Transcendence Through Taste
Drawing different people with unique tastes into relationships with one another, the dinner table acts as an anchor for the human community. Though a daily practice for most, can we mark one meal as being more significant, or more influential, or more artistic than another? While we may not consciously realize the forces at work while attending a dinner ourselves, examining the retelling of the shared human experience with meals and meal preparation allow us to analyze more objectively the multi-faceted meanings behind the event. One way in which to do this is through examining the role that mealtime has played in literature. Virginia Woolf's novel, To the Lighthouse, Isak Dinesen's short story Babette's Feast, and Frances Osbourne's biography Lilla's Feast explore the unique human transformation present as their heroine hostesses go beyond simply feeding to truly cater to their guests. Although three very different narratives, the works share the same heart as their presentation of grandiose meals, creative spirit, mystical energy, and ultimate human transcendence express the unique power each hostess has to create warmth in even the coldest of homes.Yet, what about each hostess' artistic, culinary masterpieces, their mode of self-expression, allow those who partake in their creations to better themselves? Can the meal, like art, do anything for the soul? Our psyches can be affected by the ritual act of dining. Through reflection on the communal culinary experience, as presented to us in ready-to-analyze literature, we may almost spiritually experience the art and its encouragement of the perfectibility of our own human natures.