Everything about the movie Ratatouille makes me happy. Everything about it is so odd but oddly perfect. The character of Remy is so appealing and so unassuming, and his passion for food is so unselfconscious and unlikely. Patton Oswalt’s voice is also unlikely, but strangely perfect for a French rat, funny and dear. Remy’s friendship with Linguini feels so real, as does Linguini’s friendship with Collette. I love the eccentricity of the other cooks in the kitchen, and the small glimpses we get of their histories. I love the fact that Remy talks to us and to his brother, but not to people, and I love that we hear squeaks from a human point of view when he talks. And of course I love the cooking and wine drinking, two of my favorite pastimes.
But this film is about more than food, it’s about the desire to create, and food just happens to be Remy’s medium. It’s his inescapable way of seeing the world–as flavors waiting to be combined to create something new and better, just as a painter might see the world as swaths of color and shape. There’s no ego in it for Remy, he’s not trying to create a masterpiece, but he can’t help himself from experimenting with flavors, even if it means risking his life to do so. Like all true artists, he’s a little strange, and his strangeness comes out in his food as something new, startling and wonderful–strange because it has to be, because he made it and it’s his true expression. And like all true artists he uses whatever he can get his paws on–foraged mushrooms, cheese found in the garbage, stolen saffron.
Ratatouille is about so many other things: friendship, trust, family, and, of course, memory. I’m fascinated by the relation of food and memory, so the scene in which Anton Ego takes a bite of ratatouille and rockets back to his childhood appeals to me in every way. And there is something about ratatouille – its simplicity, its distinctive flavors. Ratatouille seems like the embodiment of summer at its height, when everything is plump and ripe at the same time, and glowing with possibilities. The fact that everything that grows together and ripens together tastes so wonderful together proves that there is a pattern, there is meaning and sense! And the fact that this perfect distillation of childhood summer moves a bitter, snobbish old man to such an extent that he abandons his belief system is as strange and perfect as everything else in the film.
Because Remy is a rat humans try to kill him. Because he reads and cooks the other rats think he’s strange. There’s no place in this world for him, and he is a true outsider artist. Maybe what I love most about Ratatouille is the fact that all of these quirky eccentric characters, rat and human alike, come together in the end to create a world of their own. A safe place that runs by their own rules, where they can be together and where they can create art that nourishes the soul.
Have you ever wondered what Remy puts in the soup that Linguini nearly ruins in Ratatouille? Of course you have! We all have. Well, we’ve done exhaustive research to arrive at the definitive version of the soup, with the precise ingredients that Remy used. Precisely definitive! We watched this scene dozens of times. We’ve listened to characters’ descriptions of the soup, and we’ve analyzed the inner workings of the kitchen to arrive at a soup that is a “spicy yet subtle taste experience.” Let us walk you through it. To begin with, when Linguini nearly knocks the pot off the stove, the soup looks like tomato sauce. We determined, decidedly, that it’s probably some sort of tomato soup. We kept that part simple, but we did add a spicy element, because nothing we saw Remy add could be described as “spicy.” Linguini adds tap water, an entire bunch of scallions, white wine, and salt, lots of salt. Noted. Remy adds broth, cream, garlic, thyme, black pepper, cubes of potato, leeks, parsley, chervil, more salt, bay leaves and, we believe, basil. He later states, when questioned by Linguini, that he DID NOT add oregano or rosemary, which they both identify as “spices,” although we would call them “herbs.”
The soup turned out delicious! Spicy, yet subtle. My son, something of a Ratatouille scholar himself, ate three bowls, but declared that the color was too rosy. I’m not an imaginary french rat, for heaven’s sake! I’m not actually going to add an entire container of cream! Some reviews: ‘I was told that this was “the best soup ever tasted” (by my EXTREMELY picky sister). This is an excellent recipe.’ ‘Years later, and this is still my go-to soup recipe. I’ve written a comment before on how unbelievably good it is! My boyfriend is French, and it’s his favorite soup. I make it for us frequently, and it never gets old.’ ‘This was insanely good and so fun to make while we watched the movie as a family.’ ‘By far the best soup I’ve ever made! Substituted the cream for coconut milk and used half a can of tomato purée. It was so good, I ate it for breakfast this morning!’ (coconut milk is a good way to make this vegan!)
Here’s Souped Up from the Ratatouille soundtrack to listen to as you leap over the pot, gleefully adding ingredients.
2 T olive oil
2 T butter (or margarine if you’re vegan)
1 shallot – minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 t red pepper flakes
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes – pureed (I used fire roasted diced tomatoes)
3 small potatoes – peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 leek – Trimmed, cleaned and sliced in half lengthwise, and then chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped scallions
2 plump cloves garlic – finely minced
1 t thyme
1 t basil
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup parsley – chopped
small handful of chervil
vegetable broth (Start with a few cups, and see how much you need!)
1 cup (+/-) light cream (or coconut milk if you’re vegan.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
I didn’t make this quite in the order that it’s shown in the film, because I think the potatoes, in reality, would need to cook for a longer time than they showed us. So here we go…
Warm the olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the thyme, basil, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, shallot and garlic. Cook for a few minutes, until things start to brown, and then add the scallions, potatoes, leeks. Cook until the potatoes start to brown a bit on the edges, and until they seem a bit soft. Add the white wine, and cook until it’s reduced and syrupy. Add the tomatoes, thyme, veg broth and a teaspoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes to half an hour, till the potatoes seem soft. Add the parsley and cream. Cook to warm everything through. Add the chervil right at the end – it’s very delicate. Taste for salt and pepper. Serve!