I received an email last week for the yearly renewal of my domain name, WOW; Vanilla Lemonade is a year old. And what a year its been!
Over the last 12 months the question I’ve been asked most is, why did I pick the name Vanilla Lemonade? Well, isn’t it being super cute name enough of a reason?? Ahh- but there is actually a story…
I started at Walt Disney World in February 1998, on the opening team of DAK, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, which was an amazing experience. By the beginning of 1999 I joined DAK CAT, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Catering. I spent about 3 years on this talented team, which not only taught me how to cook pasta for 1000 people, or how to pack and load a truck, but they built the foundation and gave me the passion of the career I still love today.
We were a small team, a total of 5-7 cooks, a couple of chefs, 5 or 6 servers and a few front of house managers. A perfect number of people for a family to generate. Because we were such a small team that sometimes had huge events, surpassing even 10,000 guests, we did rely on a lot of extra help. Extra culinary, servers from other locations, stewards, chefs would work with us frequently to execute our large events in the park.
We did have a few “outside” people come to work on a regular basis, which became extended family. Howard was a Steward that was with us for over a year, 5-6 days a week. He was a big guy, a really big guy, perfect for loading grills on trucks, throwing 80 quart mixing bowls in the dish sink and lucky for us, he had spent a lot of time in kitchens, so was also able to assist us out with prep!
Howard was a daily temp worker that had a hard life, battled with temptations, health issues, and the other challenges that a day-to-day life style can offer. Like I said he was a big guy, rough and tough too, but after a while, we broke him down to a plush; Howard became somewhat of a fan favorite.
It’s down right sweaty hot here in Florida and don’t forget we are outside doing events, setting up tables, pushing trams thru the parks, standing in front of a hot grill for a few hours- you’re certain to be “glowing”. On any hot day you would find Howard over by the truck handing out glasses of his lemonade to anyone that needed something to cool them down. Howard’s lemonade was a crowd favorite, all the extra help knew to look for the giant orange thermos. The lemonade was on our checklist before our truck ever pulled off the dock, and if Howard happened to have the day off, and us without the lemonade someone always had something to say about it.
And then one day Howard didn’t make it for an event. “No” he didn’t forget, or run out of time, he told us angrily. Howard explained, that the Chef told him “no more!” And then we got a lashing from the chef…
1 Half Gallon Lemonade concentrate
6 Half Gallon Water
15 Vanilla Beans
…..The chef was not happy with his food cost floating Howard’s Lemonade Stand.
Ooh- but that Vanilla Lemonade was delicious …. DEE-licious.
Vanilla Lemonade, is not only a refreshing twist on lemonade, but to me it represents a time when I figured out what my future looked like. I graduated from college with 2 B.A. Degrees in Art, took the first job I was offered, and spent 10 months filling drinks, scooping mashed potatoes and wondering what I was going to do with myself. I was then welcomed into a family that would nurture, teach and allow me to grow. My love of cooking, food and catering came from that team, and equally important came the lesson of being able to learn from anybody, no matter who they are or where they came from. Thank you Howard, the Rough and Tumble Temp Working Teddy Bear for showing me that everyone has a lesson to teach if you are willing to learn.
Since then I’ve worked on a few different vanilla lemonade recipes.
Howard’s Vanilla Lemonade
- Frozen Lemonade Concentrate, or Favorite Powder Mix
- Vanilla Bean/Vanilla Extract
The quick and easy method- and sometimes that is just what we need! Make the lemonade as the container directs, add a vanilla bean split open down the middle for every 2 quarts made, or add a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Refridergate and serve over ice. Perfect for a day at the beach!
Fresh Vanilla Lemonade
- 4 cups water, divided
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups fresh lemon juice (about 15 lemons)
In a heavy saucepan, make your simple syrup by combining 2 cups water, sugar, and the split vanilla bean and bring to a boil over medium-high heat for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and cool. Stir in lemon juice and remaining 2 cups water; refrigerate until serving.
Garnish with citrus, fresh herbs or cherries.
Makes about 2 quarts
Vacation Vanilla Lemonade
- 2 oz coconut rum
- 3 oz vanilla lemonade
…Over ice..Sip and enjoy.
Cheers to learning and loving what you do with your life!