Monday, January 7, 2008

The Making of Ratatouille, No Not the Rat

We've watched Ratatouille by my best estimates, a million times. I exaggerate only slightly. It is a cute movie, the story is good, the characters are nice and the animation is fun. I still prefer the Incredibles by far, but the kids like the rats, and I like quiet kids, so we watch it, again and again and again.

A few weeks ago I came up with the brilliant idea to make ratatouille with Big Dog. In my fantasy, we'd prep the veggies together, we'd slowly cook together smelling the simple ingredients merge together and transform into the magical dish responsible for the transformation of Anton Ego himself. Big Dog would know when to help and listen when I told him I had to do some of the more serious knife work. I also imagined that he would get bored just about the time I had to start timing the ingredients browning in the pan, and come back about the time it was ready to be served.

Well today we made our ratatouille. For the most part it went well. Big Dog was a master of salting the eggplant and a real pro at cutting the tomato pulp into strips with his plastic knife. The problem started when I needed to prep the onions and peppers. Big Dog, full of his success with the dull pink Ikea knife against the mushy tomatoes, demanded he be allowed to chop the bell peppers. I managed to divert his attention to drying the salted eggplant and zucchini but then he became obsessed with helping me put them in the pan. A 4 year-old and a pan of hot olive oil are not a great match, but I relented and let him put them in one by one, but from a distance, usually resulting in 2/3 of the slices hitting the stove surface rather than the pan. After about half of the pieces were browned, Big Dog decided we weren't making enough progress, and he started to ask if the next step was "Dump it in?". It went a little something like this:
Big Dog puts one slice of zucchini in the pan. Looks at me. "Dump it in?"
Me, "No, we have to brown each piece."
One more slice is placed in the pan. He waits a beat, "Dump it in?"
Me, "No, one slice at a time"
"Well, when do we dump it all in?"
"We don't, this part has to be cooked one piece at a time."
"Ok," puts one more piece in the pan, "Dump it in?"
Shortly after this, he got bored, and went upstairs with his dad to watch Ratatouille.

When the dinner was finished I dished it up and brought it upstairs. Big Dog was proud. He told Little Dog and Mr. Dog that he had helped make dinner just in case they had missed his participation. As if that wasn't clear enough, while sitting on the sofa he says "Anyone who cooked rapa-too-ee raise your hand," waits a beat, then his hand shoots up with a giant smile.
It was adorable.

Finally it came time to eat. One forkful passed his precious lips. Even though he declared "Mmmm, it tastes like candy!" it did not ring sincere. He ate the buttered bread, but the ratatouille is still sitting on the plate.

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