Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The So-Far Unattainable Peanut Butter Leads to an Attainable Idea

Growing up for a few years as a tyke at Walt Disney World, Mom, Dad and I sometimes went there during the week just for dinner, in addition to going every weekend. Occasionally, we'd have dinner at The Land Pavilion in EPCOT, where I'd add another Mickey-as-the-Sorcerer's-Apprentice figurine to my collection from the kids' meal they offered, which was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and whatever else they offered. I've long forgotten what else was included, because I'm obsessed with finding that peanut butter and making that exact sandwich. (I will also search for that jelly (or jam), but it's a minor consideration at the moment.)

Many years later, whenever Dad and I walked the back end of our Coral Springs neighborhood some nights, passing J.P. Taravella High School, there was a small wooden walkway in place of actual sidewalk in one section, and as we'd walk over it, I'd smell a hint of cigarette smoke from someone who was either there right before us, or even the day before us. Cigarette smoke seemed to linger in that area. Not heavily, but you knew it was there. And whenever I smelled it, it took me right back to Walt Disney World when I was in a stroller and people still smoked throughout the park. It never spurred me on to take up the habit, and I never will, but that peanut butter and jelly sandwich is just like that for me, though far more safer for my health.

I tried asking on the MiceChat Walt Disney World message board, but no luck. Only a few vague answers (Not secretive, but those people were trying to conjure up an answer that wasn't there), the suggestion of Skippy peanut butter being used, and the revelation that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at The Land are now Smuckers Uncrustables. I'm disappointed at that last part because those sandwiches were really special to me. The peanut butter did not taste anything like what we'd buy from Publix or Winn-Dixie. At that age, I just liked those sandwiches, but now, thinking about it in my attempt to search for it, I almost think it was made especially for Walt Disney World, like this kind of peanut butter could not be found anywhere else. It wasn't crunchy peanut butter, I remember that, but even as the smooth kind, it didn't have a hint of sugar. It was straight peanuts made into peanut butter, and it had a certainty about it, a determined taste, like it knew what it was there for and it would not disappoint you. Not that it had any emotional investment in a person's satisfaction with it, but it just seemed that way to me.

There's one thing I plan to try. For the past three years, a blogger named A.J. has run The Disney Food Blog. I've checked for posts about peanut butter and while there has been some mention of peanut butter sandwiches, it's just been listings of kids' menus at certain places that have it, but nothing in detail about peanut butter. Over the next few days (whenever I pull myself away from my book research), I'm going to e-mail A.J. to see if she knows anything about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at Walt Disney World in the late '80s/early '90s based on her own work, or knows of any other Disney foodies who know. I've got to know. I want that taste again.

Because of this quest, I've come up with an idea for yet another book. It won't be about this, but it will be Walt Disney World-related. That's all I'm going to say about it right now because I wouldn't be surprised if this book is already being written by someone else. Every day I visit some website related to the Disney parks, and it's obvious I still have a deep love for all things Disney, which would have to remain since I was born into this.

But without Walt Disney World, I would not have had my first book published last year. I would not be writing entries in this blog. I would not be a writer. Having started reading when I was two years old had something to do with it, but Walt Disney World expanded my imagination, demonstrating that dreams exist side-by-side with reality all the time. I lost count of how many times I went on the Tomorrowland Transit Authority just to sit there, watch the scenery around and below me, and just dream. I watch videos of it on YouTube, going back into that same frame of mind. I use it as inspiration whenever I need it. Sometimes I just watch those videos and mull over my book, thinking of what interview questions to ask those I need as part of my book, thinking of how to frame the chapters, thinking of other details about the making of the Airport movies that would be good for the book.

I need to thank Walt Disney World for what it did for me, for giving me a path to follow in my life, one that has made me very happy, even with all the sometimes-difficult work involved. I get up every morning, I think about the work still to be done for Mayday! Mayday!: The Making of the Airport Movies, and the books I want to write in the future, and I'm excited to get started on another day of work.

I think this book will clearly and passionately express that, though it won't be the love letter you might expect it to be. It'll be squarely about one of my very favorite attractions there, the creation of it, the changes made over the years, and I think if some of the creative team involved in those changes are still around, there'll be some very interesting stories to unearth. My undying love for my former home (essentially it was, with every weekend spent there) will be found throughout this book by the story I want to tell. I'm thinking of making this my third book, despite the Las Vegas history that I had planned to be my third book. I want to be back at Walt Disney World, and though I can't be there physically right now, this is the other best way to do it.


