Category Archives: USA

National Potato Chips Day (USA)

Boulogne-Sur Mer Moules et Frites

“Everything (in the UK) comes with chips, which are French fries. You put vinegar on them.  Cookies are biscuits and potato chips are crisps” – Scott Walters

March 14th in the USA is Potato Chips Day which I confess makes me smirk because in the USA they don’t even know what a potato chip is so I am going to take a look at how people prefer to eat their chips and watch out because I am going to award points for style.

I posted previously on eating fried potatoes in a Friterie in Northern France so it is only really polite to start with our nearest continental neighbours.

Friteries are a feature of this part of northern Europe and are a simple place, usually outside on wooden benches, to buy and eat French fries accompanied by a selection of traditional sauces and accompaniments.  The thin strips of potato are fried twice, first to drive out the moisture and second to achieve the essential golden crispness of the French Fry.

You might expect the French, along with close neighbours the Belgians and the Dutch to know a thing or two about chips and they do make a good job of cooking them it has to be grudgingly said but as soon as they are served up they demonstrate a dreadful lack of culinary style and taste.

French Fries with Mayonnaise

They immediately apply a dollop of horribly sloppy mayonnaise!

Now mayonnaise is fine on lettuce leaves or as an ingredient in a McDonalds burger, it gives them a bit of taste after all, but it really shouldn’t be smeared all over a helping of lovingly prepared  potato chips and I am reminded here about a scene from the film Pulp Fiction and a conversation between Jules and Vincent…

… “Do you know what they put on their French Fries in Holland instead of Ketchup?”  – “What? “ – “Mayonnaise” – “No Way.” – “Yes, I’ve seen them do it man they f*****g drown them in that s**t.”

Marks out of 10 for the French and the Belgians and the Dutch – 6 and that includes a bonus point because (as you can see in the first picture) at least they call them chips!

However, if you think that is bad then let’s cross the River Rhine into Germany where they serve up a variation called pommes rot-weis (potatoes red and white) named rather unimaginatively it is said after the colour scheme on level-crossing barriers and this toxic combination is achieved by smothering the poor chips in not just the evil mayonnaise but a good slug of tomato ketchup for good measure which has the effect of turning the classic dish into a sort of Salvador Dali gastro-interpretation.

I don’t know about the colour of level crossing barriers more like the rags and blood of a barbers pole if you ask me.

Marks out of 10 for the Germans – 4.

pommesrotweissgal

As I mentioned in my previous post Spain makes a creditable claim to be origin of chips so let’s head south now across the Pyrenees into Iberia.

Spain has patatas aioli which is a mayonnaise with garlic and having already dismissed mayonnaise as inappropriate then the addition of the foul tasting noxious onion bulb is not going to improve it one taste bud notch in my opinion; and then there is patatas bravas with a spicy sauce whose ingredients vary from region to region.

Generally I am a big fan of Spanish Tapas but my recommendation would have to be to avoid the patatas bravas at all costs.

patatas-bravas

I have two issues with them. First of all they don’t even look like chips and instead of being long and slender they are served in solid lumps of fried potato and secondly the bravas sauce is often so fierce that it completely spoils the dish all together and you can add to that the fact that it frequently (depending on region) includes a whole host of odd ingredients such as chorizo, baked chicken or fried fish, none of which in my opinion should be anywhere near a sauce for simple chips –  if you want to muck about with vegetables then stick to pumpkins.

Marks out of 10 for the Spanish – 3.

Hastily retreating to the United Kingdom I am first going to head north to Scotland despite the fact that Scots deep fry chocolate so cannot really be taken seriously in a cooking sense.  In Glasgow and Edinburgh they have a fondness for gravy with chips and I find that odd because in my culinary opinion gravy should only really be served up with the weekly Sunday roast.

smiffy-s

Having said that it is really rather tasty so marks out of 10 for the Scots – 7.

Which brings me back rather neatly to England and especially my home town, the fishing port of Grimsby.  They know a thing or two about chips in Grimsby let me tell you and there is a chip shop in every street – sometimes two and people there know best how to cook them and to eat them.

grimsby-fish-and-chips

Never mind the fancy restaurant trend for twice or even thrice fried potatoes they just cut them up and sling them in a vat of boiling fat or preferably beef dripping and then serve them piping hot and crispy on the outside with delicate fluffy middles with the only two accompaniments that chips really need – a generous sprinkle of salt and lashings of good vinegar.  No mayonnaise, no gravy, no tomato sauce and definitely no curry!

chips

Marks out of 10 for the English – 10 – of course.

