The beef and the jello are both consumables that represent pre- v post-industrialization, nature v technology, and the past v the present. Something as visceral as carrying and eating meat was used as a way of expressing the character’s state of being emotionally and also her position in the world while she was running. Back at home, at the end, the clean, bright, and clinical non-food that is jello represented where she ended up at the conclusion.
My overall impression of Leila’s father is not a good one, and I don’t believe I’m supposed to come away with a positive opinion of his actions. His character, however, is never directly attacked. He is not demonized. Most of his actions are explainable by societal norms. I don’t like using the word “patriarchy” because it’s so overused and polarizing. But as I read this and Tartuffe, I felt that Orgon and he both showed strong evidence of being decent human beings wrapped up in a certain way of looking at the world and acting. Leila does not seem to judge her father for acting the way that she did, but she does report that he put his honor above both of their lives, particularly in court. This makes him understandable, maybe even sympathetic, but not a person I would want to depend on to treat people ethically.
The Senator represents every person facing their own mortality. His act of falling in love with a younger woman and finding love only when he’s closest to death represents humanity’s obsession with remaining young and dwelling on youth. He is most alive and most deeply in love when he’s aware of his impending mortality. “Death Constant Beyond Love” reminds us that whether we’re in love, whether we acknowledge death’s inevitability, death will always be there. It is our choice whether or not to love before death takes us. The Senator’s life is improved with the love, yet he still dies. This is the happiest ending any story can have because it is the essence of humanity’s search for happiness and love.
That is a very good way of wording your feelings of the father. I agree with the sentiment that it is not he who is the corrupt or bad entity, but the societal and cultural aspects that are driving him.