove from the flame, stir in

the Madeira and coat the birds.

Croutes de Bouchees Feuilletees A_ֻ

(Puff Pastry Cases)

450 gr butter, softened

450 gr flour, sifted

2 tbs butter, melted

2 tsp each salt and lemon juice

l. Sift the flour onto a well chilled marble or wood surface and

make a well in the center. Into the well place the salt, lemon

juice, melted butter and 12 tbs cold water. With the fingertips

mix these briefly and then, continuing with the fingertips, work

the flour in until the mixture atains the consistency of coarse

crumbs. If the mixture is too dry, add water, several drops at a

time. The dough should be well mixed but not kneaded. Divide

into two equal balls, wrap each in waxed paper and refrigerate for

1/2 hour. (Note: Each of the following instructions should be

followed twice, once for each ball).

2. Lightly flour half of the softened butter and flatten with a

rolling pin. When flattened fold in half and continue to flatten

and fold until the butter is pliable but not sticky and close to

the flour in consistency.

3. Shape the butter into a l5 cm (6") square. Roll out the dough

to a 30 cm (12") square and set the butter in the center of this.

Fold the corners of the dough over the butter, turn upside down on

the work surface and press with the rolling pin to flatten. With

the rolling pin roll out the dough into a rectangle about 20 x 45

cm (8 x 18"). Fold the rectangle into thirds, turn the new

rectangle 90 degrees and roll out again into a large rectangle.

Fold again. Repeat this process so that the dough will have been

rolled out and folded 6 times in all. If, during the process the

dough becomes too soft refrigerate between rollings for 15

minutes. After all of the rolling out and folding process has been

completed, chill the dough for 2 hours before using.

4. Roll out the dough again, this time to a thickness of about 8

mm (about 1/3"). With a sharp pastry cutter cut out rounds about

10 cm (4") in diameter. Place these on a damp baking sheet.

Dip another round cutter in hot water and mark out lids on the

pastry pieces that will be about 8 cm (3 1/2") in diameter. Mark the

edges with a knife, taking care not to cut all the way through.

Cook the pastry rounds in a hot oven just until they begin to

brown. When baked remove from the oven and remove and discard the

lids. Let cool for 10 minutes before putting the birds into the


The Dessert


8 cups flour, sifted before measuring

1 recipe for Chantilly cream (recipe follows)

2 cups each milk and butter

2 cups seedless raisins

1 1/2 cups sugar

about 1 cup diced glazed fruits (optional)

10 eggs

2/3 cup blanched almonds

1/4 – 1/2 cup rum

6 packages active dry yeast

2 tsp salt

1 tsp lemon rind, grated

1. Let all the ingredients come to room temperature.

2. Scald the milk and then let cool to just lukewarm. Pour the

milk over the yeast and after the yeast is dissolved beat in 2

cups of the sifted flour. Set this sponge to rise in a warm place

until doubled in bulk (about 1 hour).

3. Beat the butter until it is soft and then gradually sift in

the sugar, blending until the mixture is light and creamy. One at

a time beat in the eggs and then beat in the salt. Add the

sponge, the remaining flour, the raisins and lemon rind. Beat the

mixture until smooth and elastic.

4. Divide the blanched almonds in the bottoms of two 23 cm (9")

greased tube pans. On top of the almonds divide the batter and let

stand until again nearly doubled in bulk. Bake the cakes in an

oven that has been preheated to medium for 50 - 60 minutes (to

tell if the cakes are done, insert a sharp knife. If the knife

comes out clean, the cake is done). Let the cakes cool before

removing from the pans.

5. Just before serving sprinkle the cakes over with the rum, coat

generously with the chantilly cream and, if desired, decorate with

glazed fruits. Serve with well chilled Champagne.

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I think Daniel's comment beautifully captures both the spirit and the detail of Isak Dinesen's story. This is about care, about levels of attention to detail in preparation and ingredients, setting, wines, etc., that made the dinner in the story transforming or sacramental. So for me, the notion from the websites that Melissa pointed to, that "caviar is too expensive, let's substitute beets and carrots"; "can't do quails, let's do chicken and mushrooms" somehow flies in the face of the spirit of the story. If quails are too hard to work with, caviar too expensive, and the neighbours would object to a turtle hanging outside your house, then make something else entirely -- consomme and a poached sole, perhaps -- but do it with the very finest ingredients and with care. That's more important than anything else in recreating the spirit of the story.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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"Babette's Feast" was one of the loveliest movies I have ever seen. Thanks for that wonderful post, Daniel. I'd like to add just one overall comment about the movie. In its essence, I think the movie is about generosity. Not just financial generosity (although that certainly figures in it as well), but mostly about a generosity of spirit and desire that, in the end, makes all of us gasp because of its utter completeness on Babette's part. Whether cooking for people, or doing just about anything else for others, that level of complete generosity is jaw dropping, and it is not easy to remember or to emulate. It was not only about her abilities as a chef. It was about her complete desire to do what she did best for other people -- as she had been doing all along anyway, even before cooking that incredible meal. (If you won the lottery, would you spend every last penny on someone else? I don't think I'm capable of such generosity.) There are probably many who are not capable of attaining Babette's level of culinary expertise (I'm certainly one of the incapables), but attaining her level of generosity -- now that is something I can strive for, and do strive for, when I have guests at my table. :smile:

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Thank you to all, and especially to Dan for his very thorough offerings. He's absolutely right...it's all in the details...just look at Thomas Keller. I thought I'd make his beef bourguignon (from Bouchon) this Saturday, but after reading the recipe, realized that I had to start a couple of days ago, not the morning of...all in the detals, so will make it for next weekend. Back to Babette's, though..my shopping list is 2 pages long, but it will be worth it in the end. Mmmmm! :biggrin::biggrin::biggrin:

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For some time now, my goal has been to cook a meal so extraordinary that my guests are compelled to rush outside, hold hands and sing beneath the stars.

