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April 3, 2008

Pure corn

Filed under: American Food,Fast food — Mr. Henry @ 8:48 am

waltmick.jpgWalt Disney World is America’s #1 tourist destination – a vast Orwellian shining city in the swamp brimming with bratty English schoolchildren spitting insults at cowed, permissive parents, with tattooed teenagers trying desperately to pretend they aren’t walking beside uncool parents, and with grinning sunburned, foot-weary pilgrims of pleasure plodding on and on and on.

Four theme parks and a dozen other destinations employ 60,000 cutely costumed refugees from backward countries and failed American cities – gays and unmarrieds, retirees without health care, unskilled veterans, brave loners seeking a new life in the sunshine state.

On the bus, on the everlasting bus, your senses are subjected to upbeat jingles, catchy colors, and corny jokes. Slipping deeper into stupor, you begin to imagine Glare and Blare as two more adorable animated characters.

In fact, the whole experience is pure American corn in every iteration and manifestation. The food is the worst of it, and that’s the part you literally ingest. After only two days of indoctrination, you become convinced that in order to have fun you must eat garbage. Mr. Henry defies you to escape high fructose corn syrup at Disney World.

Mark Twain, the first modern writer, surely got it right. The food at Disney World is “monotonous execrableness.”

Why were the french fries always the same french fries whether served at the Brown Derby at Disney Hollywood or at any of the sidewalk food outlets?stalin_speech1.jpg

Why, in the midst of orange groves larger than Arkansas, can you not get a glass of fresh orange juice?

Why must Disney food be “theme” food? Their many attempts to serve ethnic foods invariably get dumbed down into Sandra Lee’s semi-homemade. Mr. Henry understands that it may not be practical to construct Cinderella’s Castle walls from genuine limestone blocks, but must the edible be as ersatz as the visible?

There is not a cooked leafy green to be had for love or money. Instead, there are frighteningly snazzy combos like baked salmon on parmesan foccacia. (Mr. Henry shudders to recall it.)

It took Mr. Henry an entire week to recover from the numbing over-stimulation and hypnotic cheeriness of the place.

And the souvenirs! The irrepressible Trudy writes, “The whole thing was just one big retail Venus fly trap for more shit made in China, with that looming castle as the cosmic bait drawing children and their reluctant into its orb.”

There is a hidden ideology here, an imposed classlessness, a Puritan sense of public obligation towards the simple life. Any attempts to seek out fine food are blunted. Carefully prepared fresh food is simply not for sale. Everyone at Disney World eats the same food, rides the same bus, and laughs at the same amusement. There are no individuals. There are only crowds.


  1. But did Little Henry looooove every second of the trip?

    I think you may have just experienced one of the truly American parental rites of passage.

    Comment by kit pollard — April 3, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  2. Oh yes. Little Henry and friends owned it. They rode on Splash Mountain twice while Mr. Henry tried without success to sit on the railing.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — April 3, 2008 @ 3:54 pm

  3. The food is probably better at Club 33. Of course, it’s only at Disneyland, not Disney World. That, and the 9-year wait kind of make it a moot point.

    Of well.

    Comment by Obi-Wandreas — April 3, 2008 @ 6:38 pm

  4. Actually, as a SoCal resident, we are at Disneyland a lot with our son and, from what I have heard, Disneylanders are a lot better off food-wise than Disneyworlders. The California Adventure park has some good restaurants and a nice wine bar area, so we usually eat there.

    If you are ever in Anaheim, however, I highly recommend heading down Ball Rd. going east from the park and eating at a great German family restaurant called Jagerhaus. It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but the food is great.

    Comment by Eilish — April 3, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

  5. Josef Vissarionovich appears to be hailing a taxi.

    Comment by Annalucia — April 4, 2008 @ 7:48 am

  6. Just writing to sympathize with you, Mr. Henry. Disneyworld gave me the creeps, with all its WestWorld-y automatons and it’s wax-encased ice cream bars. Hope you have a safe trip home…

    Comment by chachaheels — April 4, 2008 @ 9:52 am

  7. Agree with Eilish, the food at Disneyland offers many more options than Disneyworld. At Disneyland there are entire carts with fresh apples, bananas, and other yummy fruits. They are expensive, but that is to be expected.

    Oh, and I have also eaten at Club 33 (I have my connections, people) and I have to say I was a teensy bit disappointed. They did have a fabulous cheese course, though, and I asked them the cheese names and promptly forgot. Idiot. I should have written them down. They also had some fairly good desserts.

    I have been to Disneyworld pre-Munchkin and would never go back. Not when I’ve got SoCal as my backyard.

    Next time, come to Callifornia!

    Comment by Glinda — April 4, 2008 @ 2:29 pm

  8. I can’t believe Mr. Henry failed to mention my favorite Disneyworld gut bomb! Yes – Those gianormous roast turkeys legs that people gnaw on like a Neanderthals while walking around the parks.

    It’s quite something to see an entire family eating them…

    Comment by Phyllis — April 6, 2008 @ 4:10 pm

  9. I worked in Marketing for Walt Disney World in Orlando and was able to eat very very well for over 5 years. It really depends on where you are going and how much you cowtow to your child’s taste. Magic Kingdom is the hardest but I could give the best bets for each Park and Resort.

    I’m not saying it’s perfect there but food does not have to be one of the bad things.


    Comment by Poochie — April 6, 2008 @ 10:10 pm

  10. Ayyyy!! Phyllis!

    You are so right. Mr. Henry had repressed those memories. Gnawing turkey legs made whole families look like Neanderthals…..or like prison inmates at Christmas dinner.

    Comment by Mr. Henry — April 7, 2008 @ 9:52 am

  11. Good observations. I enjoy amusement parks and realize it is a great experience for kids, but there is always that sense of forced enthusiasm and ‘do-what’s-cheapest’ mentality.

