Vegetarian Experiences

When the kids were younger, we were all lacto-ovo vegetarians. Except when well-meaning (annoying) friends and family didn’t respect my choices. Once the kids were old enough to make their own choices, they ate veggie at home, but could eat whatever they wanted out of the house.

Choosing Vegetarianism

types of vegetarians

I initially became a vegetarian when I was 18-years old after a beloved friend was killed by a drunk driver. I wanted to do something purposeful that would keep her in my heart and mind as time passed. 15 years later, when I explained it to a Certified Nurse Midwife I was working with at a birth center, she looked at me, smirking, “Was she killed by a cow?” I couldn’t help but laugh, hearing my explanation through another person’s ears. No, no… no cow involved.

Half-Hearted Vegetarianism

As the years passed, I wanted to be a vegetarian because I was fat and saw how thin most vegetarians were. The lacto-ovo got in the way of that, however.

Eating gobs of cheese, meals made with gobs of cheese, cheese and crackers, cheese, cheese, cheese!

cheese
And then there was the delightful change in McDonald’s fries (in 1990) from using beef tallow to using vegetable oil in their fryers. I would eat 2-3 super-sized fries a day far too often. My mind was screwing with me, justifying eating the fries… “But they are vegetarian!”

I also ate a concoction of potatoes, onions, cheese (of course!) and sour cream on almost a daily basis. Now, of course, in the depths of diabetes, I know how incredibly glucose-spiking potatoes are. It’s amazing I didn’t become diabetic before the diagnosis when I was 34-years old.

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Okay, Let’s Be Vegan Then!

Then there was the stint as a vegan. I still did not lose weight (probably those “veggie” fries?), but tried hard to eat as healthy as possible. I discovered the veggie section of the supermarkets (in the refrigerated section? What’s up with that!) and began eating tofu, tempeh, seitan, veggie hot dogs and made vegan burgers from scratch. During that time, (and it lasted about 10 years) I easily had 20+ vegan cookbooks and also checked out vegan books at the library constantly, wanting to be a thin vegan. It never happened.

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Veggie Kidlets

Way back in the day, public schools were baffled about what to feed vegetarians. The kids told me they were eating cookies and drinking milk, sometimes having potatoes or pizza, but that was rare. I was darn tired of hearing these stories so tromped down to the school and talked to the head of the cafeteria. She expressed her confusion about vegetarianism, but said she would find a way to accommodate the kids. What ended up happening was my kidlets got to eat 2 salads and anything else they wanted. (Salads were brought in for the kids.) Blessedly, today, kids have many more food options. (I am sure it drives the cafeteria mad, though… veggie, vegan, food allergies, gluten-free, etc.)

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When the kids went to live with their father, they began eating meat… mostly chicken… but meat appeared in their diets. Interestingly, Tristan and Aimee are vegans and Meghann does not make meat dishes all that often. I smile knowing my weirdness did rub off on them just a little.

And Today?

I eat very very little red meat, no pork, a bit of chicken, fish a couple of times a year (unless I come across catfish!), but still am eating plenty of cheese. Rarely potatoes, though.

I’m glad I had the veggie experiences (and have several more stories that hinge on my being vegetarian), but it was, for me, a fad… a way to stand out in the crowd. It was a fad that lasted a darn long time!

Oh, and even in my vegan years, I had one turkey sandwich with Miracle Whip a year, the day after Thanksgiving. (I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving now, for what it’s worth.) I haven’t had a turkey sandwich in over 3 years now.

turkey

nom nom nom

 

Lest We Forget

My dad bombed Vietnam.

It was decades before I realized that when I said, “My dad works on B-52’s,” that that really meant he flew missions over Vietnam and bombed the country to smithereens. Men, women, children, babies, dogs, goats, high-rise buildings, houses, generations of lives… gone because of my father “working on B-52’s.”

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I never talked to him about it. He did not discuss his missions. Instead, he sent us pictures of himself in lush Guam or Okinawa, lovely girls by his side. Or he and his friends with flowers behind their ears, drinking beer as they grilled a pig outside on the sand. He sent souvenirs back from Iceland, the pelt of an Icelandic sheep, the wool many inches long and a very white white.

