So, I am doing something fun this week. I am reviewing a movie that I have never seen before, Babette’s Feast, and also talking about my recent foray into cooking at home — let’s call that Chad’s Feast.
A movie that is built around food as a metaphor for spiritual development — what’s not to like?
Babette’s Feast is a 1987 Danish film (English subtitles) that focuses on the lives of two sisters named Martina and Philippa (after two leading Protestants, naturally) who live in a deeply religious community that was once led by their father, who has now passed away. In their sunset years, they care for an aging congregation in a grey village on the coast of Jutland.
The film opens with the sisters singing hymns and feeding the elderly and sick with the help of their servant, Babette. In a series of flashbacks, we see the sisters’ young lives as suitors are rebuffed in favor of their pious faith. Some of the courting scenes reminded me painfully of Pride and Prejudice. In fact, I was doing doing research in my Danish-English dictionary so I could recognize the words for “Oh, Mr. Darcy” just in case. The film’s incorporation of a number of hymns with especially relevant themes, like God’s provision and the hope of a heavenly paradise, is brilliant in not only setting the tone, but also in foreshadowing the profound experience at the end of the film.
The elderly congregants have begun to quarrel as they approach the 100th birthday of their founder when a letter from Paris arrives. Babette discovers that she has won 10,000 francs in the lottery, and to celebrate, she puts on an elaborate feast. She assembles the best ingredients from France while drawing the suspicion of the community as she brings in rare delicacies like a giant turtle and a cage full of quail. Not wanting to appear worldly or to make themselves susceptible to witchcraft, the community vows to eat the meal, but not to speak about the food or drink as they eat. As course after course of the most amazing food they have ever tasted is placed before them, they try desperately not to mention the food. Only the general, a guest who is not in on the agreement to ignore the food, is able to vocalize his pleasure with the stunning feast.
As the meal continues, the quarrels between those around the table are forgotten, and old loves are rediscovered. The feast was, in the words of the general, “a love affair that made no distinction between bodily appetite and spiritual appetite.” Only in the end do the sisters realize the extent of Babette’s sacrifice, as she has spent her entire fortune on the meal she prepared for them, and is once again penniless.
The interaction between the sisters was portrayed skillfully. They complete each other’s sentences just as you would expect them to do after living together for so many years. The film perfectly contrasted the grey, drab hues of the sisters’ village with the bright colors of the feast. The story was full of symbol, nuance and truth. I can’t believe that I waited this long to see this masterpiece, but I now understand why so many people I respect love this film so dearly.
The bigger message of the film, as highlighted in the Eucharistic banquet at the climax, is that sometimes pleasure and beauty can be sacrificial ends in themselves. Appreciating and enjoying beauty can be just as important to one’s growth as self-denial and sacrifice. Truth is truth, no matter how it chooses to reveal itself.
I have spent most of my adult life with a severe aversion to cooking. I just never seemed to be able to get it right. I couldn’t cook steak without getting it tough and rubbery; I couldn’t stir fry vegetables without producing a mushy, nasty mess. I was inspired, though, by a recipe that I heard about on NPR. It is a recipe for a Chilean dal. Yes, dal, the classic South Asian lentil dish, but with a South American twist.
The first time I decided to make this dal, I went to my local Sprouts and bought all of the ingredients. I took the onions, tomatoes and cilantro and dutifully put them in the refrigerator, but sadly never got around to making anything. Slowly the tomatoes went bad, the potatoes rotted in the pantry, and the cilantro turned into a nasty goo that reminded me of rancid baby food peas.
I decided to give myself another chance. I bought another round of ingredients, and this time I made the dish while two of my dear friends were at yoga class. As the final product simmered on the stove, I took a taste. It seemed pretty good to me, but I have a knack for not being able to appropriately judge my own creations. I let myself presume that it was a decent meal, and moved on. Then, the yoga boys came home. They smelled the spicy tomato aroma and just started digging in to the pan with the first spoons they could get their hands on until they were scraping the nonstick coating off the bottom. Apparently I had gotten the flavor of the dish just right, even though I had no idea if anyone else would even find it edible.
Sure, it was not turtle soup imported from Paris, but it was a reminder of how food can bring the best out of us and remind us why we matter so much to each other.
First Friday on September 5 kicked off the When in AZ music compilation festivities with a bang! Drawing what seemed like record-breaking crowds Downtown, with Roosevelt Street closed from 3rd to 7th streets, Modified Arts was open and ready for all to enjoy the fresh tunes of Matthew Reveles, Stellaluna and Flyaway Tigers, who opened the show. As the music continued on, more people wandered in and out to catch a glimpse of who was on stage. With each band that played offering a different sound, it was exactly what Nick Kizer, organizer of the compilation, envisioned it to be. In between the Stellaluna and Matthew Reveles sets, Nick Kizer and Renee Saxon from the Phoenix Conservatory of Music stepped on stage to say a few words about the project itself. The true vision for the compilation is to support the arts and provide funds to such charitable organizations as PCM and Ear Candy, both nonprofit organizations doing the best they can to provide music education to children. Many people were on hand volunteering their services to sell merchandise and collect donations as the night went on. With Matthew Reveles winding the evening down, a sense of accomplishment was felt throughout Modified.
If we continue to support and nurture the talent we have, Phoenix will become a music mecca. As River Jones, founder of River Jones Music, which has brought us such talent as Courtney Marie Andrews and Michelle Blades, said, “When it comes to music, there are no boundaries. The goal is to bring all of Arizona together to create one scene and put Arizona on the map as a large music community.”
