Q - What does a dog's toy and an artichoke have in common?
A - They both squeak. A fresh and well-hydrated artichoke will make a soft squeak when the leaves are pressed. If you don't hear a squeak, the artichoke is old, and no amount of butter or aioli will save it.

Chef Steve Rose and I prepare the grilled artichoke recipe from my first book SNACKS: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle on his television show:


Let me say straight away I find the British a kind, fun-loving lot; that’s why the following dust up is particularly grim.

Knackered with jet lag and a 1:30 reservation, we arrived at the appointed restaurant ninety minutes early. When we asked the Maître D if we might be accommodated earlier, he paused just long enough to give us the once over before replying, “Impossible.”

Accommodate: to do a kindness or a favor to; oblige.

Impossible is scoring front row tickets to the championship rugby match, but finding one table in an empty restaurant?

He continued, “Just moments ago two parties rang and booked for a business lunch. They need to be in and out in one hour.” He was subtly chastising us for not calling first. (Agreed. I should have.)

We weren’t looking for a row; we were looking for champagne and a light lunch.  My mate George  - with his impeccable boarding school manners - politely queried if we might sit at one of the empty tables sipping bubbles while we waited.

“No, my staff will be stretched thin taking care of the other parties.”

I’ll tell you what was stretched thin. His lips. From pursing them so tightly.

George made one more valiant attempt, “Really, we don’t mind waiting.”

He wasn’t budging. “No, the chefs will be far too busy cooking for the other guests.”

I could see that this had become a game of cricket. The Maître D was the bat and we were the ball. I asked if he could recommend a restaurant in the neighborhood.

“Well, there is one a few doors down. Or you can come back here at 1:30.” He made both options sound entirely undesirable.

That was enough of a kerfuffle. We retreated to the nearby gastro pub where we were cheerfully served steak pie and fish and chips, even managing to finish by half past one.

A few days later, I took a peek at the menu online to see what may have been offered with little effort and I note that neither the servers nor the cooks had any hand in the Maître D matter:

Selection of Breads with English butter - One must assume that the baker had been in the kitchen early that morning to bake the baps. But yeah, I get it, putting them in the basket and delivering them to the table would be taxing.

Crudité – No need to whip out the peeler and dispense of the carrots’ pesky skin or trim the radishes. This assortment of veg is typically prepped in the morning and placed on a platter ready to be plucked from the fridge.

Soup - I’m pretty sure it takes about ten seconds to ladle pre-made soup into bowls. Bonus points for adding a dollop of crème fraiche.

Champagne – Fair enough. This requires some skill to pop a cork – or three. Oh, and we like the expensive French stuff.

Keep calm and carry on.


It's funny, maybe not so funny, how much I can find to do instead of working - like writing this blog. The vagaries of a home office for starters: The cloth napkins that need to be ironed (not really but I use them every night), memorizing Uptown Funk for karaoke night, rearranging the pleasure books I never make enough time to read.
And the big decisions for the day: What PJs? With a bra or let the Girls go free?
If I'm comfy, am I ready to begin? Work? Write?
The alternative is to go to a public place, somewhere with few distractions, somewhere I feel oddly accountable with strangers around me.
Enter the Stranger. Not really a stranger it turns out - Christina. She remembers me as Nancy, not too far from Marcy. We have mutual friends and soon the conversation turns to why we both come to hipster coffee shops to be productive.
Christina works for a non-profit. I'm writing a book for Disney. We both have home offices that we avoid.
Soon we're discussing how hard it is to get started. So we drink our coffee more slowly, so we don't have to get started.
The Fit Guy at the next table (it wasn't just his physique that told me he was fit, but also the monster watch on his wrist that has GPS and all that macho tech information serious athletes need) interrupts, apologetically, and says that he overheard us and would like to add something: He has a home office and he wears a suit for conference calls. No one will see him, but dressing the part makes him feel business-y. We all nod our heads in agreement.
Our threesome is covering a lot of ground now. No one is working, but we talk a lot about how we work, when we are working, usually never at home. And now, not at the coffee shop.
The irony is not lost on us. We all look awkwardly at our devices. I hear a click or two from Christina's keyboard. Inspired, I tap out a sentence, then another, and suddenly I am writing.


