Not too long ago I had the chance to watch Ratatouille after a day at the pool. I thought that this was going to be just another movie to fall asleep to but that was not the case. In every meaningful movie there is a scene that really hits home with the audience. That scene for me was towards the end when Anton Ego (a mean spirited food-critic) takes his first bite of Ratatouille. Like most things, nothing makes sense unless you have context.
The dish ratatouille, as explained in the movie, is a common everyday dish for everyday people. In short, there is nothing special or even significant about this dish. In fact, it is not even fit for a restaurant that prides itself or desires a 5 star rating.
Ego takes a bite into his ratatouille . . . well I’ll let you read straight from the script
As Ego’s lips close around the ratatouille, the sound, the
restaurant around him is WHISKED AWAY–
FLASHBACK: FRENCH COUNTRYSIDE – A LIFETIME AGO
We are inside a cozy cottage on a golden summer day. The
front door is open, a newly crashed BICYCLE lays on the
ground outside. Next to it stands a five year old ANTON EGO
with a skinned knee, valiantly holding back tears.
His young mother turns from her cooking, and gives him a
sympathetic smile. Like all mothers, she knows what to do.
Young EGO, already feeling better, is at a table. His mother
touches his cheek and sets a freshly made bowl of ratatouille
before him, warm and inviting. The boy takes a spoonful into
Ego is brought back to one of his potent experiences as a child, the experience of his unconditional love and love for love’s sake from his mother. We can remember more about a certain experience by scent and touch than we can through any or our senses. Think about the sensory experience he had:
· Taking the risk of riding a bike even though he may fall
· A new bike destroyed (disappointment and failure by his own hand),
· A skinned knee (pain from his own actions),
· the hesitation of facing parents who most likely purchased the bike (possible disappointment from others)
· the attempt to be strong and not let anyone see him cry (no boy wants to be seen as a wimp)
· the need of reassurance that everything was going to be okay with his relationship with his mother
· assurance that the relationship with himself was not lost such that he would never attempt to risk again
· His mother makes ratatouille specifically for him (he is valuable)
· His mother touches him on the cheek letting him know that everything that he was worried about was going to be okay.
The experience that he remembered is the satisfaction and assurance of his greatest need at that time, his need: the need for someone to love him. His mother did not dress his knee or even acknowledge that he had a “boo-boo” but served him a good helping of love, reassurance, and just a pinch of seasoned salt of relationship preservation.
I think that is something that we can learn to apply.