If you have not seen the (American) Oscar-winning movie from Disney/Pixar about the shy apprentice cook Linguini and his cutie semi-pet rat Rémy, you must rush through the crowds and get yourself a copy to savor. Immediately.
Warning: spoiler below.
When the chefs of the (animation) movie were making a ratatouille in the pro kitchen of a French restaurant, they were definitely inventing their own recipe, as the real French one is a bit different in its preparation, even if the ingredients are quite similar.
The French version of the ratatouille dish is a slow-cooked affair starting with olive oil, eggplants, garlic, onions, bell peppers, zucchinis, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, basil, salt and pepper, a splash of red wine. A Dutch-oven is the ideal cookware for it, but any large thick pot can do. Think stew.
In the movie, the ingredients are arranged in a swirling design in a flat dish, with tomato sauce and cooked in the oven, as opposed to simmer on the stove. I have never seen it done like this until I saw the film, I guess it's the American way of differing from the original recipe. No harm in that.
The bitter and dreaded food critic Ego succumbed to the fragrant recipe while reminiscing of his childhood, which made for a very happy ending for all. Some chefs add meat and rice or couscous, and that is fine too. It's a nice winter dish that warms up cold bones, or you can freeze it and serve it in summer with a nice light and sweet rosé wine.
Anyways, enough with the food. The breaking news this week is that Disneyland-Paris will be opening a new area in its park this summer, a Ratatouille-land of sort, which is really the subject of my story. French people never really warmed up to Disneyland Paris (formerly called Euro-Disney), located about 30 miles east of the capital.
Millions of Europeans have made the trip to see Mickey and friends in the enchanted spread. The concept is identical to the ones in California, Florida or Japan. The weather made it hard to boost traffic in the winter months, but attendance has been steady for the 22 years it has been open.
Ratatouille-land. "Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!" The rats are saying (hopefully they won't be coming). For me, a Parisian, it's hard to admit it, but the rats of the movie were particularly endearing. After having feared the animals all my youth, mostly because of horror stories about the Paris underworld of underground Catacombes that we visited on school field trips, the movie showed me that even rodents deserve love. The visits are still popular with tourists who like to see bones and rats, and the punk crowd who hold forbidden rave parties at night in the tunnels.
According to Doctor Disney, an unofficial fan site of all-things Disney, the new ride will be baptized L'Aventure Totalement Toquée de Rémy, a play on words that can be translated into Rémy's Totally Crazy Adventure. The toque is the tall white hat worn by chefs, while the word toqué in French means crazy, and is not related to food.
The restaurant, Bistrot chez Rémy, is slated to be rat-themed, not sure what that entails yet. Both in the ride and the restaurant, visitors will be shrunk to rat level/size while traveling through the dining room, the kitchen, behind the cupboards, the walls and over the Paris rooftops in rat-mobiles, giant go-kart-like with room for six passengers. In the bistro, gigantic dishes and furniture will let dinners adapt to rat size. Let's hope they will serve ratatouille!
The film co-hero Linguini will be there to greet his fans -- he may even sign your napkin. See the 10-minute corporate presentation of the upcoming attraction, by Disney's master engineer Tom Fitzgerald, complete with live dancing chefs on stage, recreating an adapted French can-can dance with spoons and other cooking utensils in hand.
A gift store, Chez Marianne Souvenirs de Paris will later complete the experience, where I am pretty sure you will be able to find cute plush Rémys in all size and colors. According to the official Disney website, the exact summer opening day is not yet set.