He died before I could ask his feelings about bombing a country that would be forever scarred because of his actions.

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Bomb craters 50-years later.

I wonder what he thought as he watched the rain of bombs falling from the enormous plane, seeing them from above, not below where they exploded and killed so, so much life.

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I wonder if he ever had any regrets or was The Mission the most important part. Was his need to follow so great he never even had one nightmare about what he was doing?

My dad was 19 when he went into the Air Force. 19 years old. That is such a baby age! At 19, I was still dancing in the disco, had barely had sex for the first time, was still years from marriage and having kids. And there he was, killing whole villages with one sweep of the carpet.

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Perhaps my dad never talked about these things because he was better able to compartmentalize pain than I. Maybe it really didn’t bother him at all. Maybe he just didn’t think about it once the mission was over and he was back in the barracks playing poker with his buddies. Maybe they didn’t even talk about what they were doing amongst themselves.

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If my dad was still here today, on this Veteran’s Day, I know I would still not bring the topic up. His never speaking of missions gave the clear message that the topic was verboten.

I wonder if I were to bring it up, could I have unleashed a gushing onslaught of hidden pain and anguish? Would I have realized, too late, that this should not be discussed outside of a professional’s therapy room? Might I have alienated my father forever? That I did not and allowed our relationship to stay calm and even is something I am glad about.

And even as I am happy things turned out the way they did with my father, that I never spoke about my growing understanding of the Vietnam War and his role in it, I am comforted only in regards to my dad.

When it comes to the country of Vietnam or the Vietnamese people, I can never erase the shame or hide the sorrow for what my father did to obliterate their lives.

VIETNAM WAR BOMB CRATERS
Water-filled craters after a B52 bombing.

Food Memory: Frozen Orange Daiquiris

When I was 16 years old, I used to wander over to the Contemporary Resort at Disney World to lay out in the sun on their beach, something that isn’t possible anymore because of alligators. But, then, Disney was still young and the gators hadn’t yet infiltrated the lakes.

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Back of the 1978 Contemporary Resort. Note the beach on the upper right… this is where I would lay out in the sun.

I was fat, but wore a tube top and a bathing suit bottom that went up to my belly button, keeping my midriff exposed to the sun.

These were the days before we knew about skin cancer and using sunscreen. I had my trusty bottle of baby oil that I slathered on every couple of hours. (Tanning at home, I used Crisco.) Just reading it, I’m checking all my freckles and moles!

No one ever checked to see if I had a room key or asked if I belonged on their beach. That would never happen today. Because no one cared, when I got hot, I’d dive into one of their two pools, swim around (I’m a great swimmer), get cool, then go back to my spot on the beach.

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One time when I was in the pool, there was a woman sitting on the side hollering, “Barbie! Barbie!” and I answered her, asking, “Yes?” I swam over to her and she was calling one of her twin daughters, also named Barbie… we laughed, then introduced ourselves. It took less than 2 minutes before we were fast friends. After we were done swimming, I took them on a guided tour of the Magic Kingdom (the only park open then) and they took me to dinner. Barbie’s mom and I corresponded for 10 years, talking on the phone a lot, too. They lived in Canada, so never saw them again. I think about the family often wondering whatever happened in their lives.

Frozen Orange Daiquiri

But, what about that Frozen Orange Daiquiri?

While I lay on the beach, servers wandered around asking if people wanted something from the bar (including snacks!). Can you imagine that happening today? No way in the world would they traipse in the sand selling drinks. But then, it was awesome.

The first time I had enough money to buy something to drink, I asked if there was a virgin anything cold and the server said, “We have Frozen Orange Daiquiris,” and I probably said, “Yes!” way too loud, but she toddled off to the bar to get me that drink.

I swear she floated back, my drink balanced on her tray, my mouth watering as she came upon me like an angel of Frozen Orange Daiquiris.

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It was served in a clear plastic cup with an orange slice on the rim.

