One of my favorite films of all time is Disney/Pixar’s Ratatouille. It tells the story of a rat named Remy with a passion for cooking and for art, two things that are (as far as we know) exclusive to the human race. Over the course of an hour and a half, he teams up with a mousy restaurant plongeur, Linguini, and the two become a force with which to be reckoned. Ultimately, Remy and Linguini find success – Remy in the kitchen and Linguini in love – and, as is the cast with
most all Disney films, they live happily ever after.
But there is a character in the film with whom I identify more strongly than any other.
Anton Ego is a restaurant critic who, most notably, writes positively scathing reviews. We learn early on in the film that he has written a poor review of Gusteau’s, Linguini’s restaurant, which causes Gusteau, the chef, to die of a broken heart. Later in the film, Ego asks the waiter at Gusteau’s for a fresh plate of perspective. When the waiter replies that he cannot provide this, Ego simply says, “You provide the food, I’ll provide the perspective. Remy and Linguini then proceed to serve Ego a dish so powerful that he writes a review that changed my perspective on a lot of things.
Good food is like good writing. They are both works of art, meant to incite emotion, to unearth memories that had been previously forgotten. They are meant to challenge our preconceived notions about what is normal and what is proper and what is right. And the best part about good food and good writing? Anybody can consume it, and anybody can create it.
“Not everybody can become a great artist,” Ego writes, “but a great artist can come from anywhere.”
The practice worth emulating?
Being critical, but not immovable. Consuming every piece of art of which you are capable of consuming. Remaining open to change and challenges. Practice. Dedication. Love. Heart.
These are all things we can learn from a garbage boy, a rat, and one very jaded critic who realizes that art doesn’t discriminate. We are artists. More than writers are we. We have the power to stir emotion. This is a practice we should always seek to emulate.