So what about the USA you might ask.  Well to be honest I have dismissed the New World completely.  Is that fair?  Challenge me if you dare!

Whilst I am prepared to concede that they know how to prepare French Fries in McDonalds and other similar places the bottom line is simply this – they don’t even know what chips are, they think they come in a foil packet.   Americans please take note – these are not potato chips they are potato crisps!

Potato Chips (Crisps)

My research informs me that in Australia they cannot make their minds up whether they are potato crisps or potato chips.  Let me help my antipodean pals on this point – these are potato crisps!

Anyway marks out of 10 for the USA – 0.  This might seem a little harsh but the rules are that you have got to compare apples with apples!

So let’s finally go north to Canada

“in Eastern Canada there is poutine with curds of cheese and gravy. None for me thanks but there people are gaga for the stuff”…

My blogging pal Sue from “Travel Tales of Life”

Graphic content warning – do not proceed beyond this point if you have a weak stomach or are of a nervous disposition…

…because this is Poutine from Canada…

Poutine

When I first heard of this I was convinced that it was some sort of wind-up, but apparently not, you can even get it in McDonalds, but thankfully only in Canada…

McDonalds Poutine

Try eating that in your car without making a mess of your shirt and trousers while you are driving.

Marks out of 10 for Canada – minus 10

Anyway, enough of all this, let me tell you my favourite.  In this picture taken in France my mum has gone for the tomato ketchup option and is wagging her fry around to prove it.  Alan has kept things simple and luckily is not wagging his fry at anyone, my brother Richard, who has a bit of a reputation for wagging his fry, has gone for the classic salt and vinegar combo and although I am not in the picture (obviously I was taking it) you can clearly see my preferred accompaniment is a bottle of cold beer – just don’t mistake it for the vinegar and pour it over the chips!

So, over to you, How Do You Eat Yours, what is your favourite accompaniment?

Wissant Friterie France

More About Chips, Crisps or Fries (and Bananas)

National Pizza Day in the USA

53 Naples Pizza

“Hey Mom, they have pizza in Italy too!”  American tourist family overheard in Rome

February 9th in the USA is National Pizza Day. 

First, the facts…

… Over four billion pizzas are sold in America every year, 17% of all restaurants are pizzerias, including Italy at World Showcase at Disney World at EPCOT and around about three hundred and fifty pizza slices are eaten every second. Pepperoni is the most popular pizza at just over one-third of all pies ordered.

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s Amore” (Harry Warren/Jack Brooks)

pizza-tonight-when-the-moon-hits-your-eye-like-a-big-pizza-pie-h2cg4e

When I was a boy growing up we didn’t have pizza!

For my Mum preparing food took up a lot of every day because there were no convenience meals and everything had to be prepared from scratch.  There was complete certainty about the menu because we generally had the same thing at the same time on the same day every week, there were no foreign foods at all, no pasta or curries and rice was only ever used in puddings.

The main meal of the week was Sunday dinner which was usually roast beef, pork or lamb (chicken was a rare treat and a turkey was only for Christmas) served with roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, which for some reason mum always called batter puddings, and strictly only seasonal vegetables because runner beans weren’t flown in from Kenya all year round as they are today.

We had never heard of moussaka, paella or lasagne and the week had a predictable routine; Monday was the best of the left-over meat served cold with potatoes and on Tuesday the tough bits were boiled up in a stew (we would call that bouef bourguignon now) and on Wednesday what was left was minced and cooked with onions and served with mash and in this way one good joint of meat provided four main meals with absolutely no waste.  Thursday was my personal favourite, fried egg and chips and Friday was my nightmare day with liver or kidneys because I liked neither (and still don’t!)  I complained so much about this that later I was allowed the concession of substituting sausage for liver but I was still obliged to have the gravy (which I didn’t care for much either) on the basis that ‘it was good for me!’

If we had been Catholics then we would have had fish I suppose but we didn’t have things out of the sea very often except for fish fingers.

I can still remember my very first pizza and I consider myself fortunate that it was in Italy, in 1976, my first ever overseas holiday when I visited Sorrento with my dad.