It was exquisite.

Sipping the thick icy treat, I found using the orange slice as a scoop to be more efficient as well as yum-MEEEE! I asked the server for a few orange slices when I ordered the next drink and she brought me a bowl of them!

orange slices

This became my special treat and even when I didn’t feel like laying out in the sun, I’d go to the Contemporary Resort, sit at the Sand Bar and order one Virgin Frozen Orange Daiquiri after another. With a pile of orange slices to dip, use as a scoop, then peel the orange from the rind with my teeth.

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I can taste it even now, feeling the searing sun on my back, slurping the icy drink off the orange slices.

Where Are They Now?

I have not figured out why, but no one seems to make Frozen Orange Daiquiris anymore. They make Peach, Mango, even an Orange-Banana, but where are the unadulterated Orange ones? I’ve ask experienced bartenders to make me one and usually get a look of confusion. I’ve probably only had 5 in the last 40 years. And even those didn’t taste like I remembered.

Yes, I am aware that the atmosphere of the burning sun, the white sandy beach, being on Disney property, the server wending her way through the lawn chairs, the piles of cold orange slices create a memory that can never be recreated, that no matter how many Frozen Orange Daiquiris I have, none would ever taste the same.

I’m salivating remembering the tart sweetness over the decades.

Let’s bring the Frozen Orange Daiquiri back to a drink everyone asks for!

orangedaiq

Honey Tales

Bee Charmer

Not one person who has seen Fried Green Tomatoes will think of anything else but Idgie’s love for Ruth and how she wanted to impress her by getting a honeycomb directly from the hive.

“You’re just a bee charmer, Idgie Threadgoode.

That’s what you are, a bee charmer.”

Honey in Birth

Honey has a great supply of natural sugars and most midwives had honey of some sort on hand, whether in the Honey Bear…

12oz_bear

…or Honey Sticks.

honey sticks

…or some Honey Lollipops.

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If a woman’s energy was waning, a couple of spoonfuls of honey or 2 or 3 sticks, could perk her back up for awhile more… even if she was unable to eat or drink much else, honey was a great pick-me-up.

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Honey has antimicrobial properties, it is a hydrogen peroxide thing, and there is a lot of research showing honey, Manuka Honey in particular, used on infections can help heal the wound quicker… and without the risk of medication interactions/allergies. Honey is often used on diabetic ulcers, it being more effective than many other treatments.

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New Use for Honey (for me)

So, I kind of knew this, but when I was an intern midwife in San Diego, I got to see the range of what home birth midwives do with honey.

Mind you, by the time I was interning as a midwife in San Diego, I had been in birth for over 20 years and had gone to hundreds of births in hospitals, birth centers and at home. Over the years, I would see things done I had never heard of before, but could usually be shown the research about it.

Honey was often used in the way I mentioned above; for energy.

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So when a woman’s perineum tore at birth and said she did not want to be sutured, I was pretty shocked (every woman who had ever torn in my experience was sutured, it wasn’t ever a consideration not to be). When the midwives acted as if this was a normal thing, choosing no stitches, I was baffled. When they pulled out the plastic Honey Bear and grabbed a spoon from the family utensil drawer, I blinked.

Honey was spread onto the back of the spoon, the woman’s legs opened a bit and the honey “painted” on the tear, all the while the “antibiotic” properties of honey explained. She was instructed to keep her legs together except to put more honey on it.

I’m not kidding.

I still cannot find medical research showing honey’s aid in normal healing of a perineal or vulvar tear; it remains a midwife’s tale that it does anything at all. (This is different than an infected wound, where the research is copious.) Many midwives, myself included, believe it was keeping the legs together that did much more to heal the tear than the honey.

Medical Grade Honey

But, if it did do something, wouldn’t you want Medical Grade Honey (MGH) slathered on your open wound instead of honey the family is using in their morning tea? In fact, research shows that regular table honey has potentially pathogenic organisms compared to MGH.

I mean new parents know to never give their infants honey because they might have spores of a bacterium called Clostridium botulinum. Wouldn’t that follow that it might not be the best thing for a perineum?

