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Ratatouille Gulch

I woke up this morning alternately thinking “ratatouille” and “gulch.”

Gulch is explainable. In my friend Rob’s space-opera-esque D&D game, our party recently rescued a kidnapped child who was being held hostage in an old mission in a mining town called Yuri’s Gulch. At one point during the game, we were selling supplies to the locals, and I was trying to negotiate for a good price, and out-of-character, Rob said, “You think this is the best you can do. Any town with Gulch in the name is not going to be a bustling metropolis.” To which I replied that it was true, “gulch” was even more downmarket than “gulley” which lacked the mellifluous sound of “arroyo” or the quaintness of “valley.” It doesn’t even have the picturesque qualities of “meadow” or “dale”. A gulch is pretty much the epitome of down-and-out where geological crevices are concerned.

The ratatouille, however, goodness only knows where that came from. I don’t even like Ratatouille. I’d love to, because the name is so awesome, and it is a legitimate vegetarian dish (not cribbed from an orignally-meaty one) but my experiences with ratatouilles lead me to believe that they were invented by somebody who planted six zucchini plants and as many eggplant plants in his garden, and then had to do something with the resultant bland and bulbous vegetable explosion. Also, they are a lot of work for a fairly ungratifying result. I think the main problem is that this is a recipe based principally off eggplants and zucchini, both of which are mild flavored to the point of blandness, and actively seem to suck out any flavor which accompanies them. Whenever I use zucchini for anything, I use it as an extender, when I need to make a LOT of whatever I am making. And then I go and double whatever seasonings I would be using. Something about a zucchini just hogs all the flavor in the rest of the dish, so you have to compensate. Eggplant I am more sympathetic to. There is something about the texture of eggplant that I really enjoy, and it does have a kind of pleasant, grassy flavor of its own. Moreover, the world is a better place with baba-ganouj in it.

I feel like philosophically, I should be an ardent supporter of the Ratatouille. I mean, it is vegetarian, it is fun to say, and for being kind of fiddly, it is not like it is that exotic or composed of hard-to-find ingredients, but the whole “Woah! I just got my entire weekly allowance of filler vegetables in one serving.” factor is a black mark on the Ratatouille slate.

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