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.”
"Eat Like Walt"
Website: eatlikewalt.com offers interactive features that complement the book, including a map of Disneyland with pins that indicate where each restaurant was in Walt’s era and what is there now; upcoming book appearances; extra photos; “secret scoop” tips to Disneyland; and favorite ride and food picks from Disneyland executives such as John Lasseter.
Other books: Smothers also wrote “Snacks: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle” (Harper One, 2013)