Centro Storico Naples

It was lunchtime and because we were in Naples we had to visit a pizzeria because Naples is the home of the dough based, tomato topped classic.  Legend has it that Queen Margherita of Savoy gave her name to the famous pizza on a visit there in 1889. Tired of French gourmet cooking (as you might well be) she summoned the city’s most famous pizza-maker, Raffaele Esposito, and asked him to bake her three pizzas – of which, prepared in the colours of the Italian flag – red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella) the simple and patriotic version was her favourite.

A lunchtime pizza stop in Rome…

Pizza Stop in Rome

Today, authentic Neapolitan pizzas are made with local produce and have been given the status of a ‘guaranteed traditional speciality’.  This allows only three official variants: pizza Marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, pizza Margherita, made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil, and pizza Margherita Extra made with tomato, buffalo mozzarella from Campania, basil and extra virgin olive oil.

I became an immediate fan of the Italian classic and all of its variants just so long as it doesn’t have pineapple on it.  And, I am not the only one who thinks pineapple is wrong on pizza; in February 2017, the President of Iceland, Guðni Th. Jóhannesson said  and he was ‘fundamentally opposed’ to pineapple on pizzas.  He said…

“I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not (unfortunately) have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza.  For pizzas, I recommend seafood.”

Interestingly I cannot see that Italy itself has a National Pizza Day!

Maybe because in terms of pizza consumption per population Italy is only fifth in the World.   Fourth is Germany, third is the UK, second is the USA but first is NORWAY!  I can understand that, if I lived in Norway I would eat cheap pizza because Norway is amongst the most expensive places to live in the World.

Canada joins in on Pizza Day and I nominate this Poutine (fried potato, gravy and cheese curds) Pizza as probably the worst ever variation on the famous pie.  If we had ever had pizza at home and my mum served this up I can guarantee that I would be there twenty-four hours later listening to her repeat over and again – “you are not leaving the table until you have eaten all of your dinner” or, on rare occasions that I could wear her down…” one more mouthful and you can get down” and just to make it clear that didn’t include “I don’t want to eat this shit”.

poutine-pizza

Happy National Pizza Day USA  and Canada and Australia too, I believe – have an extra slice for me (no pineapple preferred).

pineapple-pizza

 

TV Westerns

Dale Robertson Wells Fargo

On page two of Dad’s Scrap Book is a newspaper cut out picture of TV Western actor Dale Roberston who was the star of the show Wells Fargo.

Dad like TV westerns, so naturally I did too.  One of my favourites was Bonanza. Bonanza was a wholesome, good always triumphs over bad, TV western but for me had some unanswered questions as well.

For a start this was a men only show where three grown up brothers lived on a Ranch with their Pa and never changed their clothes!

It’s absolutely true – they always wore the same outfits: Ben Cartwright: Sandy shirt, tawny leather vest, grey pants, cream-coloured hat, Adam Cartwright: Black Shirt, black trousers, black hat. Hoss Cartwright: White shirt, brown suede vest, brown trousers, large beige flat-brimmed, ten-gallon hat. Little Joe Cartwright: Beige, light grey shirt, green corduroy jacket, tan trousers, beige hat.

Ben Cartwright was the wise and intelligent father, the eldest son Adam was the smart one who had designed and built the Ponderosa Ranch, Hoss by contrast was hopelessly dim but as strong as an ox and the youngest son, Little Joe was a romantic with a fiery temper.  Because they didn’t have a woman about the ranch to do the chores the Chinese cook, Hop Sing, completed the household personnel and there must have been a cleaner somewhere because for a house shared by five men the ranch was always spotlessly clean.

Now, in 1950’s and 1960’s westerns the characters had manly names like Cheyenne Body, Rowdy Yates, Bronco Lane, Flint McCullough, some had only one name like Paladin in Have Gun Will Travel and some were so tough they didn’t have a name at all, like the Virginian. Inexplicably Hoss’ real name was Eric!  Who’s ever heard of a cowboy called Eric for goodness sake?

It was hardly surprising that Ben wasn’t married anymore because each of the sons had a different mother and they had all come to a premature end.   Adam’s mother was Elizabeth, who died in childbirth.  Hoss’ mother Inger was killed by Indians, and Little Joe’s mother, Marie, died after falling off her horse.

Poor old Little Joe inherited this misfortune from his father because there was always one thing that you could be sure of in Bonanza and that was that if he met a woman and fell in love the unfortunate actress had only got a one episode contract and was sure to die!

