From reigniting friendships to remedying past grudges, the holiday meal is more powerful than you think.
By now you’ve likely finished off the leftovers from your Thanksgiving meal. The scrumptious turkey-cranberry-stuffing panini has been made, the pecan pie has been sliced and enjoyed after this past week’s dinners (okay, and at breakfast-time too).
Thanksgiving weekend, I had the good fortune of watching one of the best food-centric movies of all time—Babette’s Feast.
Here’s the quick and dirty summary: Two very religious, elderly sisters living in a small, barren town in the upper region of 19th century Denmark. One day, an impoverished French refugee, Babette, appears at their door, begging the sisters to let her stay and be their cook, sweetening the deal by saying she'll work for free.
After 14 years working for the sisters, Babette wins the Paris lottery and received 10,000 Francs. Shortly afterwards, she asks to prepare a French-style dinner for the sisters and their small congregation of eight people. The sisters reluctantly agree but are fearful that such a lavish luxury will be sinful. As Babette arranges to have never-before-seen ingredients shipped to this remote, pious village, the sisters’ sentiments are exacerbated.
I won’t ruin the ending of such an enjoyable movie, but essentially, the meal serves as a medium to unify the dining companions—rocky friendships are assuaged, old romances are reignited, and Babette adequately expresses her gratitude to the community for taking her in.
While some may argue that improvements in these group dynamics were the result of many rounds of fine French wine, the movie illuminates something that, on some level, we all already know. Enjoying a delicious meal with others is the most fundamental way to reconnect with loved ones, or to form new friendships. Food is a language that everyone can understand because besides laughter and sorrow, it's quite possibly the only thing that transcends all cultures.
As you prepare for your December holiday dinners, be they big or small, remember their power. These meals are not solely sustenance. And if you can make it healthy and delicious? That’s all the better.
When I travel home for the holidays, here’s what I’ll be making for my family and friends:
What festive dishes do you make to show friends and family that you care? Leave answers in the comments below and post photos of your favorite recipes on our Facebook page.