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A Biographical Sketch of Walt Disney

Wade Sampson concludes his series about a rarely seen 1937 RKO publicity document that sheds light on the life of Walt Disney. Today, Wade talks about how Walt became an animator, his struggles in Kansas City and yet another alternative story of the creation of Mickey Mouse!

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Walt Disney’s first art job was with an advertising company in Kansas City which did work for farm journals, and where he was required to draw such inspiring things as egg-laying mash, salt blocks for cattle, and farm equipment. Since he was merely an apprentice, the two other artists in the company kept him turning out rough sketches, which they finished themselves, often changing them entirely. He forgot to ask in advance what his salary would be, in typical artist fashion. For a week he sketched happy farmers and contented cows, and at the end of it they informed him that he would receive fifty dollars a month. He would have thought five dollars a month very generous.

He came on the job in the fall; when the Christmas rush was over, they fired him. He got a job with the post office again and delivered Christmas cards until New Year’s. Then, appropriately to the season, he made a resolution; he would go into business for himself, as a commercial artist. Optimistically he figured that two months’ experience warranted this momentous decision.

His first free lance jobs were designing letterheads and theatre ads; and an enterprising publisher of a small newspaper gave him “free” desk space – in return for a great many advertising drawings. It was there that he met a man with the unbelievable name of Ubbe Iwwerks, another young apprentice artist out of a job. He and Iwwerks formed a partnership then and there. Disney was the contact man and artist, while Iwwerks did the lettering and took care of the office detail. The first month the two of them made $125.00, and any free lance artist will agree that that wasn’t bad – especially if there thought to collect any of it!

However, in spite of their success, they still watched the want ads, and when a slide company in Kansas City advertised for a cartoonist, Walt answered the ad and got the job – at $35 a week, which almost floored him.

“I knew I wasn’t worth it,” he says, “but I decided to try it. I turned the commercial art business over to Iwwerks, and it was at the slide company that I got my start in the animated cartoon game. Two months later my partner was working there with me. We made animated advertising films, and my boss let me take home an old camera that was lying around. I rigged up a studio in a garage and started experimenting in my spare time.

At the slide company we used the old cut-out method of animation, joining arms and legs together with pins and moving them under the camera. I found a new method of animation in a book from the library, tried it out and convinced my boss it was a better system, so he installed it.”

Walt’s home experiments led to his making a short reel of local Kansas City incidents, which he sold immediately to the owner of three large local theatres. He arranged to furnish one subject a week, animated cartoons of local happenings. It is interesting to note that he was able to make and sell this film for a price of thirty cents per foot. The cost of Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphony cartoons today is well over $25 per foot!

It was while he was first fumbling around in the realm of animated cartoon ideas with no special direction that Walt Disney met Mickey Mouse, then utterly unknown, and even unnamed. Walt had always liked mice. He caught them in wastebaskets around the studio, and kept them in a cage where he could watch their antics.

One of them, bolder than the rest, used to crawl all over his drawing board, and seemed to have a distinct personality of his own. At first Walt called him Mortimer Mouse; but Mortimer seemed much too formal, and as they became better friends, he often addressed his cute little pal as Mickey Mouse. The name seemed to fit him to a T. But the young artist had no idea that the name Mickey Mouse might some day be more famous than his own!

Walt Disney was impatient. He wanted to carry his experiments in animation much farther than he was able to alone, and while he was employed daytimes. He could not afford to give up his job; but he enlarged his garage studio, and invited several prospective young cartoonists to spend their evenings helping him with a new idea – the animation of fairy tales. Their recompense was a share of his knowledge on the subject – and the promise of a job if the venture were successful.

For six months he spent his evenings and spare time working with his “staff” on a short subject called “Little Red Riding Hood.” When it was completed to his fair satisfaction, he left his job with the slide company and formed his own company, a $15,000 Missouri corporation, to produce modernized fairy tales. Seven of these films were made altogether, and sold to a distributing firm in New York. But the New York outfit went broke shortly after the deal was made, and the corporation went into bankruptcy. Success had again proved to be a mirage.

