Ratatouille for One

Photo by Jennifer Prewitt

By Jennifer Prewitt

I’m not so naive that I think a movie can protect me. My childhood home was burglarized twice before I had even finished middle school, both times while my mom and I were away. Both times by someone we knew. In some twisted way, I suppose this could be a comfort – at least they waited until we were out of town! In an ideal world, my first coping mechanism would have been forcing my mom to quit her job, magically opening a wallet full of money to buy groceries and every salicylic face wash available at Walmart without leaving me home alone. 

The second, more practical (and only) option was to comfort myself through a complicated, albeit necessary, routine. On nights when my mom got home well after the sun went down, I set off to work:

  1. Double check that all the doors and windows are locked, even though I did that as soon as I got home. Speaking of doors, close the one to mom’s creepy room. 
  2. Blinds are lowered, curtains are drawn.
  3. Kitchen, hallway, and living room lights turned on. 
  4. Sit in the chair in the corner. If the corner is too vague, I’ll use cardinal directions. Sit in the southeast chair.
  5. Turn on the tv, and make sure the volume is UP. 

Number 5 in the routine was my favorite, especially after I stumbled across one particular movie. Flipping through the channels, I generally settled on whatever was the most distracting from the outside world. Anything that could pull my mind away from any dangers this world offered up. Nothing did this better than the 2007 animated film Ratatouille. 

If you’re unfamiliar with Ratatouille, run, don’t walk, to the nearest library or used book/record store and get a DVD copy. I’m realizing in real time that it’s probably also on Disney+. Just watch it! The film follows a Parisian rat, Remy, who can cook better than any Iron Chef and a loser, Alfredo Linguini, who can hardly wash a fork, much less properly season a bouillabaisse. These two, through a symbiotic relationship, prove that anyone can [cook, dance, ride a bike, ride a motorized scooter].

Already an avid fan of the Food Network, Ratatouille combined food with good storytelling, colorful visuals, and a message that anyone can and should have access to what calls to them. I’ll never forget the explosion Remy experienced when he combined soft, funky cheese with a juicy, sweeter-than-candy red grape. Or when Colette pinned Linguini down with her own knife, eloquently breaking down the barriers of entry to the culinary world for women. Here was a rat, not afraid to enjoy the finer things. Here was a badass chef, not afraid to demand respect from her male coworkers. Taken with this rat’s palette and a cartoon version of a place I could only dream of visiting, I forgot that I was home alone. I forgot that I was afraid. 

Minutes before the movie ended, I wished I could start it all over. And then I remembered I literally could. I rewinded back to the opening scene, Remy busting through a window like he was in some Anthony Bourdain x Marvel film. I hit record. I thanked God for the DVR. And then I watched the movie again until the deadbolt started to turn, no longer alone. 

The next night, I watched the movie again. And again. Suddenly I could quote the movie as though I were having a conversation with friends. I didn’t change my home alone routine. But I didn’t fixate on the uncontrollable, instead choosing to watch a rat make the best dang omelet the Seine has ever seen and forget about my vulnerable solitude. It’s probably here where my love for going to the movies alone was born. If I were to watch Ratatouille in a theater by myself, I’d cry. I know it. But, I know I won’t watch it in theaters because I have a three dollar DVD that I can watch in the chair next to the big window with the open curtains. And I cry at everything regardless. Obviously, the message that anyone can do anything is a little reductive.There are so many extenuating circumstances that keep us from doing x,y,z. Like, we can’t ALL be the President. And we don’t ALL have the money (or scholastic wealth) to go to private school, then Yale, then Harvard, and to acquire some piece of land called Martha’s Vineyard or Linda’s Treehouse, all in order to become President. But Ratatouille doesn’t care about that; our beginnings are not our ends. Like the iconique critic Anton Ego said, “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”


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