Perhaps best known for Out of Africa (1937), Isak Dinesen is the pseudonym of Karen Blixen. Having established her reputation as an author in the 1930s and 1940s, she sought to increase her income in the 1950s by having stories published in American magazines. A number of her stories were featured in Ladies’ Home Journal, including “Babette’s Feast,” which was first published in 1950. A friend had advised her to write about food because Americans love food, so she crafted a story about the transformative powers of a very special feast. In 1958, “Babette’s Feast,” along with other stories published in magazines, was compiled into Anecdotes of Destiny, which was available as of 2004.
As a child, Dinesen suffered the loss of her father by suicide. In the wake of this tragedy, her grandmother and a nearby aunt helped care for the family. Through this experience, Dinesen came to understand and appreciate the ways women take care of loved ones and of each other. As an adult, Dinesen found herself operating a coffee farm in East Africa, an experience that taught her a great deal about contrasting people and cultures. Dinesen’s admirers and scholars often seek parallels between her life and her writing, and in “Babette’s Feast” Dinesen seems to draw on her childhood and adult experiences to give the story depth and authenticity.