Sonoma’s Marcy Carriker Smothers dishes on the Disney diet in ‘Eat Like Walt’
For many families, summer vacation gets underway this month. Trips to the beach, swimming at the lake or river, touring the national parks all signal “summer” to parents and children alike. But one place in particular means vacation like no other: the happiest place on earth, Disneyland.
The 9-year-old Marcy Carriker would lay out her special outfit at her grandparents’ home, the one with the brown and white checked dress and white satin boots, then spend the day at Disneyland. “We just got to go one time a year. We just got one treat, no souvenirs, one treat. It was a big deal.” She remembers in particular waiting for nightfall for the Main Street Electrical parade.
Now, an imprecise number of years later, a marriage added Smothers to her name, which is how she’s known to fans of her previous food-based TV and radio programs. So it’s not exactly a surprise that Marcy Carriker Smothers’ latest book is about her two key interests – it’s called “Eat Like Walt.”
“I knew that I wanted to write a book about the food at Disneyland because I love Disneyland and it’s the happiest place on earth,” said Smothers, like the true believer she is. As she researched the topic, she uncovered a motherlode of lore – memories from people who knew Walt (and it’s always Walt in the book), menus from as far back as the 1940 Walt Disney’s Studio Restaurant and Café in Burbank, and even recipes faithfully reproduced – down to the margarine and yellow food coloring – at the back of the book.
If nothing else – and there is plenty else – even if “Eat Like Walt” doesn’t provide ground-breaking inspiration in the kitchen, it should give parents something to look forward to when planning their family vacation to the Magic Kingdom. The kids can look forward to the wild rides and fantasy worlds come to life, but grown-ups can confidently plan and count on a good meal or two amidst all that family fun.
Even though Walt Disney was notoriously pedestrian in his personal food taste – “Food isn’t that important to Walt,” said his wife Lillian – he knew that food was a valuable part of people’s life experience. And he wanted to provide a full experience at the ground-breaking amusement park he opened on July 27, 1955, – 63 years ago. “Dining at Disneyland is an attraction unto itself,” he would say, and Smothers moves through the original park’s five lands and visits in turn most of their first-generation restaurants.
Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland and especially Main Street U.S.A. each gets its own chapter, with details that even a Mouseketeer might never have known, or has forgotten. Much of this is because of the remarkable access that Smothers got: “Everyone in the book, with no exception, knew Walt,” she said. “I started talking to the family – they’re pretty private people, Walt’s family – but they opened up to me. And then all of a sudden I had a whole other chapter, ‘Walt at Home,’ which is one of my favorites.”
Smothers insisted on using the first name, even over the objection of some of the editors (the book is published by Disney Editions, and is for sale in the park’s book stores.). “I felt like I was writing about Walt, the human being,” said Smothers. “I thought it was very important to use just the first name, and he famously had just ‘Walt’ on his name tag at Disneyland. He wanted everyone to be on a first name basis.”
Along the way, of course, there are surprises, most notably that Doritos were quite likely invented at Disneyland. Supposedly a tortilla supplier saw that the Mexican restaurant Casa de Fritos was throwing out stale tortillas (used for their tacos) and suggested cutting them into wedges and frying them. Most of us today just call them tortilla chips, but the owner of Frito-Lay took over production and, in 1968, added an orange dusting of taco flavor, and started selling them everyplace but Disneyland – where Fritos were the chip of choice.
“Fritos were supposed to be the star of the plate at Casa de Fritos,” said Smothers solemnly.
Though Disney is a clear point of interest, if not obsession for Smothers, it’s not her only interest. When we spoke she was deep in planning for the 17th year of the Schulz Celebrity Golf Classic, held June 5 at Mayacama Golf Club off Mark West Springs Road.
“Most people don’t know about it, we kind of fly under the radar,” she said. “We fly our celebrities up from Los Angeles in private jets and they play golf here, always the first Tuesday in June.” A dinner and auction raise money for six different children’s charities in Sonoma County.” Apparently successfully: Smothers said they raise over a million dollars a year.
But she’s also working on two other projects – one of which she can’t talk about (though she did let slip that she still travels to Disneyland for research), and one a children’s book that takes place in Kentucky, and involves race horses. “That’s a big pet project of mine,” she said without irony.
But Disney is a life-long passion; when she was on KSRO radio, her show’s theme was the music from the Main Street Electrical Parade, and she has a coffee table of Main Street U.S.A. at her home (which lights up and plays the theme).
“A lot of people don’t realize that this is Walt’s original Magic Kingdom,” said Smothers. “He never set foot in Walt Disney World.” Disney died in 1966, at the relatively young age of 65 – he was a heavy smoker all his life. But the parks that followed, first in Disney World in Orlando and then Paris, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo.
But Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, is the lodestone for Disney fans, and this is where “Eat Like Walt” is set – in the Disneyland of the park’s first decade.
“This is the crown jewel to me of all the parks around the world, this is Walt’s Disneyland,” said Marcy Carriker Smothers. “It’s one of my greatest honors to say that my book is on sale at Disneyland.”
Contact Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org.