So Much Food…

…so little hard-drive space. I’ve got a bunch of posts in limbo right now because our laptop has no free space left. It seems I’ve been taking too many pictures of food and puppies. Relief should be forthcoming in another day or two, though in the form of a brand new laptop for Jeremy, so once we get everything transferred and cleaned up, the floodgates will open, so to speak. Here’s a quick taste: Migas. Pad thai. Gemelli with shrimp and tomato-cream sauce. Chicken stirfry with spicy garlic sauce. “Simple but Perfect” pancakes. Figgy frozen yogurt. Cherry sorbet.

In the meantime, I thought I’d post a quick movie review. For the most part, I’m not really the reviewing type, but I’ve been looking forward to Ratatouille for probably a year, eagerly reading all the glowing reviews. Not only are we huge fans of most of Pixar’s films (Cars being a notable exception—bleh), this is a movie about a foodie rat in Paris. What’s not to like?

Turns out the only thing not to like about this movie was the crowd we saw it with. We went to the newly overhauled theater at Lancaster Mall, in a room complete with digital projector, stadium seating, and reclinable chairs. I liked the chairs until the kid in the seat in front of me kept pushing his backwards and whacking my feet. And asking his parents a constant stream of obvious questions in a loud voice. I put up with it until the end of the short film, Lifted, that preceded the actual movie. (It was about an alien-abduction license test and was cute, but that For the Birds one that preceded Monsters Inc. is still my favorite Pixar short. Sampler of comments by the inquisitive child: “Is this scary?” (Not at all.) “Is he (ie: the alien) a turtle?” (No, he’s an alien.) “Is the house gone?” (Why, yes. Yes, it is.) “Is the movie starting now?” (Yeah, no kidding.)

Since his parents showed no inclination to let their child know that he was being disruptive, I took the opportunity during the credits of the short and the Pixar logo to quietly say in the most friendly way I could that it was time to be quiet and watch the movie now. The kid immediately stopped talking, and did pretty well for most of the movie. His mother, or babysitter or whoever she was, immediately started making excuses and acting confrontational, though, so we couldn’t hear the very start of the film. She finally shut up when Jeremy asked for some quiet. Then we just had to deal with the kids whining a few rows behind us, and the baby crying a few seats over, and the people coming and going continually, presumably to the bathroom. It’s so not worth going to the theater anymore.

Obnoxious movie-goers aside, Ratatouille was fantastic. I’ll skip all the obvious food metaphors about how the movie was a feast for the eyes, and just say the graphics were amazing. They have really mastered hair effects now: wet, dry and steam-cleaned. 🙂 And so much texture and detail! If it weren’t for all the theater-side distractions, I’d have to go again just to really try and SEE more of the film. Everything in the kitchen was just spot-on. I appreciated the fact that they didn’t use much product placement: I did notice the microplane zesters, but those are pretty ubiquitous. They could have gone crazy with the KitchenAids and Cuisinarts and LeCreuset or Staub, and if they were there, I didn’t catch it. Also, although much of the world of the movie was incredibly realistic, I think it was a good choice to make the rats and people stylized enough that there was no need to worry about “dead-eye” syndrome.

I have no experience working or being around a professional kitchen, so I can’t speak to that, but I have no doubt that Thomas Keller’s consultation helped make all the technique, plating and advice as realistic as possible. But I really appreciated the trouble they took to represent flavors visually, a la Fantasia. It was a really good introduction to the ideas of flavor pairing and subjective taste experiences, especially for non-foodie types. I could totally relate to Remy’s enthusiasms about food, and his family’s confusion and lack of understanding about his passion.

Beyond the foodie goodness of the movie, it was just a really charming story. No crude jokes about flatulence, just some good-spirited slapsticky “puppeteering” worthy of Blake Edwards. The main characters are all very likeable and relatable. And like The Incredibles before it, Ratatouille has a lot to say about overcoming prejudice, uncompromising morals, and following your heart… not to mention good hygiene and kitchen etiquette. It lived up to my expectations in every possible way, and I set the bar high for this one.

In many ways, though, this is definitely a more adult movie than Pixar’s previous movies, and I don’t know if everyone will appreciate it as much as I do. The level of noise and movement in the theater indicated that Salem’s families, at least, may not entirely be up to this film. But if any movie could share the passion and excitement of the current foodie trend with the general population, it will be Ratatouille. It certainly charmed the socks off of me, and judging by the critical reviews and IMDB rating, I wasn’t the only one.

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