Another of my favourite westerns was the Lone Ranger and there are a couple of things have always intrigued me about Kemo Sabe as well:

Firstly, why was he called the Lone Ranger when he was never alone?  He was accompanied everywhere by his loyal Indian friend Tonto (real name Jay Silverheels).  Perhaps native Americans didn’t count in the 1950’s?

Secondly, the most baffling thing about the Lone Ranger was that he wasn’t the sort of guy you would miss easily in a crowd.  He wore a powder blue skintight costume  and a broad brimmed white Stetson, wore a black mask to conceal his face, had a deep baritone voice and rode in a black buckled saddle on a magnificent white stallion called Silver. Tonto’s horse was called Scout by-the-way.

It was surprising therefore that no one could ever recognise him!  Now I’d have thought that word would have got out about someone as characteristic as that.  Interestingly the only thing that gave him away usually came at the end of the show and when asked who he was by a cerebrally challenged lawman he would pass the inquirer a silver bullet and then the penny would finally drop.  “That was the Lone Ranger,” they would announce as the masked stranger and Tonto galloped off at an impossibly high-speed to the sound of Rossini’s William Tell overture.

Other favourite TV westerns of mine ( mostly from the Scrap Book, but not all) were:

Alias Smith & Jones

Bronco Lane

Cheyenne

  

Gunslinger

Gunsmoke

Have Gun will Travel

High Chaparral

Laramie

Lawman

Maverick

Overland Trail

Range Rider

Rawhide

  

Sugarfoot

The Dakotas

  

The Virginian

Wagon Train

  Robert Fuller Wagon Train  John McIntire

Wells Fargo

Has anyone got a favourite TV Western?

An alternative Donald Trump inspired Disney EPCOT World Showcase

trump-hall-of-presidents

Following the unexpected election of Donald J Trump to the office of President of the United States the Walt Disney Corporation may find it necessary to have a rethink about the way countries are represented at EPCOT World Showcase at World Disney World in Florida to more accurately reflect the thinking and the policies of the new Commander in Chief.

Here are some ideas that they might consider…

Starting with China the Temple of Heaven could easily be demolished and replaced with a replica of the Great Wall of China to reflect an immigration policy which will redesign the USA/Mexico border with the construction of Trump’s Great Wall of Texas/New Mexico/Arizona/California.

great-wall-of-china

Rather appropriately we come now straight to Mexico which could be completely redesigned with the removal of the Aztec Temple and the boat ride El Rio del Tiempo with its audio-animatronic figures clad in authentic folk clothing, singing, dancing, and playing music. They are all way too happy and friendly and I suggest should be replaced with a Western theme based entirely on the movie ‘The Magnificent Seven’ which will emphasise the Trump image of Mexicans as fearsome gun-toting criminals showing no respect to their neighbours and swarming illegally over the borders of their village.

magnificent-seven

No really big changes required at Norway except for more emphasis on Elves and Fairies because these are the sort of mythical creatures that Donald consults with at his policy think-tank meetings and a lot more Trolls because he is good at being sexist and insulting and trolling is the basis of his interactions with normal and respectable people.

Little People Elves Iceland

Belgium is a beautiful city” Trump said during a rally in Atlanta, Georgia.

Donald doesn’t seem to have an especially good understanding of the complexities of Europe and the diversity of its constituent countries so to make it easy for visitors it would be a good idea to simply amalgamate Germany, France and Italy into one brand new attraction called the European Union and put the Eiffel Tower in amongst the canals of Venice and next to the Brandenburg Gate.

The United Kingdom could be included if it wasn’t for the distracting issue of the referendum and the decision to leave the EU but thinking ahead it would make sense to place the two attractions side by side so that they could easily be integrated if the democratic decision of the British people is overturned by the Remainers.

epcot-eu

Until that issue is resolved the United Kingdom should remain mostly unchanged to reflect the ‘special relationship’ that Donald has promised to maintain but with one important addition to represent his own personal ‘special relationship’  a waxwork image of his pal and UK BREXIT champion Nigel Farage might be placed at the bar of the Rose and Crown pub.

nigel-farage

The concept of Neighbouring Canada is designed to represent the great healthy outdoors with a canyon and a lake with a waterfall and a healthy forest but to reflect Trump’s threatened environmental policies and a reckless denial of global warming it might have to go through a complete remodelling and a whole different sort of attraction.

My suggestion is forest of stumps, trees killed by acid rain.

dead-forest

Currently the only country at Epcot that represents the Muslim world is Morocco where six shops decorate the pavilion which showcase Moroccan art and skills, selling visitors everything from rugs to leather goods and traditional Moroccan clothing.

