Eat Like Walt: A Conversation with Author Marcy Carriker Smothers

Marcy Carriker Smothers is a noted personality in the Northern California world of food and wine. From radio shows to books on food, her love of dining and Disney recently led to a wonderful new book, Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food. This week Marcy drops by F├╝lle Cr. to discuss the making of her book and her favorite places to dine in Disneyland today!

Jason Anders: Where did you first dream up the concept of exploring the history of Disney food as a book?

Marcy Smothers: My agent asked what I was going to do that's different from any of the blogs, and I knew I wanted to write about the food at Disneyland. I started thinking about the culinary history of Disneyland, which had never been written about before, and wondered if Walt had set out to make the food experience at Disneyland entertaining and immersive like the attractions. During my research for the proposal, I found a newspaper insert from an Orange County newspaper where Walt said, "Welcome to the Kingdom of Good Eating, where the food is as fabulous as the fun." Bingo! Proof of concept. 

What makes Disneyland your favorite place? 

Visiting Disneyland was always the most special day of the year for me as a child growing up in southern California. As an adult, and like millions of others, I feel at home there. It really is the happiest place on earth.

What is the origin of your passion for food?

I grew up teaching myself to cook out of defense and curiosity. We ate a lot of TV dinners when I was a kid. I remember the first thing I made was a hamburger patty with Lawry's garlic salt. I think I was ten. It was delicious! I've hosted several food radio shows, including one with Guy Fieri called Food Guy and Marcy. That led to my first book, Snacks: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle.

Did you pitch the concept to Disney before anything had been written?

I wrote the proposal first, researching on my own. That took about six months. My Imagineer pals Tom Fitzgerald and Kathy Mangum vetted it for me before I submitted it to Disney Editions.
What was the process of pitching to Disney like?

The pitch was a blast! I was in my agent's office in New York. Wendy Lefkon, Editorial Director for Disney Publishing, came into the room a fan of the project. While we didn't make a deal right there and then, it was pretty clear it would happen. We decided our anthem would be "Let's Go Fly a Kite" because we were so excited to work together. About three months later I had a contract. 

Exploring the Disney Archives must have been a thrill!

It's as exciting as Christmas. You present your wish list to the archivists and they do their best to fulfill it. Holding memos that Walt held brought me to tears. The Research Library and Art Archives at Walt Disney Imagineering was equally thrilling.

What were some of your most memorable moments interviewing Disney Legends?

Far and away the most memorable is how each and every one of them care deeply about ensuring Walt's legacy. It's as if they all still work for him.

What is your favorite thing that you learned about Walt while writing this book?

How human he was. Many of the people that knew Walt (everyone in my book knew him, by the way, no third person accounts) used that word often to describe him.

Which locations would recommend for a unique Disneyland dining experience today? Mine would be a table by the water at Blue Bayou Restaurant then catching a show at The Golden Horseshoe with a Churro Sundae. 

For the vintage experience, go to the Plaza Inn, which was probably Walt's favorite (originally Swift's Red Wagon Inn) and ask to sit at Walt's table. That restaurant is largely the same as Walt and John Hench reimagined it in 1965. For a modern day experience, and my personal favorite, sit on the top deck in the very back of the Hungry Bear Restaurant in Critter Country. With the Disneyland Railroad now running along the Rivers of America, the view of Tom Sawyer's Island plus the Mark Twain and Columbia sailing ships, it's both nostalgic to Walt's era and present day practically perfect!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I get asked this all time. In my opinion, it's really simple: Writers write. You don't need the job title "author." Just a good story you want to share and the discipline to put it down on paper.

Do you have an all-time favorite Disneyland restaurant?

Really tough to pick one! That's like asking "What's your favorite attraction?" The aforementioned Hungry Bear Restaurant for the ambience reasons I outlined. For the food, it's a three-way between the Plaza Inn for a sit down meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans and biscuit. The Bengal Barbecue in Adventureland for any and all of their skewers. And when I am lucky enough to be a guest - Club 33!

Buy Marcy's book at EatLikeWalt.com!