Vegan @ Disney: Spice Road Table

If you like Mediterranean food at all,  you power it to yourself to stop of in”Morocco” the next time you’re at Epcot. Make reservations at the Spice Road Table. 

I had a great available to me on-menu: delicious hummus and olives for an appetizer, and a wonderful veggie sampler for my entree, including

  • Hummus fries (similar to falafel, but subtly different) That were perfectly crisp on the outside yet soft on the inside,  with just a hint of spice
  • Vegetable dolmas (grape leaf wraps) with a savory and slightly sweety taste from the pine nuts and pumped raisins on top
  • Couscous with a delightfully rich flavor
  • And plenty of warm pita bread

I left feeling quite full,  and I’m a big eater (literally:  I’m 2 meters, or 6’7″, tall).

The mint tea was delicious: very light and refreshing after a warm day of park walking.

Our waiter, Saleem, was amazing, and made sure our 3 year old had familiar food.

Final word:  don’t miss it.  This was the best of the restaurants for service and flavor, and it had some amazing competition.

Vegan @ Disney: Liberty Tree Tavern

Not pictured: the best sandwich I’ve ever eaten.  I’m really bad at food photography.

We went to the Magic Kingdom two days during our Disney World trip. On the first day, we ate at Cinderella’s Castle. But that’s an expensive, once-per-trip (at most) expedition. We went with something more low-key (and less expensive), The Liberty Tree Tavern.

Like Cinderella’s Castle, Liberty Tree had a few great vegan options on the main menu. We had corn fritters for an appetizer, and I ate the “Vegetarian Proclamation” sandwich. It was amazing, just filled with seasonal vegetables like squash and zucchini and mushrooms. The entire flavor was just too good. I said “I want to just stay here and eat more of these sandwiches all day. I don’t need any more rides.”

Needless to say, we left and did more rides. But the sandwich was just that good.

This isn’t a very expensive meal by Disney standards, but you will need reservations. There just isn’t really any way to get a walk-in.

Vegan @ Disney:  Cinderella’s Castle 

I probably should have taken the picture before I cut into it. 

Cinderella’s Castle is a great experience if you have kids who are into princesses and  want to get closer to them and get their signatures.

Instead of standing in long lines for a meet and greet, we made reservations,  enjoyed a wonderful meal, and let the princesses come to us. We met Cinderella in the entryway, and Aurora, Ariel, Snow White, and Jasmine (in her new, improved outfit, a beautifully embroidered dress) at the meal. 

That said,  it’s an expensive meal,  and it’s very hard to get reservations  (you need to make them months in advance), but it’s a great experience.

I told the check in staff that I had a food restriction, and our waiter asked about it first thing and brought us a special version of the menu that had allergen information listed. 

They didn’t have an on menu vegan appetizer, but they had no problem fixing me a tasty salad to start with. I ate some pickles and olives from my wife’s appetizer,  but I don’t care about cross-contamination. I know most vegans do, and these olives had touched meat. 

They had a great vegan entree on the main menu, the portabella, couscous, and veggie creation above. At first taste, it seemed bland,  but within seconds a bounty of subtle flavors bloomed across my tongue.

They had a great on menu vegan dessert, too: lemon sorbet with the biggest blueberries I’ve ever seen. The sorbet was just tart enough to be refreshing,  just sweet enough to be delicious. 

If you or your kiddos want to meet the princesses, Cinderella’s Castle is well worth the time and money.  The food is great, and the princesses come to your table and take the time to talk to your kids, post for pictures,  and sign autographs.

Disney Trip Reflections

Just a few things I noticed about taking a week long Disney vacation: 

Either stay at a place with a microwave or commit to spending big for every meal (big by Mississippi standards, at least). 

Disney table service restaurants that take reservations are worth it, especially for vegans. They’re more money, but the food is really good, many have characters for your kids to meet, and they’ll take care of any allergies or restrictions. 

The quick service places are less money,  but the vegan options are often quite meh., and small to boot. If I’m eating a shredded cabbage and edamame sandwich, which had very few calories, doesn’t it stand to reason that I’ll at least need a decent-sized sandwich?