Donald of course has little or no respect for Islam and seems to regard them all as treacherous terrorists so all of these representations of art and culture and peaceful religion I am afraid will have to go and will need to be replaced with exhibits that explain just how sinister and dangerous these people are.

bomb-factory

With Donald reassessing his foreign policy alternatives and threatening to withdraw support from traditional allies then there will no place in the new EPCOT World Showcase for poor Japan who I recommend simply be replaced by new allies Russia and a replica of Red Square and the Kremlin and a Victory Day Military Parade ride.

victory-day-parade-2016

That only leaves USA and there seems no urgent need for change in this pavilion, Donald has promised great things and Hillary has said ‘give the guy a chance’ and anyway, there are four years of Trump Presidency so if he fails or lets people down we can return to World Showcase USA and make any changes we want any time we want.

Anybody else got any suggestions for a restructured World Showcase?

EPCOT USA

If you are at all interested you can check out my original World Showcase post here… 

Around The World in Eighty Minutes

A Story for Halloween

In the late 1960s with imagination fuelled by Dennis Wheatley books like ‘To The Devil a Daughter’, the Rolling Stones and ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ album and Christopher Lee in Hammer Horror films like ‘Dracula’  there was a short time when a group of us used to dabble with the occult.

At this time it was possible to buy a Parker Brothers Ouija Board which supposedly helped people to make contact with spirits on the other side.  This turned out to be completely irresponsible and a number of people were permanently psychologically affected by the experience of speaking to a dead grandparent or the Goat of Mendes and eventually it was removed from sale.

This didn’t matter because it wasn’t at all necessary to have a merchandised version because it was relatively easy to arrange a séance for ourselves without it because all that was needed were the letters of the alphabet on some scraps of paper together with the words ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ and the numbers 0 to 10 arranged in a circle on a smooth table top and an upturned glass and with that speaking to the spirits turned out to be rather straightforward.

These days you can probably do it on a Smartphone!

seance children's game

To get the mood exactly right this had to be done in the dark and preferably with a spooky candle flickering on the sideboard and of course parents had to have gone out for the evening.  When everything was arranged and everybody had got a glass of Woodpecker cider then the fun began.

Sitting around the table everyone would put a forefinger on the top of the glass and someone would assume the role of Medium and in a Vincent Price sort of voice ask the question ‘Is there anybody there?’  This usually had to be repeated a couple of times because I don’t suppose spooks are just hanging around people’s front rooms on the off chance of someone looking them up for a chat but after a minute or so you could reliably expect the glass to start to wobble and then then move towards the letters and spell out ‘Y, E, S’.

No one really knew who they wanted to call up but generally speaking we didn’t really want a poltergeist unless we were in someone else’s house.

ghost Wales Cottahe Llanuwchllyn

Once a spirit had made contact then the Medium would try and establish a name, if the spirit had a special message for someone in the room and whether they were good or bad.  If they had a message then the glass would move towards that person and when that happened believe you me the hairs really stood up on the back of the neck.

It was most likely of course that someone was playing a prank and was pushing the glass around to try and scare the shit out of everyone else but I have to say it did seem to glide rather effortlessly and had sufficient self momentum to be convincing.  If it slowed down the Medium would ask ‘Do you need more power?’and then the glass would speed up and dash around the table in a circular movement until the spirit had supposedly built up sufficient energy to continue.

Anyway, that’s the background so I will move on to the point of my story.  On one occasion a spirit in the glass claimed to be Donald Campbell who had died on 4thJanuary 1967  in an accident whilst trying to set a new water speed record on Lake Coniston in Cumbria in the Lake District.  I think we asked the question about more power but as it was this that had killed him in the first place Donald was understandably a bit reticent on this point.

We asked him some questions that anyone around the table could have answered, such as did it hurt when you crashed? and how fast were you going? but then a really spooky thing happened.  Because of the impact of the crash Campbell’s boat disintegrated and his body could not be found so we asked where he was and the glass replied with some map co-ordinates, 54°21′N 3°04′W, which, when we checked the school atlas just happened to be right in the middle of Lake Coniston!  What the ….

Now, it is quite possible of course that someone could have planned all of this in advance but I’m not certain that anyone around that table was capable of organising such an elaborate deception and I am sure that we collectively panicked at this stage and brought the séance to an abrupt end just in case this really was happening.  Perhaps one of my pals went home that night smirking all over his face but that is something I shall never know.

