On January 20th, radio personality and author Marcy Carriker Smothers gave a presentation at the Walt Disney Family Museum about her new book, Eat Like Walt. In the Museum's beautiful Fantasia-inspired theater, Marcy addressed her audience of Disney enthusiasts by explaining that she, too, is a Disney nerd. The presentation was full of fun, behind-the-scenes stories about putting the book together, one of which was that she wrote the book on a laptop both at Disneyland and at the Walt Disney Family Museum. She wanted to be surrounded by Disney as she wrote, and would even make playlists of Disney music from Walt's time.
The project originally started as a culinary history of Disneyland and Marcy was cautioned that this would be difficult to do in a world where social media and blogs cover the topic daily. While perusing documents on Scribd, Marcy came across a Walt Disney Productions plan for Disneyland's food that was written before the park opened. This made it clear that there was an untold story about Disney and food before the park was conceived and like all things, it begins with Walt.
Once Disney Editions was on board, Marcy was given access to the four separate archives within the company (Walt Disney Archives, Walt Disney Photo Archives, Walt Disney Imagineering Archives, and the Disney Animation Research Library). "Trust me, geeks, it's as good as you think," she joked as she described the experience of being presented with everything the company has about Walt Disney and Disneyland as they relate to food. Walt Disney holds a special place in Marcy's heart and the chance to touch things that were once in his hands was a memorable part of the book writing process.
The book stays on-topic, but during the talk Marcy shared a few stories that were omitted because they weren't necessarily about food. One photo that has an entire page devoted to it finds Walt Disney purchasing an ice cream on Main Street with his daughter Sharon. The man selling ice cream was actually Trinidad, Walt Disney's favorite Main Street Cast Member, whose actual job was in custodial, often with the "Honey wagon." This staged photo op gave Walt a chance celebrate Trinidad's legendary guest service with a moment in the spotlight.
Marcy shared that Eat Like Walt is already in its second printing after only seven weeks, and one of the modifications to the reprint includes the year that Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room removed the original dining chairs and replaced them with benches. If Marcy has it her way, the original chairs will return and in the evening, Disneyland will offer dinner as originally planned. She even knows what the menu would have been and shared that guests would enjoy mocktails outside before taking their seats, where they would dine on items like coconut shrimp and a dessert of pineapple mousse whip, the recipe for which predates Dole Whip.
One story that is half in the book is about barbecue sauce. In Eat Like Walt, Marcy talks about how Don Defore's Silver Banjo Barbecue initially purchased its sauce from a nearby restaurant called Love's, but when they were unable to supply enough, he used the UCLA chemistry lab to breakdown the ingredients and his wife used them to make her own sauce for the restaurant. The book makes it known that the restaurant closed in part because it was unable to produce enough sauce even after making it in-house. But what couldn't be published is that at one point, Defore sent the recipe to Hunt's with a request that they produce and supply it. Hunts declined, but years later when they released their own barbecue sauce, the family was convinced that their own recipe had been copied. The recipe is in the book and fans can have their own taste test to be the judge.
Eat Like Walt ends with a collection of recipes, one of which required Marcy to do some super sleuthing to recreate. The Tea Cakes supplied to the Ink & Paint department were from a restaurant called Martino's Bakery, which is still in Burbank and still uses the same recipe, which the owners refused to release. Through repeated trips, she was able to figure out suspected ingredients by claiming to be allergic to certain items. She wasn't above snooping through their trash bins a few times, and in partnership with her good friend Johanna Lasseter-Curtis (John's twin sister), she was able to create the copycat recipe in the book. Another recipe newly in publication is the real, original Chicken of the Sea Tuna Burger (the previous published version wasn't the same one used by the restaurant).
When asked which of the recipes is her favorite, she shared that she's a health and fitness enthusiasts and diets in Walt's time don't match her personal tastes. But she does have a favorite recipe, the Pineapple Polynesian Ribs from The Tahitian Terrace. And the easiest recipe to replicate is Walt's Relish Tray, which he enjoyed at home, at the studio, and in his Disneyland apartment, and being veggie based, is also a smart snacking choice.
Before ending the event with an autograph signing, Marcy asked the Disney fan community to keep Walt Disney's name in everything where it belongs. For example, it should always be "Walt Disney World," not "Disney World." And because Walt Disney personally financed the attraction and later sold it to the park, it should always be "Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room" when referring to the Disneyland classic. Walt Disney's legacy continues to inspire generations of dreamers and doers and in keeping with the spirit of the Walt Disney Family Museum, Marcy's book and discussion was a perfect example of why his legacy is so important.
Fans can learn more about Marcy and her book, Eat Like Walt, by visiting the book's official website.
Disney fans can visit the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The official website has details on hous, upcoming events, and limited galleries that can help you plan your trip.
Click here to read the LaughingPlace review of Eat Like Walt.