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What is the history of ratatouille?

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Quick Answer

Ratatouille originated in the Provençal region of France around the 18th century. A Disney movie called "Ratatouille" popularized the dish in American pop culture in 2007.

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Full Answer

Ratatouille is a thick stew primarily consisting of eggplants, zucchini and tomatoes. These ingredients are typical of the Provençal region of France. The dish, which is especially renowned in Nice, France, carries the full name ratatouille Niçoise because of that.

The name ratatouille stems from two French words, “ratouiller" and "tatouiller." Both are expressive forms of the French verb, touiller, meaning “to stir up." The name didn't occur in print until 1930.

There is some debate about the exact origin of ratatouille, though. While some food historians consider it a typically French Provençal dish, others claim it could have come originally from the Catalonian or Basque regions of France. Zucchini and tomatoes came from the Americas, while eggplant came from India.

No seminal recipe exists for ratatouille. Some cooks like to dice the vegetables, while other prefer to slice them. The vegetable sizes should be large enough to show distinction but small enough that diners can scoop up one of each ingredient with a fork. In addition to the primary ingredients, ratatouille includes onions, olive oil, garlic and herbes de Provence for flavoring. Some cooks also add summer squash and bell peppers.

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