Pack less.

Always bring a portable charger for your cell phones. We used this Moko charger, and it was great. It does passthrough charging and can charge two devices at once. 

Bring good shoes. It won’t be enough to keep the pain away, but it will make it manageable. 

Take a day off in the middle. Swim at the hotel’s pool.  Take in a movie. Sleep late. Heal. This is the one thing we should have file,  but didn’t. 

I’ll write more about this later, I’m sure,  but that’s enough for now. 

Walkin’ Across (Disney) World 


Like I said earlier,  we’re going to Disney World pretty soon. 

In addition to finding vegan food options,  the big question plaguing me is, “Hey,  I work a desk job.  How am I going to walk all over Disney for six days without calling apart? ”

I’m going to have to find a really good pair of size 15 walking shoes,  the kind that are good for very heavy men, and then I’m going to have to start walking everyday. 

I’ll need to start small,  and build up from there. Perhaps start with half a kilometer/a quarter mile. 

Then I’ll work up by maybe one-tenth mile per day until I’m walking a mile every outing. 

I’ll also need to spend more time on my feet, stand as much as I can,  and walk multiple times each day. That may be more important that how far I walk in one outing. 

As to how I’m going to do this alongside everything else I need and want to get done, well, that’s the hard part. 

Planning a Disney Trip: Vegan Options


So we’re planning a trip to Disney World in Florida, one my wife has almost entirely paid for via clever use of credit card reward points programs.

So in addition to buying  new walking shoes and training for the many miles we will walk each day,  we’ve been researching just how I’m going to find something to eat. 

Fortunately, “The happiest place on earth” generally knows how to take care of vegans (And anyone with dietary restrictions,  whether they’re religious, allergies,  our whatever).

I’ll go through park by park in a later post, but today I’ll start with a few universals.

Disclaimer:  I’m still planning my trip,  so all this info is second-hand. 

  • popcorn (it’s not real butter) 
  • pretzels 
  • Anything made with Gardien Chick’n
  • Sorbets
  • Dole pineapple whips
  • Most of the quick serve places have at least something you can eat
  • Use the Disney app to check the menus ahead of time

Any nice sit down restaurant or buffet IF you tell them when you make your reservations and again when you get there

Basically, any place that takes reservations will take care of you if you ask. You should ask in advance if you can,  but I’ve read several accounts of vegans having good experiences even without calling ahead. 

Sources:

The Disney World app. Seriously. 

PETA has a good info page on Disney vegan options. (regardless of some of their questionable actions over the years).

The Vegan Disney World blog is also great. 

Five Great Things About Microfinance

1) It builds wealth in the poorest countries. Some problems are problems of wealth distribution. But in many developing nations, the problem is a lack of wealth, period.Looking around Kiva’s website, I see many nations where the average yearly salary is less than my monthly take-home pay … and I work in education, not medicine or law.

Microfinance can help both situations, because it helps people create and expand small businesses and farms. This means more genuine goods and services delivered where they are needed most.

And nations with strong middle classes are much more resistant to manipulation and exploitation by large corporations and corrupt government officials. These loans don’t help Exxon or Goldman-Sachs. They help families.

2) It helps women especially. In many male-dominated societies, microfinance is one of, if not the, only way for women to get the capital to start businesses. And having their own businesses, and their own money, helps put women on an even footing with men. This can have a powerful equalizing effect on society.

3) It helps children, too. Families with small businesses can often afford to send their kids to school, rather than keeping them out to work. Many of the loan requests I’ve read on Kiva mention that very thing. The more kids stay in school, the fewer end up as child brides, child soldiers, child prostitutes, or, more commonly, unskilled laborers living lives of poverty.

4) It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Because you’re making a tiny loan, and not giving a donation, the entrepreneur will repay it in time. Then you’ll be able to take that same money and lend it out to someone else. You can keep the same money in circulation or you can add more each month, creating a snowball effect.

5) It’s cheap. The cost of entry is only $25 on Kiva, the world’s leading microfinance operation. And once it’s repaid, you have the option of taking your money back. So you’ve got very little to lose. Why not head over to Kiva (or to WorldVision’s microfinance department) and check it out?

I Didn’t Build This

During the campaign, the President made a lot of people mad by pointing out that every business owed its success to factors beyond its founders’ brains and hard work. He used the ill-worded (and frankly insulting) phrase, “You didn’t build this.”

Thanks to the wide availability of video-editing software, we got to hear that clip again and again and again. Well, once more won’t kill you.

Okay, now that you’ve watched it, let me ask a question. I promise it’s related.

We have so much. So why do we begrudge every tax dollar that goes to the poor? Why do we cling so tightly to the idea that we have earned all we have?

Maybe it reminds us that all we have comes from God, that we could just as easily have been born in Sri Lanka, in a village with no clean water, and helplessly watched our siblings, and later our children, die of cholera or dysentery.

We could have been born in Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia, and been caught in the genocide of their civil wars.

We could have been born in North Korea, and been crushed under the boot of a multi-generational dictatorship.

We could have been born to a fourteen year old single mother in an inner city, a girl who might read at a fourth grade level. To a mother that will never finish high school, will have no support from the father, and who may or may not have support from her family.

We could have been that young mother. A mother who will have to live on welfare and what little she can earn without a degree, and who will forever earn the scorn of respectable middle-class American Evangelicals as a “welfare queen.”

But we weren’t. We were born to families that didn’t have to worry about contaminated water, or genocide, or secret police, or grinding poverty and alienation. We were born in a country with the rule of law, modern infrastructure, and functioning social safety nets.

We didn’t choose to be born in the developed world, nor did we build it prior to our birth. And we didn’t build our parents, or choose them. Heh, maybe John Calvin isn’t 100% wrong, after all. We didn’t build these things in our home countries, but we can help build them in the developing world, through organizations like World Vision.

So, yeah, the President’s right (as much as I like to criticize him).

I didn’t build this. God did.

No matter how much hard work I put into, well, anything, I would have had no chance if I’d been born just one continent away. And the ugly truth is, neither would you.

Why Donate There, and not Here?

In response to my last post, I had a very legitimate question asked: Why donate to World Vision, presumably overseas, when there are so many people in America that are in need?

(My response ended up being longer than most of my posts, so I decided to make it its own post. I thought it would be easier to read that way. I’ll say right up front that Laura Tremaine has already said all this better than I can).

First, you can have it both ways. There are several World Vision operations within the United States. For example, this entire section deals with US-based needs: school supplies, food, general toiletries and necessities. And there’s no conflict between supporting local charities and international ones.

But I don’t want to dodge the question. The bottom line is, $500 is not a life-changing amount of money in the U.S. Not for anyone. But it is life-changing for people in Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, or Uzbekistan, where it represents four months’ wages for the average worker … and the aid often goes to those who are not average, but in the greatest need.

Through an operation like World Vision, $500 can be the difference between clean water and contaminated water (Americans don’t have to worry about their children dying because they drank unsanitary water and contracted cholera), education and child labor (Americans don’t work full-time at age 8) or even child marriage or slavery. Here, $500 is nice. It’s a decent laptop, an iPad, or a couple of semester’s worth of college textbooks. There, it’s enough to change lives.

The magnitude of impact of a limited sum of money is so much greater where the need is greater, that it just makes sense. I don’t think, from a Christian perspective, that Americans have more intrinsic value than people in other nations.

And the need is so much greater there. We live in a fairly well-developed welfare state, one where emergency rooms have to treat anyone who comes in, regardless of ability to pay. One where WIC gives food to pregnant mothers and mothers with children. One where food stamps and unemployment insurance and social security and medicare and medicaid all provide a certain level of mandated support.

Yes, life is hard at that level, but there is clean water, free and mandatory public schooling for children, prohibitions on child labor, no significant threat of malaria or cholera, and food available. “Hunger,” as defined in the United States, is nothing like the life-and-death starvation that faces many of the poorest of the poor in developing nations. It’s a cliche, but it’s worth noticing: in America, the poor are disproportionately obese, not rail-thin.

The impact is greatest where the need is greatest. And that’s there, not here.