Here is a medical grade honey-gauze that might have been an okay thing for an open wound.

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Or perhaps a tube only used only on your body and no one else’s?

tubes

Honeycombs

I remember when my dad (whom I am missing so very much lately) would bring us miel (honey) in the comb from the Cuban store. I loved biting into the wax, feeling the honey ooze out of the tiny openings, then chewing the wax like gum. I wonder if my kids have ever had that experience.

Miel. One of the best Spanish words in existence.

honeycombglamor

A Recent Conversation

“I had some cereal and some honey.”

That’s what he said.

“You put honey in cereal? With milk? That’s pretty gross.”

“No, cereal without milk and honey separate.”

“You were spooning honey into your mouth?”

“No I was using a fork and dipping it into the honey and eating it.”

Now I was really on high alert.

“You are telling me that you put a fork into the honey, suck the honey off… then put the fork back into the honey and do it again?”

“Uh, yeah. Why?”

“You are telling me you double, triple and quadruple dip your fork into a communal honey jar?”

“I never thought of it that way before. It never occurred to me.”

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Maybe, knowing what I do now about honey’s medicinal properties, it might not be the grossest thing after all.

(Happy Birthday!)

RLC22F_1

Southern Food Memories

I’m having a flood of food memories and thought I should write them down for my kidlets and others who remember these crazy things.

Red Velvet Cake

I remember the first piece of Red Velvet Cake I ever had. First grade. The perfect square of deep red with white frosting. When I picked up a piece with my metal fork and slid it into my mouth, I’m sure I made a childish moan of delight.

old school

I never saw Red Velvet Cake outside of the south until about 30 years ago. Reading, it seems that the movie Steel Magnolias (a movie I have memorized) brought the dessert out of the southern states about 1989 when the Groom’s Cake, in the shape of an armadillo, was blood red from the cake inside.

Jell-O Cake

I haven’t seen the Jell-O cake in decades, but remember how to make it as if it was yesterday.

• Make a yellow cake in a 9×13 pan
• Let it cool
• Use the back end of a wooden spoon to make a few holes around the cake
• Make 2-3 different kinds (and colors!) of Jell-O
• While the Jell-O is still liquid, randomly pour it into the holes

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• Put the now kinda colored cake in the refrigerator for a few hours
• Once the cake is cold, frost it with Cool Whip. (It has to be Cool Whip! Not real whipped cream, but Cool Whip.

simple jello poke cake

I prefer the multi-colored cakes, but I see online it is common to make this for red, white & blue holidays.

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Besides how to make this cake, I can taste it as if it was sitting in front of me.

Mmmmm

Bacon Fat

I used to go to Tifton, Georgia with a childhood friend, visiting her grandmother. Tifton is still really small, but back in 1974 or so, it was tiny.

Grandma lived on a farm… cows, chickens, horses, pigs, corn fields… the whole farm thing. Visiting grandma in Tifton remains the only time I’ve ever been to, visited or stayed on a farm.

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A pretty good picture of what the farmhouse looked like.

It was hot as Hades at that house. Not even fans, much less air conditioning. The windows were always open, cicadas and neighing from the horses the only sounds during the windless nights.

Sitting in the kitchen was big fun. Grandma cooked everything from scratch (as most everyone did back then), 3 meals a day, 365 days a year.

Huge, amazing breakfasts of fresh bacon, eggs from the chickens and lots of thickly buttered white bread toast.

yay

When the bacon was done, grandma poured the hot grease on top of the older grease sitting in a Ball Jar next to the stove. Grease upon grease upon grease, sitting for goodness knows how long.

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If something was going to stick to the cast iron pan, a heaping spoonful of grease was added to the pan.

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Because eggs were a sticky sort of food, bacon grease was the base as they were cooked… bits of bacon fat throughout.

egg oil

How this bacon fat generation didn’t all die off from heart disease is beyond me.

Certainly all the hard work helped.