If you missed the first two shows to kick off the CD release, head down to The Rhythm Room Thursday, September 10 to see Treasure Mammal, Colorstore, Lonna Kelly, Sweetbleeders, Coats & Villa and special guest DJ Sleepy Cub. For an $8 donation at the door, you receive a download card for the 55-song compilation. Each artist is featured on the compilation and will perform their covers from the album along with their own original music.
When people look for music in Downtown Phoenix, they ultimately find their way to Stinkweeds. Stinkweeds is an independently owned and operated music store and website dedicated to independent labels and bands. A Valley institution since 1987, Stinkweeds has been a fixture at the corner of Camelback and Central Avenue since 2004. While owner Kimber Lanning can often be found in and around the store, she relies on a committed staff to keep things humming. One of these people is store manager Lindsay Cates.
Lindsay has been working at Stinkweeds for the past decade, and is also responsible for keeping stinkweeds.com up to date. When asked what she likes most about working at Stinkweeds, Lindsay doesn’t hesitate to mention Kimber, who she says is the ideal boss: positive and passionate with a contagious good attitude. Lindsay also cites working at an independent business and her customers as job perks. “It is awesome being able to engage with others about music,” Lindsay says. She sees many customers on a weekly, if not daily, basis and notes that the customers, staff and bands that frequent Stinkweeds are like family. “If a regular doesn’t come around for a while, we miss them,” she says.
Lindsay eats, breathes and sleeps music. In addition to working at Stinkweeds, she is also the data entry guru behind SilverPlatter.info, a website dedicated to bringing Phoenicians the most comprehensive information about live music shows, venues and bands in the Valley. When Lindsay steps away from Stinkweeds her passion for music goes with her. She plays bass for several local bands, including Farewell Review, snow songs and Harcuvar. If she’s not working or on stage, Lindsay can be found at local music venues (especially the Rhythm Room), supporting as much live music as possible. On one of the odd days the Lindsay isn’t immersed in the local music community, she enjoys spending time at Downtown spots Copper Star Coffee, Conspire and The Lost Leaf. When asked where she likes taking visitors to Phoenix, Lindsay names her favorite new restaurant, Moira Sushi.
Lindsay is a Phoenix native, who, like many people who grew up in the Valley, had long desired to leave. Over the past few years, however, she has changed her mind and is now excited to be part of the Downtown Phoenix community, noting, “Downtown Phoenix is becoming a destination, with new, exciting businesses opening up.” In addition, Lindsay is thrilled about the cross pollination of local businesses, such as how local coffee institution Lux plays music from Stinkweeds, and refers customers to the store to buy music they hear while enjoying a coffee.
She acknowledges that Downtown Phoenix is still a work in progress, but encourages people to get out and participate in the Downtown community. “Getting around Downtown is easier than many people think,” says Lindsay, noting that by light rail, bicycle or walking, people have several options to get around and between the hubs that are developing along Roosevelt Row and near Central and Camelback.
Lindsay can be found behind the counter at Stinkweeds,12 W. Camelback Rd., weekdays from 11 a.m. until around 5 p.m.
All photos by Paul Valach
The First Friday in October, KBAQ and the Phoenix Chorale are teaming up to expose listeners to the vibrant arts scene in Downtown Phoenix through the first-ever First Friday scavenger hunt!
Head to KBAQ.org now to download a virtual scavenger hunt of things you would see on a First Friday artwalk — it may be a new view of a familiar gallery or an unfamiliar art space that could be a fabulous find. Your mission is to identify correctly all images on the KBAQ.org Scavenger Hunt webpage at tonight’s (September 4) First Friday artwalk for a chance to win a fun Phoenix Chorale prize package.
Then, come visit KBAQ and the Phoenix Chorale on First Friday, October 2 at the Trinity Cathedral (100 W. Roosevelt St.) from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. to turn in your entry sheet and see how many you answered correctly. Stick around to listen to the Chorale’s open rehearsal for its fall performance! Test your eagle eyes against other arts enthusiasts this September – and discover a new part of the Phoenix arts scene — with KBAQ and the Phoenix Chorale.
What happens when you pair local bands and musicians together to pay homage to each other? Valley resident Nick Kizer asked the same question, and created the When in AZ music compilation as the answer. Kizer graciously coordinated the idea to expose Arizona music in a unique way by bringing together numerous artists to cover each other’s songs. The CD explores the different sounds of the Valley, ranging from alternative country to electronica. The genius behind the compilation is that it compels you to explore not only the original artist’s versions of the songs, but also the covering band’s original work.
If you aren’t familiar with the local music scene, or aren’t sure what is out there, this is a great way to be exposed to the vast musical talent Arizona has to offer. You get a real sense of community from these artists coming together to pay respect to each other, plus, it’s for a great cause, as all proceeds will be donated to Valley nonprofit organizations that support music education in schools and around the community. Some of the Valley’s most popular bands and up-and-coming artists have put their hearts into the compilation, which features nearly 3.5 hours of tunes. Be sure to pick up a copy for yourself at www.wheninaz.com or at one of the several CD release shows going on this month. The first show is this Friday, September 4, at Modified Arts starting at 9 p.m. It’s free for all ages, featuring artists Matthew Reveles, Stellaluna and Flyaway Tigers.
Check back with DPJ for full recaps of each of the When in AZ shows.