The Ratatouille Paradigm
Updated: Feb 19
Shift Four- L'espoir est un plat bien trop vite consommé, À sauter les repas, je suis habitué (Hope is a dish too soon finished, I am accustomed to skipping meals)
“What? But like, what do you mean by that?”
Sam tosses me a quizzical expression- cocked brow, unrefined grimace, and eyes searching for answers. I chuckle under my breath, reaching for my fifth slice of pizza. The AC thunders in the background, a slight reminder of the waning days of summer, although the air is still thick and muggy. I train my sight back on the TV screen, watching a cartoon rat shove a strawberry into its mouth.
“Well, it’s like, stories only exist if something upsets the status quo.”
“Yeah.” Sam leans back, stretching his arms above his head. I almost have to physically restrain myself from poking his sides.
“In Ratatouille, Remy’s, uhm, status quo is his normal rat lifestyle and that’s the paradigm for, like, everyone. Just rats being rats.”
I meet his perplexed squint. “So, when the food critic dude tastes...food, cooked by a rat, his belief set is fundamentally changed. It’s like, wow, maybe anyone can cook! How truly bemusing! How novel!”
“Why are you using a British accent?”
“It’s a paradigm shift!” I grab his shoulders, shaking him vigorously. “One belief set substituted by another! Because of a rat!” Blank eyes peer back at me.
“What are you getting at…”
I sink back into the couch, collapsing with a huff. “I mean, isn't that kind of cool!? Someone’s set of beliefs can be altered by the tiniest thing, like a rat! It’s almost like a butterfly effect, but better because it’s a rat.”
“How’s that better?”
“It just is!”
“I think you’re reading too much into it.”
“It’s art! I can interpret it however I want to.”
Sam rises, sighing with feigned annoyance. “Besides, couldn’t you apply that to any movie? Or, like, any story? Ever? Why Ratatouille?”
“Because it’s my favorite. And I can’t believe this is the first time you're watching it,” I glance over my shoulder, finding him preoccupied with searching for a snack. “And you’re missing it!”
He groans. “I had enough of you watching it back home. I heard that stupid little French song enough for it to make my ears bleed. Why do you like it so much, anyway?”
I clutch a cushion to my chest. “It just means a lot. I just like food.”
“So that paradigm thing isn’t the reason?” He plops back down, Coca-Cola in hand.
“No!” I snort with fake haughtiness. “That’s a revelation I just had because of this cinematic masterpiece’s insane rewatchability. In fact, many of my personal philosophies fully rest upon Ratatouille.” Sam rolls his eyes. I laugh.
My answer is immediate. “Food’s always better when it’s shared. You see? Remy’s a chef, chef’s make other people food and therefore share their food with other people. He cooks because he loves to, and he wants to share that with other people- but when his rat people don’t accept him he’s, uh, he runs to share it with people who will accept him. You know?”
Sam cracks open his drink. “Whatever you say, philosophy major.”
I throw the cushion at him. He just barely dodges it. “No jabs at me doing culinary school while you’re here.” It’s his turn to laugh.
“What kind of culinary student stoops to pizza?”
“I’m a culinary student, not a pretentious jerk,” I shoot back. “Unlike some people.”
“Was Ratatouille what inspired you to do it?”
“At least I’m not the family disappointment anymore.”
“Oh my god!” I slap my brother- enough force for it to phase him, but not actually hurt. He returns the favor by pushing me off of the couch.
“Jesus! I’m just kidding,” he grumbles, cracking his neck. “It’s cool that you’re doing what you want or whatever.”
“Wow...are you actually being sincere for once?”
He sneers. “Shut up!”
I chuckle through pizza bites, leaving a stringy mess of cheese behind. It’s oily, so disgustingly rich, but nevertheless delicious. Well, delicious in the fact that I could stay in and rest just for a second and revel in my own laziness. When people cook, they stamp their identity inside their dishes. It’s what I love about food. But this pizza is nobody. it has the identity of a thousand other carbon copies. It’s impersonal… but, oddly enough, that’s what makes it comforting.
I gag slightly in my absentminded stupor and reach for my water. I pound on my chest, forcing myself to cough up the chunk of pizza that got caught in my throat. Sam starts cackling, snorting out his coke, and I start laughing, so much so that I need to gasp for air and my sides hurt afterwards. And all at once it’s as if time stops. There’s a lingering thought that I’ll miss this moment once it’s gone. Really, that sentiment is kind of cheesy; far too cliched for my tastes. But I guess there’s a reason why certain things are said so often, I muse to myself. People like romanticizing things. Even other people. Sometimes I think that it’s our ability to do that that keeps us alive.
“You know what, I’ll cook you something.”
Sam tilts his head. “M’kay?”
I rise, pausing the movie. “Just feeling like it. This movie always makes me want to cook.”
“...Are you gonna poison me?”
I flick on the stove, reminiscing. Food is always better when it’s shared. I decide on a soup. It’s simple enough, and more importantly, delicious enough. I’ve been meaning to try out this new recipe anyways. I settle into a comfortable rhythm, everything done by rote. The rice cooker beeps. I plate the soup and usher Sam over to my rickety table.
He sniffs. “Sinigang?” I nod.
Sam sips at the broth, his eyes widening ever so slightly. I give him a smug grin.
“Mom didn’t make this that much,” he says between slurps, a nasty habit he’s had ever since we were kids.
“Close your mouth dude. Yeah, it’s my own recipe.” I make my way over to the couch, resuming Ratatouille. “Mom’s wasn’t that good.”
Sam laughs and I hear more ungodly slurps. “Yours is good though.”
“Thanks. Can you maybe not...eat so loudly?”