Creamed Corn

Still on the farm with my friend and her grandparents, we girls were sent out to the corn field to pick corn off the stalks. A novice, I had to be shown what was a good piece of corn to pick off, having chosen semi-rotten corn at first.

1 (3)

1 (2)

corncobb

Once I figured it out, we went about our business and filled the giant basket we were given.

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When our baskets were full, we carried them right into grandma’s kitchen where she almost immediately set to work. We were in charge of getting the “angel hair” (silk) and then passed the clean corn to grandma so she could get the kernels off the cob.

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Getting the kernels off the cob.

This part was the most time-consuming part. It would take hours of manual muscle to scrape, scrape, scrape the cob in order to get what she needed to make the creamed corn.

But, when all the corn was off the cob, the deliciousness really started.

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Creamed Corn

 “Bolt” Peanuts

Boiled Peanuts are a part of the Deep South. You are nearly required to say the words with a Southern accent: “Bolt Peanuts.”

Roadside stands are everywhere.

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For those who’ve never had the opportunity to taste boiled peanuts, you can also get them in the store… canned!

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Here’s what they look like when being made at one of the outdoor locations.

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People eat them in different ways. Some will remove the peanut out of the shell with their fingers, others take the peanut out once it is in their mouth… but many, many eat them without removing the squishy shell.

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My thoughts on boiled peanuts: THEY ARE REVOLTING. Slimy shells are incredibly gross. Foodie, beware.

Pickled Pigs Feet

Yet another Southern delicacy is Pickled Pigs Feet. Not kidding.

pickfeet

Now, while I’ve never put these in my mouth, they are incredibly popular in all stores, large and small.

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Anecdote: My niece was about 3-years old and there was a lower bin filled with pigs’ feet. She asked what they were and mom told her, “Pig’s feet!” My niece looked at the bin, back to mom, then back to the bin and asked, “Then how do the piggies walk?” Smart child.

Grits

My childhood friend Angel taught me how to eat grits.

Grits are made from corn (no clue how) and used to have to be cooked, but now come in the instant variety. To me, there’s no difference in the taste, so bring on the instant grits!

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Angel first made me grits with sugar in them. Blech.

Then she introduced me to grits with butter. So much butter, the bowl was floating and a bright yellow color.

Heaven!!!

Restaurants in the south often make grits with cheese. Meh. Bring on the butter.

Swimming in butter is how I eat them to this day.

Sandwiches

Simple sandwiches are usually made because by noon it is bloody hot outside. In the olden days, we had no air conditioner. On my friend’s grandparent’s farm, there was never any air conditioner.’

It was not uncommon to eat this simple sandwich: Tomato & Mayonnaise on Wonder Bread.

tomato
Tomato & Mayo on White Bread

Note the old plate the sandwich is on in the above picture… gilt around the edge. No one does that anymore because it would spark a fire in the microwave.

And then, the bane of my southern party existence: Pimento Cheese on Wonder Bread.

yespim
Pimento Cheese on White Bread (gag)

Pimentos. DisGUSTing. And then some sort of cheese (not real… can’t be real) all mashed together with mayonnaise. Blech!

Catfish

When I was pre-teen, we’d cram luggage, then ourselves, into the Chevy station wagon (seat belts? HA!) and trek to Shreveport, Louisiana to spend part of the summer with the Cuban side of the family: grandmother, aunt, uncles and cousins.

During one particular visit, the 2 oldest cousins dragged 8-year old me into their clubhouse, wall-papered with Playboy pictures (the first I’d ever seen) and took it upon themselves to tell me how babies were made.

I was so confused.

And once I really learned, I saw they got several facts incorrect. I hope they’ve figured that all out by now.

My parents and aunt and uncle went fishing a couple of times during the summer. I salivated just seeing the fishing poles being put into the cars.

They always came home with gobs of fresh catfish & perch. Still today, catfish is pretty much the only fish I enjoy (memories are strong motivators!).

I remember the scaling of the perch as a messy, gross activity that I stayed far away from lest I be covered in the silvery scales. Whomever was scaling at the moment, when they were tired, were hosed off in the yard to get those tiny flecks of fish-covering off their face and arms, then someone took up the spoon and continued the tedious work.

