I was, in fact, a Disney kid. When I was 8, my father took a job working for Disneyland Paris, which was not in Paris at all, but in Chessy, about 20 miles east of the city. This was the early 1990s, during the renaissance years for Disney animation — the years of “Aladdin,” “The Lion King” and “Beauty and the Beast.”
Before the park officially opened, my family stayed in each of the American-themed hotels for a couple of nights, eating at all of the restaurants and answering detailed questionnaires about each meal. I’d never been to the United States, and without any understanding of these foods and their origins, I ate black bean soup and tortilla chips at the Santa Fe-themed hotel, and oysters Rockefeller in a replica of the Rainbow Room in the New York-themed hotel.
I could have lived on the park’s warm caramel popcorn, the smell of which was pumped into the air at several key points in the park, and which I can accurately conjure now, if I take a deep enough breath. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that my first Oreo milkshake — from Annette’s Diner in Disney Village, where most of the servers worked on roller skates — shifted the course of my life.
I don’t usually say all that, though, because it sounds absurd. And did I really enjoy the food, or did the exhaustion and frustration of the theme park put me in such an emotionally fragile place that I clung to the pleasures of a milkshake? There’s no way to know what effect a few years of extremely high Disney doses had on me.
The brand’s culinary reference points can be just as vivid and enduring as its characters and stories. Chad Wright and Venessa Hinojosa-Wright met in 2009 while they were working at Disney World. They were later married there, and put Disney’s sweet potato pancakes on their wedding brunch menu.
This content was originally published here.