Book Review: “Eat Like Walt” is a Fantastic Culinary History Tour of Disneyland & Walt Disney – With Great Photos & Added Recipes

Hi everyone!

I received the book Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food by Marcy Carriker Smothers to review. First, the book is worth buying just for the photos! There are fantastic photos, concept art, ads, etc. between the pages. The book is a little bigger than I expected from pictures, and taking off the dust cover reveals an even more interesting cover (IMHO). Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food starts with a dedication to Walt from the author, followed by a forward by John Lasseter. He recounts how food tasted better as he grew up visiting Disneyland, his favorite memories were of the Blue Bayou (mine was at Walt Disney World, the Tangaroa Terrace multiple times each trip).

Just in the first year of Disneyland, four million meals were served. It is funny to read that Walt thought coffee wasn’t worth more than a dime, and Card Walker said that “Disneyland will always have a ten-cent cup of coffee”.

There are a lot of personal stories in the book, including about the cook in Walt and Lillian’s house for thirty years, Thelma Pearl Howard (“Fou Fou”). Walt instructed her to only add one vegetable on his plate, from a list of vegetables he would eat. Walt had a very simple palate and is still famous for enjoying chili more than maybe anything. And Fou Fou was loved by the family, Walt’s daughter Diane moved Thelma in her later years to a nice retirement community and visited, sending flowers every week.

There was also the studio aspect of dining, including a few paragraphs on The Penthouse which was for men only (women received their own place, which is touched on here but much more so in the wonderful and HUGE book Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation). The Penthouse even had a sunbathing location for Studio executives, animators and such that lasted until the hospital across the street was built. At that point, they received a call for the men – from the Mother Superior – requesting them to “don their trunks”.

There are paragraphs on many of the Disneyland restaurants from the beginning, and a full Carnation menu from opening day. The Pancake Races are talked about with photos and it tells how Tony Baxter helped raise the cost of ice cream so Disneyland wasn’t losing money (before he became an Imagineer). From Walt’s Apartment to chapters on the various lands including Club 33, there is a lot to read here about Disneyland’s history – in particular, the culinary history. And there is a very short chapter that includes Carnation Café chef Oscar Martinez, who just retired after 60 years. He talks a little about how his girlfriend (eventually wife) would make Walt’s shakes and how Walt would sit by himself and watch how people reacted to their meals.

At the end of the book are “Recipes of Yesteryear”, including Tahitian Terrace punch, Oscar’s potatoes, The Monte Cristo and chili & beans. There are probably a few dozen recipes here, a little something for everyone.

It would be easy to miss the afterward by Tom Fitzgerald and even uses his often-repeated phrase, “If you can dream it, you can do it” (which is often incorrectly attributed to Walt Disney) about how he got to Disneyland for the first time after visiting the 1964-65 World’s Fair. Don’t miss reading this one-page afterward that follows the recipe index.

There are a lot of photos Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food that I have never seen before. It is worth the book price just for that. Add to it the stories, the history, the concept art, and the recipes and it’s really just a terrific book that would look nice on an average size coffee table or side table for reference. The price point is very attractive as well on Amazon!

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