Saturday, February 12, 2005

Nana and Babette

Food, glorious food.

I first read Isak Dineson’s short story Babbette’s Feast (found in Anecdotes of Destiny and Ehrengard) when an old boyfriend gave me a copy while I was going to graduate school in Abilene, TX. Babette, a widowed victim of the French Civil War, comes to Denmark to work for two religiously prudish sisters. Babette gives the sisters 14 years of devotion and servitude, helping them aid the poor and elderly. She eventually wins 10,000 francs in the French lottery, and instead getting the heck out of dodge, Babette decides she will give the town people a gift of gluttonous eating and drinking.

But Babette sees her meal as a celebration of God and life. Why wait to get to Heaven to experience joy? Why hold on to wealth or old traditions if one cannot even enjoy the nourishment of the soul? And hey, who ever thought of food being so godly? Well, God evidently does. References of God’s people meeting around a table to chow down are found all throughout the Bible. There are banquet themes and a literary genre employed by most of the writers, some even going into great detail to help us understand the holidays and celebrations. There is a reason for that. I propose that it is purposefully done in order to encourage a “eucharistic lifestyle.”

The eucharist (Lord’s Supper) is the Catholic name given to idea that Jesus Christ is truly present while we partake of the bread and wine. But…Jesus is always with us, you say? Why would the bread and wine bring about his presence? Consider the friendship ethic that Jesus brought about through his lifestyle! What more can we gain from the Real Presence on the road to Emmaus than just a meal together? It is God with us. It is that the significance of meal time is not only true, but VITAL to our existence relationally and as a people of God.

Speaking of meal Nana makes everyone’s favourite pie at Thanksgiving and Christmas. That sounds like a feat in itself, but consider that my Nana has 6 children, all of which have at least three grown kids of their own plus their own babies. AND most of her grandkids have babies! Yeah, you may be 2 years old, but if she finds out what pie you like, it’ll be there. Maybe twice. The last time we had a major eating holiday at her place my cousin Ryan and I counted over 30-something pies. But here’s the thing - she doesn’t just like to cook; she likes us. She has an overwhelming love for her family that motivates her to stock her cupboards with sugar, flour, eggs, and every pie filling known to man. Oh some write love letters, send cards, or express themselves in hugs and kisses. My Nana crams food down everyone she loves.

Upon another recent reading of Babette’s Feast (and yes, there is also a movie) I remembered why it was so important for me to ask people over for meals and prepare something that would satisfy them. It can take everything out of a person to prepare a meal and you can really throw yourself into it when you love the people you are serving. Babette had a lot to give because a lot was given to her. Her meal was a quiet celebration of the divine grace that meets us at every turn, even redeems us. If this is so, it really makes me want to serve God more while on this earth. Even though I know I’ll be there, I would hate to sit at the wedding feast undeservedly.

In short, not so über-theological, and not with any disrespect to the supper He encourages us to take together….but bread and wine aren’t the only foods that bring about the presence of Jesus. I experience him every time I bite into Nana’s hot apple pie, smell her yummy greasy hamburgers from the kitchen, or come to that tiny table curled up in her holey quilt from the closet and nursing her homemade coke float.

May people eat together more often. Not just family, but friends and new acquaintances. And may it happen in homes, around a table, with their shoes off.


D said...

I too was touched by Babette's Feast as well as your article. I can almost smell my grandmothers kitchen now. The celebration of food and feast does bring us together doesn't it? Perhaps we should take a more celebratory approach to our coming together for food and feast. Perhaps our praise should be lifted for the communion we share and the food and feast be the serendipity? Whatever. Thank you for your thoughts.

Beverly Choate Dowdy said...

Your blog serves a feast for the heart.

brent taylor said...

thanks for the great thoughts on food and fellowship.

Here are some thoughts written about my grandmother and blackberry cobbler recently.

I have never sat down in reverent anticipation before a bowl of blackberry cobbler without paying my respects to my grandma Taylor. Maybe it’s simply a fleeting thought before I dig in; sometimes it’s lingers and I smell her kitchen and see her laughing face; other times it borders on the ethereal and we share a moment together as I enjoy the unique blending of sweet cream swirling into the tart berries and flaky crust. Something about the way she made it…I’ve never had better.

Perhaps it was the freshness of the produce picked from the fence row along the dirt road south of her home and knowing that I helped pick the berries.

Grandma’s heavenly blackberry cobbler. Maybe we won’t eat in heaven, but I’m still going to ask for that recipe when I get there.

Brandon Scott said...

Great thoughts here. Love the idea of breaking bread and how that ties in with fellowship. We need food for life, but life is more than food. There is something to be said for the experience of eating it.

By the way, thanks for the lovely card today. You crack me up! So glad you and David are at Otter Creek!

Greg Taylor said...

Thanks, Angie, for reminding us of this thought similar to that of St. Francis: “Surely we cannot be left unmoved by loving sorrows for all this; in his love, God gives himself into our hands; we touch him and receive him daily into our mouths.”