The first time I watched the film Babette's Feast, it was at the recommendation of a nearly 80 year old friend who said I reminded her of Babette. I watched it, but I really didn't get it. This was at least 15 years ago, and I was busy raising 3 kids and being the "pizza queen" at our family shop in Seattle. I didn't connect with Babette, who lived and worked in a tiny, desolate village in Denmark, with a group of humble, simple religious people. Babette was from Paris, and the feast referred to in the film was the one and only over-the-top gourmet French meal she prepared for the villagers. I made pizza. Not hardly the same thing. And most of all, my vanity wouldn't let me find commonality with Babette because she looked... old.
Rick and I watched the movie again last night, and now I think my elder friend might have been looking into my future. Fortunately, I don't live in a stark, windblown village on the coast of Denmark, but I do find myself surrounded by a small group of people who are important to me, and I cook for them at every opportunity. It's also fortunate that my "village's" tastes are not constricted by their spirituality. In fact it's more the opposite, and so we all encourage each other to enjoy, appreciate, and share the abundance of our world. And now, of course, since these years have gone by, I think I look like Babette now... and I no longer see her as old. Funny how that works.
Babette and I do have our differences. I'm not a French chef, but I do alright. I would never import a sea turtle to make soup out of, and a cage full of quails would become residents in my yard, not baked into little pastry coffins. Still, we cook, Babette and I. And we cook with love, for people who matter. And I do hope one day to be as skilled as a French chef, only the vegan equivalent.
The more subtle themes of the movie jumped out at me this time. We all make choices in life, some more difficult than others. We can look back at our choices with regret, or with acceptance. We can live gracefully, or make it a struggle. And we all have gifts to share with the world, even if the world is only as big as we can reach with our arms stretched wide. Greatness is, well, great, I suppose, but it certainly isn't a necessary ingredient in a successful life.
In our society, we tend to hope for, dream of, and expect greatness. We want to be discovered, or hit the big time, or strike it rich. Rich and Famous has become a normal response to the old question, What do you want to be when you grow up? I used to think I wanted that too, but these days I want less, which is actually more. We've been back in Taos, back in our house, for a year now, busy with settling back in to a life we thought we'd left. The bigger world had no room for us though, so in a way, we're back in our village on the coast of Denmark, even though it sits in the high desert of New Mexico. It doesn't matter. We are where we are. We do what we do. And the most important thing to remember, over and over again in my case, is that all of our choices are the right choices, and the only true way to waste a life is to live it with regret. Regret is easy. Contentment takes work.