Of course, I don't have too many Puritans together so they may have other ways of expressing their delight, even if they aren't doing it in my front yard...

Merci pour les recettes, Daniel.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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As I see it, there are two kinds of people in this world, the "givers" and the "takers". The former being vastly out-numbered by the latter. Babbette's Feast was an extraordinary movie about an extraordinary person and (for me) was a shining example for the "giving" people of this world. Preparing food is all about giving to others. If you doubt that, you will never be a "real" chef.

Sorry, I'm preaching.

For some time now, my goal has been to cook a meal so extraordinary that my guests are compelled to rush outside, hold hands and sing beneath the stars.

I suppose that is why we all are here on eGullet.... to support and nourish one another, even though we may be a half a world away.

Edited by SWISS_CHEF (log)
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Well said, Swiss...nothing gives me greater pleasure than to prepare a "feast" and share it with family and/or friends, hence the quest to do Babette's feast again. Also, a bit selfishly, I like to a., show off and b., it's great mental therapy. Again, thanks to all for contributions to my query. :wink:

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I wanted to chime in...just 'cause. This is my favorite "food" movie, bar none, and the interesting thing is that it has less to do with the actual food served/shown, in some ways, than other sensual foodie flicks. It just works, the whole thing, as an analogy, in its contrast, in its size and scope, the suspense, on all the different levels it presents itself. The sappiest, most defensive and/but stubborn part of me knows that the line "Throughout the world sounds one long cry from the heart of the artist: Give me the chance to do my very best," is true, and that's what makes me bawl when I see it. Plus there's just something so freakin cool about Stephane Audran. She is completely convincing. It's not the happiest food movie ever (query: are they ever, usually? gotta think about that), but it's the most moving. It's also not *precious* in any foodie way (some of the early opera stuff might be, a little), but the food preparation isn't. The movie says a lot with a little and lets the action speak for itself. It's even a little harsh, and I like that.

This is a pretty decent analysis of the particulars, from Priscilla Parkhurst Ferguson's Accounting for Taste: The Triumph of French Cuisine, which is a pretty decent book:


Du beurre! Donnez-moi du beurre! Toujours du beurre! ~ Fernand Point
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  • 2 weeks later...

Bonsoir, Bleu...

A not at all pleasant or aesthetic chore but one not nearly as difficult as one might think. As is said though, a man or a woman has got to do what a man or a woman has got to do in such cases. See the excellent instructions at http://www.conservation.state.mo.us/conmag/1996/06/50.html

Change those instructions in the case of a green turtle of up to about 5 kilos (as called for in the recipe) by placing the live turtle in a bathtub or large tub of fresh water for 4 - 6 days, refreshing the water every day or even twice a day to keep it as clear as possible. Do keep in mind that the knife used to decapitate the creature should be very heavy and very sharp!

If you think this is difficult, you might love the recipe for whale steak that I have that starts off with "with 16 strong men crack the jaw bone of a large blue whale"

Finally, for those who think turtle slaughter (which is a bit nastier than Alice B. Toklas' concept of "murder in the bathtub") is rough, go for tinned turtle meat.

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It's been a while since I saw the movie, but I do recall that Babette used up her entire bucket-of-money in preparing that meal. What do you think it'd cost to put together the equivalent feast?

(Of course, that character was in a different era, and everything had to be shipped in. But it's still an interesting contemplation.)

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Esther Hello...

If prepared at home (and assuming one's home to in North America for purposes of this rough estimate, the meal prepared for twelve with no ingredient substitutions in the recipes presented above, would cost somwhere between US$ 1800- 2000 for twelve.

This is only the beginning of the story, however, for considering that the wines should be of the same quality as those served by Babette and these were an unspecified Amontillado Sherry, an 1960 Veuve Cliquot and an 1845 Clos de Vougeot. Considering that those superb wines have long gone on to their maker, modern equivalents would be (a) the medium-dry Bodega Vieja 100 Anos, n.v. of Emilio Lustao; (b) a late disgorged 1971 Veuve Clicquot and © the 1990 Clos de Vougeot of Leroy. Assuming that 12 guests would consume 2 bottles of the first and 4 each of the second and third, that would add approximately US$5,900 to the bill.

Edited by Daniel Rogov (log)
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  • 1 year later...

^I did the menu using well under a grand, although I did not use fresh truffles (only truffle paste and white truffle oil). However, I did use over 250 grams of foie gras (over a pound, to be exact). Also, we had trouble getting fresh turtle, so I substituted with 5 lbs. frog's legs, a rabbit, and chicken, beef, and veal stock to approximate the flavour. (Unfortunately, I haven't had turtle before but every website I checked said it tasted like a number of different meats, so I made a guess and included frog's legs for sweetness and rabbit for a gamey quality. (I also didn't quite follow all the recipes exactly, because I adjusted them to my taste. We also got the foie gras and quails wholesale, although even if we had purchased them at retail price, it would have been under a grand.)

Anyway, the point of this post is just that people shouldn't be intimidated by the cost, because if you get some friends to chip in, it's a pretty reasonable dinner. :smile:

Edited by Ling (log)
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Anyway, the point of this post is just that people shouldn't be intimidated by the cost, because if you get some friends to chip in, it's a pretty reasonable dinner.  :smile:

And did your guests join hands and sing under the stars this evening? (Oops, it isn't dark yet and it is clouding up.) Bests.

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