I was in France a few weeks ago on my honeymoon and one night in Lyon, instead of drinking a bottle of wine in a city square at two in the morning, the new husband and I decided to head back home early and rent a movie online.
We decided on Ratatouille because, France, food, Pixar, of course. I hadn’t seen this film since it was released in theaters in 2007. I started cooking around 2009, so I hadn’t seen this film since I had become a (very serious) amateur chef.
This is THE movie for people who love make food (though it must be said that Jiro Dreams of Sushi gives the Pixar-rat-chef-who-could a serious run for his money). Below, the kitchen (and life) lessons I learned from this culinary classic.
1.) “Anyone can cook.”
The catchphrase of famed fictional Michelin-starred chef Gusteau, our hero Remy the Rat’s personal hero. And it’s true. Anyone CAN cook. If you didn’t grow up in a cooking family (me=check), or you’ve ever set a dish towel on fire (me=double check), or your heart takes an elevator ride down to the pit of your stomach every time you look at the Pinterest pictures vastly superior home chefs post, it’s easy to feel like the last place you belong is in a kitchen. But if you live in any kind of apartment or house, it probably comes equipped with an oven, a sink, a counter. You have a kitchen. And you belong there if you want to be there.
2.) “Well, yeah, anyone CAN [cook], that doesn’t mean anyone SHOULD.”
What Remy tells Linguini, his human “beard” who pretends to be responsible for Remy’s dishes. “That doesn’t mean anyone SHOULD” is as important as “Anyone CAN.” Not everyone is required to worship at the Pantheistic Altar of the Preparation of Food. Not cooking doesn’t make you a bad person. Cooking just makes you a more rad person.
3.) “Chefs do not take, Chef’s MAKE.”
There’s a bunch of weird (and in my opinion, unnecessary) subplots in Ratatouille, and one of them is this thing about Remy being a rat and having to deal with this moral dilemma of whether or not to steal food when he’s hungry (I didn’t quite get the logic of this problem, I mean, he’s a rat, he doesn’t have a rat-sized debit card he can take to a rodent-sized debit machine to procure funds to buy said food). That said, I really like Gusteau’s above admonishment. That cooking is the OPPOSITE of taking, it’s making, it’s giving, it’s a noble mission to devote one’s life to nourishing others.
4.) “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk little, yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgement….but the bitter truth we critics face is that in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is probably more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”
I’m obsessed with Anton Ego, the pretention-personified quasi-villain food critic in Ratatouille and I am BANANAS obsessed with the speech above, his killer-gracious mea culpa re-review of Gusteau’s.
What he says applies to all of us who write about food. We must endeavor to make our writing count for as much as it can, for in the end, it’s likely our work cannot compete with the value of the meals we write about, and how they nourish the stomachs and spirits of those who sit at the table.
5.) “The worlds is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new need friends.”
I’m only citing two quotes from this speech, but really, the entire thing is golden, and speaks to art and artists in general just as much as it speaks to food specifically. The character of Remy absolutely works as a stand-in for new artists of all mediums, from all backgrounds, struggling to build a life doing what they love. The new need friends, and whether we too are new, or whether we are new-ish, mid-whatever, or certifiably, old, we need to be friends to the new. It’s the only way to ensure our civilization flourishes and the only way to ensure that rats who are wizards in the kitchen get to be chefs at really fancy French restaurants.
Ratatouille is an easy rewatch- it’s available for rent on Amazon and iTunes.
Anyone else give this film another spin recently? What was your takeaway?
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