Aug 11, 2007


The four of us watched Ratatouille two Saturdays ago amidst a full audience at Festival Mall. The story was actually simple and predictable (as all GP-rated movies are), but the light-hearted moments and the stabs at comedy were enough to make us/me relax for about two hours and enjoy.

More than that, the movie made me realize three cooking philosophies I am passionate about:

1. ANYONE CAN COOK (said in the movie by the character Chef Auguste Gusteau).

I've always believed that cooking is no rocket science and that anyone who tries hard enough can whip up something tasty and edible. I've always believed that cooking is something than can be learned and honed. I believe that one's cooking talents improve in direct proportion to the interest and desire to learn, coupled with the commitment to try, practice and explore. Put another way, if you're uncomfortable with your cooking, or people are uncomfortable with what you cook, that only means you need to learn some more (from other people, from experiences, from mistakes) and practice some more. :)

2. There are no hard and fast rules about cooking, only possibilities. While there are basics that you need to know (er, like salt is salty and you don't want too much of it in your cooking), the rest is subject to interpretation and how you want your finished product to be. You want it aromatic? Ass-kicking spicy? On the sweet side? The dish is your canvass and the ingredients are the colors you would paint your canvass with. It's all up to you.

And because it's up to you, cooking is more an art than a science; more liberal than precise. In the movie, Remy shied away from recipes and had no precise measurements for the things he threw into his pot. I am that way too; when I cook, my measurements are usually by handfuls, pinches, swigs and dashes. (So a little confession -- it's always an effort for me to quantify the measurements I used when I write the recipes for this blog.) My sense of doneness and readiness isn't measured by time but by the smell and appearance of the food. I don't open cookbooks and execute the recipes. My cooking sessions are usually fueled by the desire to replicate something I ate and liked somewhere.

3. Get into the heart of it. Good cooking is from the heart. Just like good writing, good food is heartfelt. It is good because the one who made it cared enough to make it right and make it well and gave himself or herself to make it the best it could be.

And best doesn't have to mean expensive or complicated. In the movie, the peasant-dish Ratatouille, a simple, pan-fried-then-baked mixture of eggplants, onions, tomatoes and zucchinis rocked the critic Anton Ego to the core because it reminded him of his mother's cooking. As simple as the dish was, perhaps it tasted, looked and smelled of a mother's careful attention to detail, and the overwhelming desire to give her family the best. Heartfelt.

So go out there (into the kitchen), wow them, wow yourself.