Walt decided he had gone as far as he could in Kansas City. He was not discouraged; he still knew his ideas were good – but he lacked opportunity to carry them out. He knew then that he must some way get to Hollywood. But he was flat broke, and far in debt; he had had no salary for months, had just scraped along. What to do?

First he made a song film for a theatre organist, which paid enough to buy him an ancient motion picture camera. For two weeks he scouted around Kansas City taking moving pictures of babies, selling them to proud parents. Finally he had enough money for a ticket to California, and even found a purchaser for his camera. He landed in Hollywood in August 1923 – a little over ten years ago, mind you! – with a suit of clothes two years old, a sweater, some drawing materials, and $0. (COMMENT: ACTUALLY WALT CLAIMED TO HAVE $40 CASH IN HIS POCKET.) Behind him in Kansas City were debts which it took him several years to clean up.

He also had with him a print of the last fairy tale subject he had made; the stockholders of the defunct corporation had granted him this favor. (COMMENT: THIS IS MISLEADING. IT WASN’T A FAIRY TALE BUT THE COMBINATION ANIMATION/LIVE ACTION CARTOON ALICE’S WONDERLAND.) For three months he tramped around Hollywood, trying to interest someone in it; they all said the same thing: they couldn’t use the idea, but their New York office might consider it. Since it was out of the question for him to take the print to New York, Walt sent it East with a prayer, prepared to wait for years, or for all he knew, forever.

Things looked pretty black. His only comfort was that his brother Roy was also in California with an immense amount of sympathy and encouragement for what Walt was trying to do – and with $250. They formed a partnership. It was a tough proposition to get financial backing: nobody in Hollywood had over heard of these Disney boys. An Uncle Herbert, with whom they lived for a short time, lent them $500; they breathed easier and let out their belts. (COMMENT: ACTUALLY IT WAS UNCLE ROBERT. HERBERT WAS WALT’S BROTHER.)

Then suddenly, like a bolt from the blue, came an order from an independent distributor in New York for a series of pictures like the sample reel Walt had sent East. Feverishly they rented the back end of a real estate office; bought an old camera, rigged up stands and tables out of old dry goods boxes. Walt taught Roy how to use the camera, and he himself started drawing night and day. With the aid of two girls they hired for $15 a week apiece, they made the first “Alice” cartoon. Busy as they were, there must have been time for romance, for one of those two girls, Lillian Bounds, later became Mrs. Walt Disney!

The two boys rented a cheap room and ate their meals in a cafeteria, in order to make their small capital last as long as possible. One would get a meat order, the other vegetables; then they would split them at the table. Sometimes they ate at home; Roy would leave early, while Walt still bent over his drawing-board (they made six “Alice” subjects before they hired another artist) and fry a steak, or ham and eggs.

“We cooked, ate, and slept in that one room, and had to walk about a mile before we reached the bathroom,” Walt remembers. “And yet when I think back, we had a grand time in those days.”

Finally they decided Walt could no longer do all the drawings, so he sent for the boy with whom he had started in the commercial art business, Ubbe Iwwerks, in Kansas City. Ubbe had become a fair animator; but they soon needed still more help, so Walt summoned more of the boys from back home. “Alice” was discontinued about this time; Walt’s next creation for the New York distributor was “Oswald the Rabbit.” Oswald was quite successful; but Walt was beginning to strain at the leash. He was not satisfied; there were things he wanted to do to improve the cartoons, and they took money. He decided to go to New York for a conference with the chief; and Lillian Bounds, who was now his wife, went with him.

Unfortunately, the chief was not in agreement with Walt’s ideas of expansion and improvement. The cartoons were selling, people liked them — why spend more money? And was this young spendthrift Disney necessary to their success, anyway? In short, there was a break, and the Disney outfit was out on the street for its pains. Walt, wiring Roy, who was running the Hollywood studio, that everything was all right and he was on his way home, was full of misgivings.

And well he might be – because the New York company took over most of the boys who had come on from Kansas City to work with Walt, and went on producing “Oswald” without him. On the train going back to California, Walt and his wife soberly talked things over. He had a studio, a few loyal men, including the faithful Iwwerks, and nothing to do. They had their home, and a little money saved – and no definite deal in sight. The only answer was to create a new character and make pictures himself. But what character? Cats, dogs, rabbits . . . all had been used. “About the only thing that hasn’t been featured is — I’ve got it!” he cried, jumping to his feet. “A mouse! My Mickey Mouse! Why didn’t I think of it before?”