ScaleFish

Happily, catfish have no scales.

Finally, the enormous Bar-B-Que was fired up and I hung around it, feeling the intense heat, watching the cooking catfish, just stopping myself from begging for the first fish off the grill.

catgrilled

Being first in line, I often received those burning hot slabs of flesh.

With bones.

I learned how to eat fish around the bones fast, not remembering ever eating a hard fish bone. (The soft ones are often just swallowed.)

Besides the BBQ, the catfish was often fried. Which I loved even more. You can never go wrong with breading and being fried in a cast iron pan.

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I can taste it even now.

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The always-offered hush puppies were also made. I gobbled those suckers up, too. Dipped in ketchup.

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A wonderful book I came across many years ago was White Trash Cooking. Between the covers, recipes and photos brought back visceral memories, making me close my eyes for a moment, and feeling/smelling/tasting exactly what I saw in a mere picture.

white trrash

What a fun revisit to my food memories. Thanks for coming along!

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Reviewing Disney Dining (for a book)

Back a long time ago….

Food Writing

I’d been writing reviews of meals for a long time, publishing them on Disney websites (for free). I got great feedback, so kept going.

One of the folks that read my writing was Susan Shumaker. She and her partner Than Saffel were working on a book on vegetarian dining at Disney World and surrounding areas. They asked me if I would like to collaborate by eating in a slew of restaurants they couldn’t get to because they didn’t live in Orlando and had to make trips back and forth to taste test for themselves. I jumped at the chance!

veg guide
The end result!

Dining Partners

I was in a poly relationship at the time with a woman and my former transman partner (who had not yet come out). We scheduled 3 weeks to hit all the restaurants on our list, staying in different Disney Luxury Resorts chosen randomly. Even though I was the one reviewing/writing, all three of us were fed for free. And, except for breakfast, also given fine wine, per course, at lunch and dinner.

I was the only one of us three eating vegetarian or vegan; they were meat eaters… and were served meat dishes throughout the tastings.

All of us loved red wine and drank copious amounts. (A separate post in the works.)

Memories! Like the corner of my mind.

Meeting the Chefs

It was a matter of course for the chef to come to the table to ask what my food preferences were. (No green/yellow/orange/purple/jalapeño/etc. peppers. Not terribly spicy. Love mushrooms.) We 3 had eaten (and paid for it) in most of the restaurants, so knew many chefs ahead of time. Sometimes, they’d sit with us and we’d talk about food and wine. Fun!

Sitting here almost 20 years later, I cannot recall even one time I was disappointed by food made by a Disney chef… on either coast. And I’ve eaten in Disney’s Fine Dining easily 200 times.

Restaurants We Visited

We did not just eat in fancy restaurants and I did not eat just at Disney restaurants. We ate at restaurants in different Disney Resorts, from Value Hotels to Moderate ones, and of course in the Deluxe Resorts. When I ate off-property, those places were ghastly! No vegan food at all and Stouffer’s Veggie Lasagna was almost always the meal I was given. I ate at about 8 different locations off-property, but close to Disney World. I got to see some fun shows the tourists flock to, but the food sucked.

Where it did not suck was at Walt Disney World!

Whispering Canyon Cafe, Wilderness Lodge Resort

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Whispering Canyon, Wilderness Lodge

We had breakfast at Whispering Canyon. Endless family style food. I was a vegetarian, so didn’t want the sausages. It was no problem at all. They asked what each person wanted to eat and if they wanted meat but were sitting with vegetarians, the meat was served on a separate plate. The food at that restaurant was yummy!

Whispering Canyon Breakfast Skillet
Whispering Canyon breakfast, Wilderness Lodge

Flying Fish, Boardwalk Resort

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Flying Fish, Boardwalk Resort

Besides being a lovely restaurant, food at the Flying Fish was awesome. I wish I had a picture of the foods I’d eaten at each place, but I do not.

heavy sigh

At a separate time, one of my friends having dinner with us was a Supertaster. He sat naming the ingredients in his dish… spices, too! We asked the chef to come over and test him. Amazingly, he was spot on with everything that was in his meal. The chef was impressed. I was stunned.

Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge Resort

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Artist Point, Wilderness Lodge Resort

Artist Point was my go-to restaurant, even having my entire family eat there with me several times. The food was fantastic and their wine list was a delight. I remember sitting in Artist Point for hours, slowly eating course after course, then having a dessert made especially for us. One of our favorite desserts was dark chocolate wafers with a dry Cabernet.

Mmmmm!

The chef got to know my poly partners and me and never made the same vegetarian dish twice. Always delicious! When I was eating for the vegetarian book, the chef made especially awesome dishes for us all. (One thing I remember about almost all of my meals was the pine tree-like rosemary sticking up from one mashed food or other.)

I haven’t been to Artist Point in at least 10 years, but know if I sat down there tonight, the meal would be amazing.

Kona Café, Polynesian Resort

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Kona Café, Polynesian Resort

Kona Café used to be the best place to get coffee at Disney World. The coffee beans were from Kona, Hawai’i and they really did make the most delicious coffee.

Researching right now, the space is actually a “casual dining” restaurant! With a sushi bar! The coffee is all but a footnote on the menu. I am sure it is still the best coffee in the World.

Cítricos, Grand Floridian Resort

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Cítricos Restaurant, Grand Floridian Resort

I’ve been to Cítricos only a handful of times. They serve seafood and Tuscan Italian food, which isn’t my favorite. It’s a gorgeous restaurant with great service and am sure my veggie dish was good (as I said I can’t think of one meal I didn’t like anywhere on Disney property.) and I don’t remember anyone complaining about their food but me. I do remember having Italian wine and missing the California wines I was used to.

Yachtsman Restaurant, Yacht Club Resort

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Yachtsman Steakhouse, Yacht Club Resort

The Yachtsman Steakhouse, obviously, serves steaks. Huge, giant slabs of beef. I cannot remember what I had, but do remember using a menu to hide Zack’s plate that had a pool of blood underneath his steak. Blech. Carnivores love the place and I might even like it now! I do have my steak medium well and eat it with ketchup. (I know… why bother?!? Kind of what I said for a long time as a vegetarian!)

Maya Grill, Coronado Springs Resort

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Maya Grill, Coronado Springs Result

I loved Maya Grill! And had a crush on Beatriz, the chef at the time. Beatriz took me back in the kitchen a couple of times, letting me photograph her hands as she prepped for the dinner crowd. One of the things she made was chimichurri, a dip I slurped up hungrily… until I saw it was made with green peppers. Then I couldn’t eat it anymore. Isn’t that silly? I know! But it just messed with my world view of hating peppers.

Mexican food is easy to make vegetarian and when we were food tasting for the book, my dinner was delicious… and very different from the other restaurants.

California Grill, Contemporary Resort

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California Grill, Contemporary Resort

Ahhhh, now the California Grill. I’ve eaten there dozens of times… as a vegetarian, vegan and carnivore. Never ever ever have I had to send something back. As the name suggests, the cuisine is California-oriented, and it is delicious.

If you are lucky enough to eat here, you must ask for Walter. He opened the restaurant and is still there 22 years later. He is worth waiting for, I promise.

Besides the food, the restaurant overlooks the Magic Kingdom. In the picture above, you can see the fireworks over Cinderella Castle and how lovely Space Mountain is covered in lights. While watching fireworks from inside is nice, I prefer the catwalk outside. In the olden days, very few people knew about that 15th floor perch and I took friends out there to impress them. And they were impressed!

Used to be you could just go up for the fireworks, but now you must have reservations to be allowed on the elevator up. So, make reservations! Eat dessert and coffee if your budget is on the small side (you do not have to tell the podium folks what you are going to eat… keep it to yourself!) or dinner if you’re wanting to spend some money on magnificent food and wine. Reservations around firework time are harder to get, so we usually made reservations either far far in advance or about 6pm and just eat several courses slowly. Tip your waiter damn good if you stay at the table for 4 hours!