As I am deeply immersed in writing The Kingdom of Good Eating, and as I adore my subjects, Walt Disney and Disneyland, I have to wonder, speculate really, what Walt would think of his beloved park sixty years later:

LOVE: Smart Phones, how easily guests can take photos, make videos, and share with the world via social media.
HATE: Smart Phones, the light from people texting on dark rides (not to mention the distraction), and the noise from not silencing them.

LOVE: ADA and procedures to make every attraction accessible.
HATE: The fakers. That includes grandpa using his knee replacement surgery as an excuse to get cuts for his spoiled grandkids. Rest up until you're better, buddy, then wait in line like everyone else. Criminy - Walt waited in line!

LOVE: The tradition of the Flag Retreat at Town Square. The ultimate patriotic experience at Disneyland. Veterans honored daily. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
HATE: Any discussion of ending the ritual. Budget schmudget. Some things are priceless.

LOVE: The Walt Disney Company's acquisition of Marvel and Star Wars.
HATE: Star Wars Land in Disneyland. He would have found a way to buy property and put in DCA.

LOVE: The addition of 1,100 feet of railroad track and the trestles along the Rivers of America.
HATE: The Disneyland and Santa Fe Railroad closed for two years because of Stars Wars Land construction.

LOVE: Annual passports.
HATE: Annual passports.

LOVE: Soarin' Over California -  It would absolutely blow his mind!
HATE: Nothin' but lovin'.

LOVE: Cars Land and the total immersion in an animated film. The oft repeated reaction of a little boy on Cars Land Opening Day says it all, "Mommy is this where they filmed Cars?"
HATE: Nothing to hate here. Move along.


I like to write the Kingdom of Good Eating for my audience, with my audience. Today I am working from the Mark Twain (which is temporarily docked while Star Wars Land is being built). I love the view of New Orleans Square, the last land Walt lived to supervise. 
The Mark Twain was very personal to Walt. After returning from his stint as an ambulance driver during WWI, Walt had planned to sail the Mississippi with his cohort Russell. When Russell got married, and unable to accompany Walt on the journey, the trip was canceled. Walt was not going to miss the opportunity to sail on a river a second time. When Disneyland funding fell short, he paid for the Mark Twain with his own money.
Even though the Mark Twain was an Opening Day attraction, its inaugural voyage was not on July 17, 1955. Walt saved that honor for he and Lillian's 30th "Tempus Fugit" wedding anniversary celebration on July 13. (If you flunked Latin, that means "Time Flies.")

One of Disney's greatest villians, Dr. Facilier from Princess and the Frog, popped over to see what I was doing with a laptop at Disneyland. He promised no voodoo if I mentioned him in my book. The Kingdom of Good Eating is a time capsule of Walt's life, so I can't include him, but we both agreed Walt would have been thrilled with Disney's first black princess, Tiana.


Fall 2017

The Kingdom of e Food and 

Celebrating the Food and Culinary History of Disneyland

 By Marcy Smothers

 John Lasseter

Happily Ever Afterward 
Tom Fitzgerald


I'm pretty sure Sara Moulton is one of the friendliest and most knowledgable chefs/television personalities/cookbook authors we've welcomed as a guest At the Table. I could have dished with her for hours. She makes home cooking fun and easy. No pretense and plenty of tips. Plus she worked with Julia Child for years - oh, the stories!

Listen to the podcast here


I am a McGee Geek. And proud of it. I have pored over and consulted his books for years. When I wrote my book, Snacks: Adventures in Food, Aisle by Aisle, Harold was gracious answering all of my queries. 
Every chef I know has a copy of On Food and Cooking in his/her kitchen. 
You should, too. 
This is one of my favorite At the Table interviews - ever. Listen here:
At the Table with Harold McGee