All the way across the continent on the train Walt Disney worked enthusiastically on the first Mickey Mouse scenario. Mrs. Walt Disney helped with suggestions and encouragement. Mickey must, of course, have a sweetheart, his girl . . . they called her Minnie Mouse. Their excitement grew with the miles; they could hardly wait to start working, to tell Roy and the others at the studio. They’d keep quiet about this new series, make it in the garage at home, just as they had in the old days. The scenery sped by unnoticed.

Back in Hollywood, the first move was a studio conference. Roy and the others were enthusiastic about the new plan. They quickly finished several “Oswald” subjects that were in work for the New York company, and then started their own enterprise with fresh vigor. It was a big chance to take, with so little money – but everyone had faith in Walt’s new character. Quietly and swiftly they worked, in the garage, on their first Mickey Mouse, and when the film was ready to be run off, there was great suspense. At the preview, however, a little of the first fine enthusiasm fell off, for the picture was rather disappointing. However, Walt sent it off to New York with fervent hopes.

But nobody in the East seemed to want Mickey Mouse. Such a small creature did not create a ripple in an industry which had just been topsy-turvy by a new element – sound. Al Jolson’s “Jazz Singer” had just been released, and was bidding fair to revolutionize moving pictures. The first Mickey cartoon was silent – and of coarse no producer, however, farsighted, could visualize a cartoon in synchronization.

In spite of its failure to sell, Disney went right to work on a second Mickey, also silent; but during its making he realized that synchronized cartoons were not only possible, but inevitable. Number 2 cartoon went begging, while they planned the third for sound. When this print was finished, Disney took it to New York. Half of his mission was to sell the picture, but the first half was to get it synchronized, since that had been impossible in Hollywood. This third Mickey Mouse was “Steamboat Willie,” the first to be shown publicly.

But Walt, as he tramped the streets again, money getting low, almost despaired that it would ever be shown. He was worried about the studio, which was just getting by financially. He approached sound company after sound company, but either their prices were too high or they would not take the job of setting Mickey in motion. Finally he found one company which was interested and whose price was fair.

But again there was dissension. With the boys in his studio, Disney had worked out his own method of synchronization. He knew it would work, but New York musicians refused to use it. Patiently Walt saw them try their own method and admit the result was a miserable failure. Eventually they followed his advice, using the same system which is used today in the Disney Studio, which he had patented a year before. This system is used quite generally in the animated cartoon industry.

When “Steamboat Willie” was shown, distributors were enthusiastic, but no deal went through. Nobody could understand why this young Disney would not sell out his idea. They tempted him with fancy prices, but he kept insisting it was his pictures he wanted to sell, not his company.

“I wanted to retain my individuality,” he says, glad now that he did. “I was afraid of being hampered by studio policies. I knew that if someone else got in control, I would be restrained, held down to their ideas of low cartoon cost and value.”

After staying in New York several weeks, he decided to release Mickey Mouse independently, and after making the necessary arrangements, returned to Hollywood. It was a big undertaking, to produce and distribute the pictures himself; but with the help of his brother Roy, he knew they could do it, and that it would be a much happier arrangement than selling out.

Wade Sampson here again. This is where the eight page document ends but I have always wondered if there were at least two more pages which covered the early days of Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies leading up to SNOW WHITE. Now that the Disney Archives is closed off to non-Disney personnel, I suppose I can’t ask Robert Tienan to rummage around to see if the RKO biographical sketch is tucked away in some forgotten file.

More likely, this document like so many others were considered of little if any interest and just like those old encyclopedias I mentioned in the first part got thrown away as it was supplanted by newer biographical handouts of Walt with updated credits which pushed aside the earlier credits. Anyway, I thought the readers of JimHillMedia might enjoy this glimpse of Walt from 1937 because truthfully, where else would it ever appear? Thanks, Jim Hill, for providing us our own unofficial Disney archive of information.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling

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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse