As all Americans and baseball fans know, October is a vital, trying month– we all look to it, we all search for it, we sometimes rue it when it finally arrives. This is because we are now in the season of the EPCOT International Food and Wine Festival.
More than any of its Florida parks, Disney tends to kind of shove EPCOT aside with its foot, this astoundingly futuristic attraction that reeks 1985 like smell waves coming off my perm. If you lean your head very close next to Spaceship Earth, you can actually hear nobody drinking New Coke.
I have a soft spot in my shriveled little playoff-denied heart for the Food and Wine Festival, because, in my bachelorette days, I worked it for Robert Mondavi Wineries. I was in charge of holding a microphone in one hand and a bunch of grapes in the other and saying, “Welcome to Vine to Wine! We’re fermentably glad to see you!” Everybody hated me, especially me.
The fun part was that on our lunch hour, my co-workers and I walked around EPOCT like any old tourists, except we were against the world as a whole slightly more and were far more inclined to burst into tears. I was mostly traumatized, however, by how peanut sauce followed around causing trouble. Lookit: I like peanuts, alone or with friends. I like peanut butter. I do not like peanut sauce. A hard thing like a peanut simply should not be putting in appearances as a liquid thing like a sauce. It defies physics, common law, and all that is decent.
I do not blame the peanut for this. The peanut is but an innocent bystander. It is the fault of people who create such scenarios as the following:
I’m in grad school. I’m starving. I go to the cafeteria, which has not served actual red meat since the Truman administration. I load up on a dish labeled “Chicken a la King.” I sit. I dig in. I take a huge mouthful of… Tofu in peanut sauce.
In and of themselves, these things are not “food” but “semi-food,” or “spackle,” which separately taste like “crap.” Together, they taste like megacrap. Those sitting across from me said they had never seen a human being process so many emotions in such little time: Shock, followed by dismay, followed by horror, followed by furor, followed by nausea, all in a one-second interval.
So when my EPCOT co-workers converged on a Japanese food vendor selling pork on a stick dipped in peanut sauce, I indicated that I’d rather not partake as only a classy lady such as myself could (this involved taking a swig of Gatorade and feigning a nice long vomit upon nearby bushes, accompanying sound effects included.) I sat nearby and opened a package of crackers, ingesting peanuts in a peanut butter form, as God intended.
-Once we attended a cooking demonstration where I learned many things, among them the fact that a “scallion” is not a piece of Canadian sporting equipment, but a type of onion. Who knew.
The recipe involved slapping chicken breasts in a bowl of cocoa powder, pouring wine over everything, and using some sort of malicious-looking liquid identified as a “demi-glace,” which until yesterday I 100% thought was a stripper stage name. We all had a taste. Everyone nodded and burst into applause, which I couldn’t join, as I was too busy on Personal Hurl Patrol, because: Chocolate and chicken. Are we running out of food combinations now? Am I supposed to mix tuna with blueberry Icees for Lent?
Also: What an utter waste of perfectly good dark chocolate, which the recipe says you’re supposed to shave and grind up and all.
The demonstration was narrated by a very hyper, very annoying woman who skipped right over all the hard-to-understand chefy things the chef guy was doing, like how to peel a tomato, (he peeled a tomato!) what the whole deal was with this demi-glace business, and how the chef guy managed to not cleaver this woman’s face off. But the Idiotically Obvious Stuff, the kind of crap even I can pull off, oh, we got a play by play of that. “And so,” she said as Chef Guy rolled the chicken breasts in the chocolate, “you’re just rolling the chicken breasts in the chocolate. You’re picking up the chicken fillets, placing them in the bowl, and you’re coating them with the chocolate, and then you’re putting them in the skillet. You’re just taking that chicken there, and kind of dipping it in the bowl. The chocolate is covering the chicken. And then—“
Because a huge mirror was suspended over the cooking area so that food plebes such as myself could marvel at the chickenization of the chocolate, we could see that Chef Guy’s white paper chef hat had four holes cut out of the top of it, which I found highly disturbing. Why? Was this a kindergarten snowflake project gone horribly wrong? Was it a fashion statement? Was he venting something out into space? But I never heard anything about it, because at EPCOT, you’re only permitted to understand the life mysteries they’re willing to explain to you, such as what happens when you try to grow lettuce without soil. (Hope you’re enjoying your vacation, kids!!)
My favorite part of the cooking demonstration, however, remains the guy who wandered past the pavilion and screamed, “DO IT EMERIL!”
-I was forced to be amused by sort of animatronics show called “Food Rocks,” in which a dancing milk carton and a singing peach told me, here at the Food and Wine Festival, not to eat rich and fatty foods. The attraction also featured a pineapple with a terrifying mustache that played the piano. This made me sad, and also afraid.
“Food Rocks” shut down later that winter. I can’t imagine why.
Proud aunt Mary Beth Ellis is a freelance writer and college teacher who lives in Cincinnati, OH. Her home site, BlondeChampagne.com, has existed in at least some form since 2003, and Mary Beth has been a regular columnist with one publication or another from the age of 16. Her first book, Drink to the Lasses, was published in 2006. She currently teaches college, runs personal wine tastings, gives literary readings, and stares into the middle distance.