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!

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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!

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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.

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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

Our Trip to Lubbock (food is involved)

Heading to Lubbock

Meghann had worked in our Holistic Healthcare Center for the summer and Zack and I were driving her back to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Zack was driving his F250 and we had a new washer and dryer for Meggie in the cargo bed. The path from San Diego to Lubbock is one of the most visually boring trips in the country. Lubbock is in West Texas, in the middle of nowhere.

Now, I cannot pee outside. When I have tried, I have had it running down my legs and into my shoes. It’s just gross.

But then there is the issue of finding a bathroom that doesn’t make me gag. Unfortunately, sometimes gagging is involved with urinating in a public toilet.

The Stop

We stopped at the smallest gas station on earth to fill up and let Meghann and I go to the bathroom. When we walked inside the tiny building, the man behind the glass counter…. Yeah, the man behind the counter.

He had no teeth and was holding a half-cooked greasy hamburger (without the bun) in his hand. The grease was dripping down his arm. Lots of grease. A river of grease. Dripping off his elbow onto the newspaper he seemed to be perusing.

It was revolting.

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We knew the bathroom was not going to be pristine.

Meggie and I took turns in the bathroom, one guarding the other because there was no lock on the door. And what if that man wanted to wash his hands. (As if.)

Walking out, we took one last look behind the counter as the man took a gummy bite into his burger, the grease oozing down his arm.

When we got in the truck, we laughed hysterically, partially from fear release. We kept asking each other if what we saw was real and validated each other over and over. That remains one of the most surreal experiences in my life.

BBQ in Lubbock

Once we delivered the washer and dryer to Meghann’s new apartment, we headed out for some Texas BBQ.

Walking in and sitting down became an adventure in staring; them, not us. Zack is transgender, but had not come out yet so people saw him as a very butch lesbian. I’m guessing that LGBTQ people are not a big part of Lubbock or Texas Tech. The whole walking in experience seemed to be in slow motion, every step taking 5 minutes before taking the next. I swear the place went silent.

We were seated at a large table against a wrought iron room separator. Zack sat next to the fence thing and cooed a hello to a baby hanging over a mother’s shoulder. The mother shot up out of her seat and tromped to the other side of the table and sat down for the duration of her meal. I’ve always wondered if she thought the baby would catch The Gay from Zack.

We could not miss the hushed volume compared to when we first walked in, and the stares continued. Looking around, we saw many men in cowboy hats and Zack made the comment that if we were in San Diego, they would be the ones being stared at. True, true!

The next morning, Zack and I hightailed it out of Lubbock. I was never so happy to leave somewhere, barring leaving my daughter behind, even though there was the greasy hamburger man a few hundred miles ahead.

It seemed more than worth it.

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Photographer: Kyle Polzin

 

 

Who Is “45”?

“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.

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Intersectionality

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I am watching the Women’s March on Washington and while I had learned about Intersectional Feminism previously, seeing how women’s lives overlap with race, religion, genders, abilities, histories (jail, being on welfare, etc.) and more, live right in front of me, is profound.

And then, as I am writing this, I see that intersectionality itself has been a controversial part of the Women’s March! Well, the organizers made it clear, to me at least, that intersectionality is a major part of the event.

It did not come without conflict, even causing white women to stay away from the March after they felt left out of the planning and implementation of the event.

These reactions reflect an ongoing debate about intersectional feminism — the idea that many women are members of other marginalized groups, which affects their experiences — that is bigger than the march. The issue has especially heated up since social media has democratized and made public conversations about issues affecting women.

“Intersectionality simply means that there are lots of different parts to our womanhood,” Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, explained. “And those parts — race, gender, sexuality, and religion, and ability — are not incidental or auxiliary. They matter politically.”

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So, reading about intersectionality in general and the March in particular, I am learning the history.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at both UCLA and Columbia, is credited with coining the term intersectionality. She did this in her 1989 paper “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.”

Crenshaw also pointed out that she came up with intersectionality to address a specific legal problem: As she put it, “To capture the applicability of black feminism to anti-discrimination law.” An example she frequently cites in explaining the need for intersectionality is the 1976 case Degraffenreid v. General Motors, in which five black women sued General Motors for both race and gender discrimination.

I know that understanding where intersectionality comes from gives me context from which to pull.

I Am Intersectional, Too

I have written about how I collect descriptive labels. Interestingly, many, many decry labels and refuse to inhibit their identities with them. But, how does one eschew labels yet embrace intersectionality? Is that possible?

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I was raised completely different than who I am now. As a young girl, I learned the ways of the white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied and middle-class world. Yet  I am a super-fat mother & grandmother, a femme Dyke, Cubanx/Latinx (knowing virtually nothing about my culture), mentally ill, disabled, a-theist, sex worker, non-TERF feminist who loves a Muslim man and who learnt Spanish as an adult. I don’t know how I would figure out my intersections without all those labels… and the ones I forgot to list.

Watching the end of the March’s rally, I am incredibly happy to see the wide variety of women represented , many of whom do intersect with my identities.

I’m sure the arguments for and against the Women’s March on Washington are being formulated or written about even now, but I am extremely pleased… more than that… excited, energized, inspired… by the speakers, poets, musicians, singers and leaders who were on that stage today.

I wish I was there.

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2 Years Ago Today…

…I left San Diego.

My daughter Aimee and I got into my red Explorer with my two puppies, Cash & Lilo, and headed east, bound for Orlando.

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Ironically, 15 years before, to the day again, I arrived in San Diego from Orlando, believing I would be with my Zack forevermore.

So many changes.

(The litany of changes are playing in my head: gastric bypass, fires, coccidiomycosis, buying a business, losing a business, having lots of money, having very little money, getting a dog, the dog dying, kids moving in, kids moving out, getting more dogs, getting fat again, midwifery in El Paso, studying midwifery, getting licensed, being ostracized, opiate addiction, mental illness struggles… and then Zack coming out trans.)

Zack coming out trans.

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Zack Coming Out Trans

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I know I wasn’t, but it felt like I was the only partner who struggled with the transition of a loved one. I mean, I wanted him to be authentic, wanted him to be happy… but what about me? (That sounds so selfish! And it was/is. I have had to come to terms with that, but clearly still feel guilty.)

There were two options when Zack came out:

  1. He comes out, transitions medically and surgically and is happy as a clam.
  2. He comes out and stays in the body he hated and possibly commits suicide.

The real life options for my response to his choices above, to his coming out were:

  1. I miss his female body terribly, try to be happy for him, but struggle for years to find balance and mental stability.
  2. Breathe easy that he doesn’t transition physically, being as selfish as can be that my life won’t be changing very much at all.

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Zack Transitioned

Of course, we know he medically and surgically transitioned, I freaked out and we physically parted 2-years ago today.

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artist, Helena Wierzbicki

We had emotionally parted several years before, probably in the exact moment he came out.

A non-drinker, the first 3 days after he came out, I got very, very drunk and then we had sex. We did recognize my actions finally and I immediately stopped drinking, but sex became painfully challenging. Whereas we had always had an amazing, physically fulfilling sex life (pheromones!) before his transition, after, to me, if felt like we were strangers in a completely unemotional, clumsy struggle to connect.

Dripping Words

This, the first of sure to be a dozen or so posts of my processing Zack’s transition, took 2 days to eek out. My heart hurts, it’s hard to breathe and the tears won’t abate.

I will keep writing anyway.

Politics: Brokenhearted

I go a couple three days without reading even headlines. Then, like tonight, I peek at what is trending.

And now I am despondent.

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artist, Anna Giladi

Just the headlines are enough to make me want to crawl in a hole. Imagining these people in control, making rules and regulations (or undoing regulations as the case may be)… it’s terrifying.

Rape

I do not say the word “rape” lightly. I do not use it randomly. I have been raped. I know the seriousness of the word.

So when I say I am horrified seeing who is going into the Cabinet because they are going to rape the United States, I mean it with all the terror that comes with the word.

The people being appointed are going to make the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) “conflict” look like a picnic. They are going to dig deep into the land, tearing up beautiful homes, ruining National Parks… and the repercussions will be felt/known/experienced for hundreds of years after these fucking pigs are out of office and dead.

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Hopeless

I felt hopeless for a couple of hours. My chest felt like someone was sitting on it; I struggled to breathe. My blessed cub held me and talked to me as I cried about how horrible this all is.

And it hasn’t even begun yet!

I think that’s the scariest for me is if I am this upset and sad now, what am I going to be like in a year when we are in the middle of the rape, still years ahead to be attacked… every which way we try to get away, to fight our attacker, he strong-arms us and continues the assault.

Not Giving Up

I saw this photo:

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I cannot let anyone die alone.

No LGBTQIA+ youth who is outed because of new laws will not be alone. We will do everything in our power to save you from the evils of “conversion therapy”… torture.

No woman who has to have an illegal abortion because abortion has been outlawed will not be alone. Those who can will learn to do abortions safely, despite the laws, risking jail, but finding the risk is far less than a woman attempting self-abortion.

No Muslim who has to “Register” to be in this country will not register alone. Women who have their hijabs mocked or pulled off will be defended so she is able to practice her religion in this country that still allows religious freedom (so far).

No woman who is attacked… grabbed “by the pussy”… will not mourn and heal alone.

No Black man, woman or child will endure the escalating hate and murder alone.

No immigrant, here legally or “illegally,” will fight to live here alone.

No Native American will have to wrest their rightful land back from the lying White people alone.

No disabled person will be left to live or suffer alone. We will find the tools they (WE!) need for anyone who still has needs. We will not let the world become completely able-ist, forgetting/not caring for those who have challenges.

No writer, photographer or artist will be censored. We will find ways to get the words and images out to the world.

No child who is hungry and has lost their free breakfasts, lunches or dinners will starve alone. We will find food for you precious babies of ours.

And then there are the promises I cannot keep:

We will not know the impact slashing Social Security will have on our elder Americans. Will they die alone freezing and starving while those in charge have billions of dollars to spare?

What are we going to do for our mentally ill (myself included)? What if our free care is removed? What if we are not allowed our medications, therapy, our psychiatrists?

We know a only fraction of our brothers, sisters and others who have killed themselves because of their despair of who is coming into the White House. What of all the others who are misgendered, hidden, reported as dying of “natural” or “accidental” causes when they really overdosed on purpose. So many suffering without our knowing they are there.

I need to go house by house looking for those in pain. Like the Christians in Germany who saved the Jews, taking chances, risking death even… all to save even one soul.

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Reaching Out

I might cry again. No, I will cry again.

But I cannot give up. I cannot let someone die reaching out for another hand. I know mine is not the only one searching. Maybe, just maybe, if we all keep holding our arms out, joining hands, we might be able to save more than just one person.

I cannot give up.

Don’t Call Me an Ally

The Word “Ally”

I have chosen not to call myself an ally… first, because I don’t believe I can name myself an ally, but that it is a word given… graced upon one from the main group itself.

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Gee Lowery of the Onyx Truth explains in brilliant detail why I know I am not anywhere near ally status at this point. They say, in “Dear White Allies, I’m Not Really Interested In Being An Ally With You“:

The day your so-called ally status can prevent a cop from developing irrational fears of Black people & prevent cops from going into itchy trigger finger mode is the day you might actually become a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status you seek can get a cop sentenced to prison for taking the life of an unarmed Black person, you might actually become a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status decides to vote to funnel necessary funds into these Black communities that have high levels of Black on Black crime to create economic & educational opportunities so that Black people in these communities won’t have to resort to a life of crime, you might actually be a true ally.  The day your so-called ally status walks up to a political figure with an agenda that is SPECIFICALLY catered towards BLACK PEOPLE that deals with OUR issues ONLY…not this “minority” double talk bullshit…you might actually become an ally.  The day your so-called ally status allows for you come up from behind that computer or smartphone to venture off into the Black community to spend your money in Black establishments as much as possible in order to further help the wheels of Black economic empowerment roll along, you might actually become a true ally.  Until you can actually do that, then what the hell are you actually good for?

My Challenges

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Even to me, I sound like I am making excuses for not being more active, but I know these are my very real limitations: my disabilities (including my size), my mental illness and my financial status.

I cannot physically go out and demonstrate without being in amazing pain as well as the logistical issue of being trapped or hurt if a confrontation with people or the police occurred. I would be a liability instead of a help. Just writing that makes me sad, but I have to soothe my Activist Self with I have marched for LGBT rights, rights for people of size, against the Iraq war and any number of other causes and issues over the last 30+ years.

What I Can Do

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I might forever remain on that bottom rung of the Ally ladder, the top being awarded the Ally Medal of Honor, but I can only do what I can do. (I keep repeating that to myself to assuage my feelings of inadequacy.)

  • I can write: Blog posts. Comments to other blog posts and articles. Tumblr posts. Tweets. Comments to both posts and Tweets.
  • I can give rides to those who need them to get them off the street and out of harm’s way.
  • I can get a tattoo that represents my support for different people and their fighting oppression. At the moment, the Safety Pin is the concept with an LGBTQIA+ rainbow, a Muslim flag…not sure what exactly yet, but something from Islam…, a peace sign, probably a rainbow one combining the two symbols… a #BLM and a flag for immigrants… probably Cuban because I am born of a Cuban Refugee even though they/we are not the Refugees of the Minute. I want a tattoo to show my support… a symbol of support that cannot be taken off like a safety pin. Hijabis, Blacks, People of Color, Disabled folks and many Gay or Transfolks cannot just take off the parts of themselves that bring, not just oppression, but (especially now), violence and death. And I have been looking deeply at my motivation for the tattoo. Is it to make me feel better with my White Guilt? Or is it really as a demonstration of solidarity. At this moment, I feel it is the latter. I have until December 6, 2016 to figure it out.

I don’t want anyone to feel alone, especially in this political climate.

I am here and I am not going away.

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