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Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: Tube Time with Ratatouille

April 10, 2011

Ratatouille was bound to come up sooner or later in this blog, but today we will not be discussing the film.  While the connection between Disney and food is quite obvious with this film, a discussion of Ratatouille would be incomplete without a little known 'history' behind the film's marketing.  Disney and Pixar took their movie to the most relevant audience by involving the obvious food related company in the entertainment industry: the Food Network.  This Sunday Brunch we'll be exploring some Food Network specials themed to Ratatouille and made available in a special DVD compilation 'Ratatouille Cooking Fun for All Ages,' a bonus DVD exclusive to Wal-Mart stores that came packaged with the 2007 DVD release of Ratatouille.

The disc contains two specials pertaining to Ratatouille, and two kid-friendly episodes of popular Food Network shows.  When starting the disc you get a nice menu that orders the episodes as such:

The episodes seem to be in order of relevance to Ratatouille, with the first two having clear themes to the film and the latter two, whose relevance is to the kid audience the film attracts.  We'll start with those two as their relevance to Disney and food is virtually nonexistent.

30 Minutes Meals with Rachael Ray is a quick episode where Rachel shows us how to make some healthy, kid-friendly afternoon snacks with the help of whom else, but a kid.  The kid is pretty funny because ironically he doesn't want to try anything Rachael makes.  The title of the episode is in reference to her actual show on Food Network, complete with commercials, though on this disc it's a flat out lie since it only clocks in at about 11 minutes.  In that brief amount of time, Rachel cooks up chicken toes (because they're shorter than chicken fingers and she doesn't want to say chicken nuggets), a mild salsa dip, and a veggie platter.  The chicken toes seem pretty cool as they're breaded with corn flake cereal.  Overall, it's a nice little feature that will certainly provide 'cooking fun' for the younger crowd watching this disc.

Rachael Ray and her friend Beecham crunch up the corn flakes for the chicken toes.

Good Eats with Alton Brown is always a good time, and Alton Brown does not fail to entertain.  This episode's relevance to Ratatouille is extremely far-fetched other than being kid friendly as it explores an Italian staple and also the founding fathers of America.  Alton's nephew Elton comes to his uncle asking for help for his history report on the founding fathers; he asks why George Washington stuck a feather in his hat and called it macaroni.  The only way to find the answer to this is to learn all about Macaroni and Cheese, the popular children's dinner that comes in a blue box!  As with any Good Eats episode, this one is quite enjoyable and looks through the history of macaroni and a great recipe for real macaroni and cheese, and not the kind you get out of a blue box.  Being the last feature, it is a great way to finish up the DVD cooking adventure, even though it has virtually nothing to do with Ratatouille.

Alton Brown explains to his nephew Elton about cooking Macaroni in lots of salted water.

The second feature on this DVD was what I was looking forward to the most as Dinner Impossible is one of my favorite Food Network shows.  For those unfamiliar with the show, Chef Robert Irvine is tasked with cooking up impossible dinners usually with hundreds of guests and crazy restrictions (e.g. an episode at a candy store had him use a type of candy in each dish).  In the second season, Chef Robert was tasked to make lunch for animators at Pixar Animation Studios, though the menu had to represent Finding Nemo, Cars, and Ratatouille.  I've never seen this episode and I would love to find out what crazy menu items represented Cars.  I'm still wondering about that as sadly, this DVD did not contain that episode (originally aired November 7, 2007, so there was a small window of time to get this on the disc before the DVD release of the movie).

Chef Robert Irvine and his little helper make Crepe batter in a Ratatouille bowl with a Ratatouille whisk.

Instead, we get a 7 minute Breakfast: Entirely Possible.  It's odd that the DVD labels the feature as Chef Robert Irvine: Dinner Impossible, yet in this mini-sode he makes a breakfast item with two children, explaining how easy it is to make some fun Ratatouille treats.  None of the expected adrenaline rushing, Chef Robert yelling, will-they-make-the-deadline pandemonium here; in fact, this little featurette seems to be the exact opposite of Chef Robert's show.  He cooks up a traditional breakfast crepe, a savory crepe, and a dessert crepe with the help of a little girl, her older brother, and a line of Ratatouille themed kitchen accessories and supplies.  Chef Robert is a big guy known to be crazy and rushing around the kitchen, so it's pretty odd to see him calm and working with children.  I think the Dinner Impossible part of this featurette is that it's impossible for this to ever happen on the actual show.  Not only is it disappointing that this was not a mission for an impossible dinner, they don't even go over measurements of the ingredients so unless you can visually guess how much of everything goes into the recipe, it would be difficult for viewers to make this at home.  Though this feature had featured Ratatouille albeit as a ploy to sell the merchandise, it was the most disappointing and invaluable of the features.  Though I shouldn't complain as this DVD was free to begin with!

With the fluff that was those other 'cooking fun' Food Network episodes out of the way, the best part of this disc is what is listed first: Emeril Live: Ratatouille Time with Patton Oswalt.  This episode is a clear tie-in to the movie release as it originally aired July 27, 2007 and featured some behind the scenes featurettes about the making of the movie before each commercial break. 

Pixar Animators explain how they studied how food looks by actually cooking. The second picture shows how easy it is to make CGI food look unappetizing.

Also, Patton Oswalt, the voice of Remy, was a special guest on the show.  Chef Emeril Lagasse did a fantastic job with this episode of his live show, creating a true French bistro menu with such dishes as Fris'e salad with lardons (cubes of bacon), Cassoulet (a kind of casserole featuring duck confit), and Apricot and Peach Galette (a classic French pastry dessert).   A cooking show promoting Ratatouille would not be complete without its namesake, so Emeril cooked up a delicious Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille on grilled crostini.  Just like Remy, Emeril made the ratatouille different than its traditional stewed form.

Emeril and Patton Oswalt add the duck confit to the Cassoulet

Emeril is always a delight to watch as his lively, energetic personality is well suited for his show format, which is essentially a talk show and cooking show combined into one.  Patton Oswalt was an entertaining guest as he was fascinated by Emeril's cooking antics; I was a bit surprised to see how little he knew about cooking.  He marveled at a pot of cooking duck and the making of the cassoulet and he genuinely enjoyed each dish that Emeril served him.

With the DVD release of Ratatouille being almost 4 years ago, it will be difficult to find this DVD at Wal-Mart where it was exclusively available, but there is always online merchants and also second hand DVD stores that may have it available in their documentary section.  In my opinion, this DVD is worth it for the episode of Emeril alone as it not only offers a terrific cooking program tying in with a great Disney-Pixar movie, but it also shows how the movie was promoted during the time of its theatrical release.  Movie media tie-in pieces are a great piece of history and something that is hard to find on DVDs nowadays.


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