Several of you were kind enough to send me J. Bryan Lowder’s essay about the great film Babette’s Feast, and his attempt to cook for his friends the most exquisite dish from that movie, cailles en sarcophages. This is so lovely it very nearly brings a tear to my eye:
My favorite scene in the film comes after the last, glistening course has been served, when she finally sits for a moment in the kitchen, her skin dewy from work, quietly sipping a glass of wine. The satisfaction on her face is the kind that can only come from the knowledge that you have created something that sustains both the bodies and the spirits of the people in your care. Indeed, Babette’s story is an argument for the idea that spending money, time, and energy cooking for friends is the best gift a home cook can give, especially if they enjoy themselves so much that they practically forget who’s behind the stove.
I can think of no more eloquent way of summarizing this ethic than Babette’s own words: “I was able to make them happy … when I gave of my best.” Anyone can learn to stuff a quail with fancy things; perfecting the recipe for fleeting, full-bellied happiness is a far more impressive feat, and one that any home cook worth his kosher salt should be after every time he picks up his knife.
Both the bodies and the spirits. Yes. This is why I love to cook.