It is some years after Zampano's abandonment of Gelsomina. We see him with other circus folk. With a few abrupt words he rejects a woman's company and walks down the promenade. He stops at an ice cream vendor and buys a lemon ice cream. Walking away, he eats it – in one mouthful. The ice cream is gone in one bite. Zampano is looking about and doesn't even seem to notice what he is eating. Then a moment later he stuffs the empty cone into his mouth and crunches it up. It is all as thoughtless and perfunctory as if he had been chewing his nails. Throughout most of the film our characters are seen eating scraps, gathering crumbs from the ground, scraping offensive-looking slop out of big tin bowls. But this is ice cream. Ice cream! The most luxurious food seen anywhere in the film. A perfect symbol of innocence, glory, the grace of childhood. After everything that has happened we can scarcely believe that Zampano is eating ice cream.
Because eating is social, food and grace go together. That is what both films show. Babette's feast opens the hearts of her friends to one another (and so to God). But when Zampano hardens his heart to Gelsomina (and so to God), his heart becomes unable to respond even to ice cream. He eats with his mouth, but his heart tastes nothing. After such eating, what forgiveness?