Anyway, the fascination with séances and devil worship quickly passed and I thought no more about it until one night in 1977 when Linda and I were spending an evening with our next door neighbours Neil and Nettie and the conversation turned to the subject of the Ouija board.  I told the Donald Campbell story and Neil laughed it off as nonsense and just to prove it set up a séance table.

Sure enough we managed to make contact and Neil was dismissive of everything that happened.  Then I suggested that I should take my finger from the glass and ask a question only I could know the answer to.  We all agreed and I asked the spirit if he could tell us my middle name.  Without hesitation the visitor spelled out ‘J.A.C.K.’ and I had to admit that this was wrong so we wound the session up.

While we poured more drinks Neil looked up  Jack in a dictionary of names and read out its foreign language equivalents and when he got to Russia he read out IVAN and I had to stop him there because Ivan is my middle name.  Perhaps Donald Campbell was talking to us that night after all?

I haven’t ever bothered with spooks again but one night in 2004 something strange happened in the middle of the night.  For some reason I used to keep my driver (golf club) in my bedroom and this particular night it fell over and woke me up with a bang.  It didn’t slide down the wall or slip it turned over on itself and fell over.  The odd thing was that it was propped up in a corner and if you are familiar with the design and shape of a driver then it is physically impossible for it to fall over in this way!

I have often wondered since if it was Donald Campbell getting his own back on me for disturbing him in the underworld that night!

An Alternative World Showcase at EPCOT

American Adventure

Some time ago I wrote a post about a visit to Florida and a day at Walt Disney Epcot and an hour or two in the World Showcase.  I called it Around the World in Eighty Minutes” and I took a look at the eleven countries represented there – USA, China, Japan, Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Norway, France and Morocco.

In the course of writing, dragging up memories and doing some research I started to think more deeply about World Showcase and became intrigued by the rationale behind the concept, design and construction and in particular the reasons why these eleven countries in particular were chosen for inclusion in the park.

epcot map 2

This is partly explained by the fact that at the time of construction the Walt Disney Corporation was at a watershed moment.  Walt Disney had recently died and with him passed the inspirational concept of the whole park.  The accountants had taken over and with mounting costs of construction and strapped for cash tried to find sponsors for the showcased countries and failed in all but one attempt – Morocco.

The bottom line is that selection and inclusion was based on simple economics.

This also explains why some of the Pavilions are so disappointing, the absence of rides and attractions and the over reliance on shops and restaurants all designed to get visitors to part with their money.

But the failure to attract government sponsorship or private sector investment still leaves us with almost a dozen countries and no explanation why these eleven so I have been giving the matter some thought and whilst at first the inclusion appears to be rather random I think there is a credible reason for almost all of them.

The United States is of course obvious and requires no explanation for its inclusion or for the fact that it occupies the prime position on the World Showcase Lagoon and is the biggest and the most lavish and expensive of all the Pavilions.

Canada EPCOT Postcard  044 Mexico EPCOT

Canada and Mexico are also easily explained.  It would be rude I suppose not to have your nearest neighbours ( it would be like EPCOT World Showcase in England without Wales and Scotland) but there are some important statistics that reveal that it is not just about being neighbourly.

In terms of tourism by international visitors these two countries make up over half of all travellers visiting the United States and according to official data in 2014* Canada with almost twenty-three million visitors provided 33% of all international visitors and Mexico with seventeen and a half million contributed 24%.  Way behind in third place was United Kingdom with 5%.

The inclusion of Mexico is even more easily explained by looking at population statistics that reveal that the second highest number of foreign born residents in the United States (by a very long way) is Mexican.

It is easy to see therefore that the inclusion of these two countries makes obvious commercial sense.  Strange however, and this is just a personal view, that the two Pavilions provide the contrast between the best (Mexico) and one of the worst (Canada).

EPCOT England   germany world showcase 1

And so we move on to Europe with five of the eleven Pavilions coming from the second smallest continent –  but why these five?  Why not Spain or Greece, Poland or Sweden and once again I am rather easily convinced that it is based on US ethnic heritage and visitor numbers.

In terms of ancestry the top ten European nationalities (in this order) are Germany, Ireland, England, Italy, Poland, France, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland and Sweden.  Germany (at 17%) genuinely surprised me and explained immediately why it is at World Showcase but (at almost 11%) why no Ireland? Why Norway and not Sweden? I suppose Poland, at the time of construction, was part of the Warsaw Pact alliance and that might have ruled it out but why not Holland because surely all of those windmills and canals would have made a great attraction.

Visitor numbers also explain why these countries are here because four of the five (but not Norway) are in the top ten of international visitors to the United States.

ITALY EPCOT  Boulogne Street Entertainer

Japan and China must surely also be explained by visitor numbers.  After Canada, Mexico and the United Kingdom Japan contributes the fourth most visitors to the United States and China is also firmly in the top ten. Conversely, in the top ten but not represented at EPCOT are Brazil, India and Australia.

Of all the countries at the EPCOT World Showcase I suppose the easiest to explain is Morocco and this is in part due to the fact that the Pavilion was the only one in which the country’s government aided in the construction and they did this so that they could retain some measure of Islamist control over the design of the mosaics and to ensure that everything was as authentic as possible in the representation of the Muslim faith.  So authentic in fact that there is a story that it was deliberately constructed with deliberate errors because Muslims believe that only God is perfect (might be true, might not).

Epcot World Showcase

So who is missing?  Well, there is nothing from South America but the United Kingdom itself provides more visitors to the USA than the whole of Latin America combined so perhaps there is a clue there?  Apart from state funded Morocco there is nothing from Africa which might be considered surprising when 13% of the US population are of African descent but (and here is the crucial commercial factor) visitor numbers from the African continent are the smallest of all at only three hundred and twenty-seven thousand in 2014.

There is a small African Trading Post and Disney excuses the omission by pointing out that there is an entire African themed park at the nearby Animal Kingdom.

Finally, I have been giving some consideration to an alternative World Showcase and here are my suggestions:

Moscow Metro Park Pobedy

Parthenon Acropolis Athens

First, Australia with an IMAX film narrated by Mel Gibson and Kylie Minogue and a ride based on the theme of the World’s deadliest snakes.

Then Russia  because now the Cold War is ended there must surely be space for Red Square and the Kremlin and a Moscow Metro ride.

Next, Brazil, with a ride based on the Rio Carnival and then Peru because Machu Picchu would be a good replacement for the Mexico Aztec pyramid.

After that, Egypt with a Nile Cruise ride;  India and a train journey ride to visit the Taj Mahal and the Golden Temple of Amritsar and  perhaps Equatorial Africa, which was once suggested but abandoned.

And from Europe:  Greece with a visit to Mount Olympus to meet the mythical gods in an animatronic show, each one popping up in turn to introduce themselves; Spain and the legend of El Cid and the Conquistadors and the Netherlands with a cruise of the Amsterdam canals (leaving out the red light district as not being entirely appropriate for children).

And finally, wouldn’t it be fun to include the World’s smallest sovereign state – The Vatican where Disney cast members would be dressed as priests and nuns and with a roller coaster ride around St Peter’s Basilica!

Francesco Pizzaro Trujillo Extremadura Spain  Amsterdam by DelphSt Peter's Square, Rome  Ireland Cliffs of Moher

Whoops, Sorry, I nearly forgot Ireland, lets have twelve countries (it’s my list and my rules) and let’s  have a visit to the Cliffs of Moher and the Giant’s Causeway (sponsored by Guinness).

Please let me know your suggestions, I would be interested in your suggestions…

* US National Travel and Tourism Office.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Eye-Spy – From Spy Hole to Speakeasy

Mont St Michel Door

These little metal grills represent medieval security.  In the days before home contents insurance, CCTV cameras and modern fish eye lens peep holes basic home security was a little more crude.

If someone came wiping their feet on the welcome mat and knocking on the door in the Dark Ages it probably wasn’t too advisable just to turn the lock and throw the wood back on its hinges.  There was no way of knowing just who you would be inviting in.    So doors had these little spy holes cut into the timber so that someone inside could open it and get reassurance before opening up.  They have those little grills so that an unwelcome guest couldn’t stick a sword through and poke your eye out – a very useful feature in my opinion!

Catalonia Spain Besalu Door

During prohibition in the 1930s in the USA the doors to illegal drinking establishments had little grills like these so that the doormen inside could be certain they were only giving admittance to gangsters and not the FBI.  According to one story these places came to be called a speakeasy because when talking through the grill with a password or whatever the people inside preferred prospective customers to whisper or ‘speak easy’ so that they wouldn’t be overheard.  Might be true, might not.

Catalonia Door Detail