This story focuses on a lavish dinner that a French servant woman named Babette prepares for a group of pious ascetics in an isolated Norwegian village on Sunday, December 15, 1883. The events leading up to this feast take many years to develop.
Martine and Philippa’s father founded a religious sect respected throughout Norway that strictly denied the value of all earthly things, insisting that charity toward the poor and preparing for heaven were the only meaningful activities on earth. In their small and isolated village, Martine and Philippa adhere to their father’s teachings along with a small group of his followers. The two beautiful sisters pass from their childhood into adulthood facing only two earthly temptations: At eighteen Martine is wooed by young Lieutenant Lorens Loewenhielm; a year later, Philippa spurns the advances of the famous opera singer Achille Papin, who meets her while vacationing near their village. Having rejected earthly love in order to maintain their focus on spiritual matters, Martine and Philippa continue to lead the small group of ascetics after their father dies.
Fifteen years after rejecting their suitors, Martine and Philippa are joined by a French woman named Babette, who appears at their doorstep exhausted, wild-eyed, and impoverished after escaping political turmoil in Paris. A letter from Achille Papin states simply that Babette “can cook.” For twelve years Babette serves Martine and Philippa...
(The entire section is 502 words.)