There was a Dessert Chef we knew up there at one time and we’d sit at the small area overlooking the making of the desserts. Watching them being made is magic! Incredible soufflés, wondrous crème brûlée and then the most creative desserts for kids! From rice cereal sushi to bowls of dark cookie dirt with gummy worms hidden inside.

For the food review, I know we had an amazing time, a window table overlooking the Magic Kingdom and Seven Seas Lagoon, with peeks at the Polynesian. That meal I can remember like it was yesterday. Exquisite.

I last ate at the California Grill with my daughter Meghann her family and my mama. We had a beautiful time! And yes, Walter was our waiter. As he was for Meghann’s honeymoon meal 10 years earlier and the server for many, many of the great meals I had on the 15th floor of the Contemporary Resort.

Serendipity

It was pure luck that I was able to go around the World and eat and drink so well for 3 weeks. We had so much fun! I think everyone should be able to do the same.

It’s your turn!

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Vegetarian Dish at California Grill

Kakigōri & Michael Flatley

June 6, 1999

The girls and I headed to Epcot at Walt Disney World, me in an Electric Convenience Vehicle… an ECV… and they walking.

ECV

I always had my camera equipment and we carried our yellow Mickey ponchos for the inevitable afternoon thunderstorms.

poncho

As we wended our way around World Showcase, we went inside The American Adventure to listen to the Voices of Liberty, an amazing a Capella group that sings beautiful songs about America… and a couple of Disney tunes thrown in. (Not quite sure where the other voices are coming from, but they vanish around 2 minutes in.)

America Gardens Theater

When you walk out of the The American Adventure (which we had been in dozens of times so did not go this day), across the way, is the America Gardens Theater. I have to show you several pictures because they will be relevant later in the story.

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America Gardens Theater, Epcot, Walt Disney World

It’s a wonderful theater with great acoustics.

The day we were there, Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance was performing. I had never seen them before so was really excited.

Because I had the ECV, we were led to the Handicapped Section. It was about 8 rows from the stage and I was on the far left of the benches.

photo 2
This is the handicapped row. I was sitting on the other side by the man walking in the blue shirt. You can see how close we were to the stage.

Kakigōri

It being June in Florida, it was damn hot. I tend to get to places early (movies, shows, parties, etc.) and this was no exception. Waiting, it was suffocatingly hot. While we always carried water, that Kakigōri booth in Japan, which is next to The American Adventure, beckoned. We needed something cold!

Kakigōri, a Japanese treat, is a sort of snow cone, or if you know Hawai’i Shave Ice, it is similar to that as well. Besides the syrups they add (your choices), some people enjoy cream in theirs. (Blech!)

kakigori

Not long after we were sitting in the flippin’ hot sun, the girls were sent on a mission to get the Kakigōri cones. I love cherry, and when they have it, grape. Yum! We three sat eating our snow cones, waiting for the show to start.

It finally did.

Michael Flatley Lord of the Dance

The show began with an amazing display of Irish dancing, men and women, moving in unison, the legs kicking while the tops of their bodies were stock still. It was delightful fun!

Midway through the show, a soloist came out and began singing the most lovely ballad… her soprano voice soaring into the air around us.

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Feedback

Then the feedback started. A blaring eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee that was the strangest thing ever! Disney is meticulous with their sound systems, it was bizarre having feedback.

People were looking around. Why hadn’t the sound people fixed it yet? Crazy!

Then I see a Cast Member wending his way through the crowd… in a hurry… was everything okay? Holy crap, he was heading… towards… me?

“Ma’am, can you get off the ECV’s horn?”

I looked down and my bulging fat belly was leaning on the red horn button, causing the horrid “feedback.”

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

I leaned back and, miraculously, the feedback stopped.

People everywhere were staring. Right at me. I was filled with embarrassment.

And then I started laughing.

The girls and I got the sillies, thinking about me causing all that ruckus. It took every bit of control to not howl with laughter through the rest of the performance.

We’ve continued laughing for almost 20 years now.

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee