Babettes feast sos

Cornell Cinema Ithaca, NY


Chris Loss

Louis Pasteur Lecturer in Food Science, Cornell University


Terry Acree

Professor of Food Science, Cornell University


Hetvi Doshi

PhD Candidate in Psychology, School of Human Ecology, Cornell University

Babette's Feast— The science of taste

Using the lavish, 12-course meal that Babette prepares in the film as a jumping off point for exploring the science of taste, Professors Chris Loss and Terry Acree (CALS) and PhD student Hetvi Doshi (Human Ecology) will share research perspectives on the complex factors that impact flavor perception and the enjoyment that surrounds our experience of food. Cornell seniors Maria Le and Sarah Langelben will then focus in on three dishes from Babette’s feast and share research on the food chemistry behind and culinary techniques used to create them.

The presentation will also feature a special food tasting inspired by the film!

This event is part of our 2024 National Evening of Science on Screen.

Cornell Cinema Ithaca, NY

Film Synopsis

In a remote 19th-century Danish village, two sisters lead a rigid life centered around their father, the local minister, and their church.

Set in a remote Danish fishing village in the latter part of the 19th century, Babette’s Feast tells of two beautiful sisters (Birgitte Federspiel, Bodil Kjer) who give up their chance for romance and worldly success in order to care for their father, a strict pastor who preaches salvation through self-denial. After his death, they carry on his work, tending to his aging and increasingly quarrelsome flock with saintly devotion. When Babette (Stéphane Audran), a French political refugee, appears on their doorstep seeking shelter, they engage her to keep house and cook their meager meals. Years later, Babette wins the lottery and asks to prepare a sumptuous French feast for the community. Everyone accepts, but the thought of such decadence makes them fear for their Christian souls, and they agree not to show any pleasure. Aided by the exquisite food and wine, the parishioners can’t help but be transported by Babette’s culinary artistry, and soon rediscover their bonds of love and fellowship. Gabriel Axel directed this Oscar-winning Danish film.

About the Speaker

Chris Loss is the Louis Pasteur Lecturer in Food Science at Cornell University. His research focuses on on microbiology/food safety, flavor quality and perception, and science-based understanding of culinary techniques. Loss develops courses that lie at the nexus of food science and culinary practice and contribute to curriculum that is experiential, inquiry-based, and transdisciplinary in foundation and scope. As a former chef, he is passionate about how existing food science curriculum can be augmented by incorporating culinary context, which provides students with an extremely valuable life skill and a more global and cultural perspective on food systems.

Terry Acree is Professor of Food Science at Cornell University. His laboratory is interested in how stimulant composition is represented in perception. His research aims to help food producers, cooks, and consumers to understand how flavor chemistry impacts their profits or how flavor is formed or what pleasure is produced during eating, giving people tools (e.g. identifies the chemicals that determine flavor) to explain how flavor affects choice and proposes processes to manipulate it.

Hetvi Doshi is a PhD student in Psychology in the School of Human Ecology at Cornell University. In her training to be an affective computational neuroscientist, she pursues research on nostalgia, nutrition, autobiographical memory, social sharing of emotions, and consciousness. Dubbed “The Ratatatouille Moment”, she is constructing a theoretical model on food-related nostalgia and examining its influence on homeostatic mechanisms using behavioral studies, neuroimaging, and machine learning.