Tuesday, October 19, 2010

What Mickey Mouse and Julia Child Have in Common

It’s been a while since I updated this blog. I would have posted sooner, but I didn’t have much access to the internet in the last week.  The connection jack in my room at the resort was broken.  I have to admit, this is one of the very few negatives in my family’s vacation at Disney World.

Our week at “The World” was fabulous.  We stayed at the Coronado Springs resort, visited all the parks, and we reflected on Disney’s commitment to creating the best possible experience for their guests. 

I really can’t say enough about the service and friendliness at Walt Disney World.  The staff at every restaurant would bend over backward to make sure we received everything that our dining plan entitled us to – that is if we should foolishly think of skipping out without dessert.  On one occasion, as I waited at a counter for the server to retrieve part of my meal, a man bussing tables spotted me standing all alone.  He stopped his cart and asked aghast, “Is nobody helping you?!”  I assured him I had been helped and my dinner was on the way.  The entire staff – sorry, cast – were not only friendly and helpful, but gracious in assisting us as we navigated the parks.

This grace rubs off on the guests.  I was astounded to watch the interaction between other Disney vacationers each night as we rode packed buses from park back to resort.  We tired, sweaty, smelly guests who had every reason to be irritable at this time of the exhausting day were instead happy and friendly, offering each other our seats and making pleasant conversation.  All family, if only for a few moments.

Now you might be thinking cynically that Disney is also a company that has perfected the fine art of bringing in big dollars.  You would be right.  Without question, they know well how to turn a profit.  But they also know how to earn it and are willing to do so in a manner unheard of in today’s business climate where the golden rule is to give as little as possible while charging all you can.  Disney makes a priority of going above and beyond expectations to give their guests, including us, a brilliant experience.  Sorry if I’m sounding like an advertisement, but I really can’t remember when I’ve been more impressed.

So what does any of this have to do with Julia Child?  Recently I was reading Child’s autobiography, My Life in France.  As she and her partners were working on Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Child herself was concerned about the viability of such a meticulous work when “American supermarkets were . . . full of products labeled “gourmet” that were not; instant cake mixes, TV dinners, frozen vegetables, canned mushrooms.”  In her homeland, more and more foods and mixes and equipment were being packaged to make food preparation easier, though not necessarily better.  Convenience was becoming the slogan for American housewives and cooks. 

Child’s recipes, however, were complex and detailed – intended for those who were willing to pour their energies into something wonderful.  Though she acknowledged that her “recipes did not appeal to the TV-dinner-and-cake-mix set,” Child’s work was about giving the necessary effort to make something spectacular.  Her book is an implicit argument for putting the extra time and application into creating the finest.

Many of the recipes I have made and will make for this blog have speed and easiness at their heart.  That isn’t a bad thing.  But some things are just worth the extra effort.  In fact, many things in our lives are worth the time and trouble to do well, rather than just adequately.  I hope we will recognize and embrace this fact, and choose those things to which we will give our best.

Something else that Julia Child and Walt Disney had in common was that they seemed to know and value living well.  They were dreamers who embraced the variety and wonder of their entire world.  Between them, they created exceptional food and enchanting experiences that they share with the rest of us even today.  If I take away no other lesson, I hope to learn this.

Truth be told, I didn’t ignore the blog last week solely because I lacked internet access.  In typical Disney fashion, the jack was fixed within a few hours of my reporting it.  I just didn’t use it.  I guess I could have posted.  But I decided it would be far more productive to go and have a bunch of great experiences than to sit in the room trying to write about them.  I decided that living would be something I choose to do well.  I hope you will too.

Since I don’t have a recipe for this entry, I thought you might enjoy the following video.  It came from Spaceship Earth in Epcot.  The video is generated by answers to questions given on a touch screen.  Most of our answers were selected by my son.  He can’t read yet, but I think he did pretty well.

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