    I wonder what Walt would think and say if he saw his park today?

    CW Guy
    Wine Reviews

    Comment by CW Guy — April 7, 2008 @ 10:03 am

  12. Well, it’s just so desperately chic to mock other people’s pleasures, isn’t it? I bet Mr. Henry would come home from Las Vegas with the shocking news that it’s gaudy and vulgar.

    I’m not a Disneyphile by any stretch — I haven’t been to Disneyland in years and feel no pressing urge to go again. But geeze. If you don’t like it, don’t go.

    Comment by Bridey — April 7, 2008 @ 11:20 am

  13. I think the point was that Mr. Henry is willing to accept any sacrifice for Little Henry’s trip. But it’s not out of line to suggest that there be alternatives to high-fructose corn syrup-and-turkey-leg-based cuisine.

    Comment by raincoaster — April 7, 2008 @ 6:45 pm

  14. And I’d love to hear Poochie’s recommendations. It’s all vicarious living for me, but there must be some readers who will actually end up there, and the more options they have the better.

    Comment by raincoaster — April 7, 2008 @ 6:46 pm

  15. Yes, the food is generally terrible, but there are a few exceptions. Well, one. The Dole pineapple stand outside the Tiki Room (aside – i miss the old management) in both Disneyworld and Disneyland sells fresh pineapple on a skewer, and the amazing pineapple whip. This might be my favorite thing about Disney, and I seek it out each time I go. Pineapple whips are not to be found anywhere else, and I love them.

    Comment by mywhimsey — April 8, 2008 @ 2:25 pm

  16. I mentioned before being able to eat pretty well in the Parks, being that I worked there for five years. I abhor burgers and hot dogs and fries and never eat them.

    I’ll try to take you through a mix of sit-downs and counter service places. Plus, the Resorts are always close by and accessible. Its good to take a break some times. I think the families that cram it all into a 12+ hour day set themselves up to fail. These are only some highlights. I hope you read some guides before you went so you could have a little preparation and not just go into the parks blindly with out being able to serve the needs of your family in the best way possible.

    There are a ton of places so take a seat.

    I will admit that Magic Kingdom is the hardest to get a good meal. Character breakfasts are good (usually buffet so you can pick and choose) but the Cinderella Breakfast is very heavy/filling. I’d grab a bagel or pastry from the bakery on main street for me. And grab some juice at the Dole stand in Adventureland. You can get a good meal at Liberty Tree Tavern for lunch or dinner. And for fast stuff, we always went to the Pecos Bill Cafe (good fresh wrap sandwiches) or El Pirata Y El Perico to get a taco salad. They’ve since added the Tomorrowland Terrace Noodle Station which sounds like it has some fresh and vegetarian options too.

    In the MK Resorts, there are so many great options. Our favorite was Artist Point in Wilderness Lodge which had amazing food flown in from the Pacific Northwest. Great wines, cedar plank salmon and buffalo steaks. And Narcoossee’s in Grand Florididian has great seafood. Plus Victoria’s & Albert’s there is 5 stars but for a major special occassion and adults only, really. Kona Cafe in the Polynesian is good for lunch and California Grill got top restaurant in Orlando several years in a row. Which is saying a lot because Orlando is a testing ground for restaurants.

    Epcot has options all over. Did you even go into The Land pavilion? The Sunshine Season Food Fair has a ton of different options much of which are grown right there (as is true for many of the Epcot restaurants) and are very healthy. The counter service and dinner at Morocco are great; we would take most people there for dinner. The cold sesame vegetable noodles at the China counter service were good for a snack and Le Cellier in Canada is a great steakhouse with good lunch options. And the Teppanyaki Dining Room is one of the best versions of this type of restaurant I’ve eaten in.

    Epcot resorts (Beach Club, Boardwalk and Yacht Club plus Swan and Dolphin) – all have options with sandwiches etc. I personally love Spoodles. I’ve heard good things about Il Mulino New York Trattoria in the Swan and Fresh Mediterranean Market in the Dolphin. The Shula Steakhouse there received the critic’s choice for Orlando’s Best High-End Steak House and is seven-time recipient of Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence (per the site). Todd English’s bluezoo is there too, although it wasn’t my favorite.

    Animal Kingdom we like to go to Tusker house for breakfast and get there breakfast hashbrowns. Then we would go to Rainforest Cafe which has a big menu or get something faster from Flame Tree Barbeque.

    Boma at Animal Kingdom Lodge is great but we love love love Jiko.

    At MGM I always get the cobb salad at the Brown Derby. If you don’t want to do a sit-down, Studios Catering Co. Flatbread Grill is new and it has grilled chicken with healthier sides. Mama Melrose’s isn’t bad either for a basic italian meal.

    At Downtown Disney is the best meal deal in the whole Resort – the Earl of Sandwich. Sandwiches are around $5 and delish. House of Blues is also good for lunch and they have a great Gospel brunch too. Wolfgang Puck’s is good for sit down and they have an Express section if the kids want a better version of a pizza.

    There’s a quick highlight. I’m sure I could come up with more. Next time you might want to read through a Disney guide to see what all the restaurants serve so you don’t get caught unawares.


    Comment by Poochie — April 12, 2008 @ 10:29 am

  17. Mr. Henry will greatly enjoy a collection of essays by The Umberto Eco “Travels in Hyperreality” in which he describes Disneyland.

    Comment by Airedalelover — April 18, 2008 @ 2:21 pm

  18. That was fascinating, Poochie. But something within me died when I read that the Cinderella Breakfast was heavy.

    That’s. Just. Not. Right!

    Comment by raincoaster — April 19, 2008 @ 7:44 pm

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