  1. If you want to go to Disney World, you can use my house as your hotel. I have an extra bedroom with a queen-sized bed, and I hear the cook is quite good. You'd have about a two-hour drive to Orlando, but a free room might make the drive worthwhile. Or not, considering the price of gas.


  2. I've got to get back to work, so I don't have a chance to read the whole post, but I wanted to tell you I grew up in Kendall and had a ton of friends in college who went to JP Taravella HS in Coral Springs. It's a small world afterall.

  3. I grew up in Gainesville, Florida. Went to Disney World a couple of times and loved it. But that was in the early '70's, before they even built EPCOT Center, and I never had those peanut butter and jelly sandwiches you mention.

    I've been wanting to go back for years, but live in Arizona now, so have had to "make do" with Disneyland, which is also awesome, but undoubtedly a whole different experience.

  4. P.S. Dropped in after reading your beautiful post on Janie Junebug's site. Any tips on how I can get my kids to be as kind and decent to each other as you are with your sister? As it is, they fight pretty much constantly.... no fun for any of us.

  5. Janie: I've got a few years before I consider such a trip. I have to get my second book done, proposed, and hopefully published by the time I turn 30, as is my goal. Then, while finally with a full-time job in Henderson (which I think will happen not long after we get there), I want to begin considering my lifetime goal of visiting all the presidential libraries in the nation, and which one outside of California I want to visit first (I covered Reagan and Nixon already). Plus, there's the trips I want to take to New Mexico to explore all of it. I'm debating whether to go while I'm writing that third book since it'll be mostly history-heavy, but it might be worth it either as inspiration, if I'm still working on that book, or to see what's changed, if I'm done with it by then.

    Stephanie: Did any of them go to Riverside Elementary and have either Mrs. Bird for 2nd grade, Mr. Dexter for 3rd grade, Ms. Abrams for 4th grade or Mrs. Douglas for 5th grade? A lot of my classmates teased me endlessly during those years and cruel as they were, I'd like to express my very slight appreciation for that. That is if they're your friends, though I doubt it because being a fan of your blog already and knowing your writing, it doesn't seem possible. But that teasing did make me stronger and is probably what helped build the stamina that I now use to work on my second book.

    LegalMist:, I think I'd peg my years at WDW as '87-'92. My sister was born in Orlando and her first visit was when she was nine days old. We were, and still are, Disney fanatics. In fact, my favorite movie is Mary Poppins and my third-favorite movie is The Jungle Book. Plus we own nearly every animated movie on DVD, and my favorite movie when I was growing up was Flight of the Navigator.

    My most vivid memory of Walt Disney World at that time, besides getting to know well the fabric of the roof of my rented stroller, was when my parents and I went to EPCOT Center to renew our annual passes. I must have been 3 or 4, and I had a bunny blanket with me, a small blanket with a bunny head on top. As Mom and Dad talked to the person at the ticket counter, wherever it was, fireworks were going off and I was scared of them, pressing the right side of my head to my Mom's leg and pressing the bunny blanket to my left side.

    I've done the same with Disneyland once in a great while. My favorite ride at WDW was Space Mountain (my favorite land was Tomorrowland), to the extent that I have the music from the entrance as an mp3 and other Space Mountain-related soundtracks too. At Disneyland, I found that Space Mountain severely lacking (It's said that upon finding out how popular the Orlando Space Mountain was, Anaheim crammed its Space Mountain into whatever space it had, hence having to go up to that second floor to get in line), and my favorite attraction became The Haunted Mansion, which I worship because when riding it, I can create my own stories about the ghosts. I don't like it during Haunted Mansion Holiday time because the characters from Nightmare Before Christmas are there and the story's already been told.

  6. When we arrived in Southern California in April 2003 for job interviews for my dad, we first went to a motel in Anaheim that was horrendous (We switched to a hotel across from Van Nuys Executive Airport), and on the way in, I saw the monorail go right by. It was a shock because in Orlando, you have to drive a few miles before you even begin to see monorail track, and even then, it's high up. It also helped that WDW is truly its own property, whereas Disneyland has to content with the city council over there whenever they want to expand. That's why Walt Disney wanted Orlando. He wanted carte blanche to do whatever he liked, though sadly he died in 1969, two years before the park opened.

    As to your kids, what sets them off against each other? I'm curious, because that seems to be an awful waste of time to be constantly battling each other. Do they have anything in common that you could try to use to bring them closer?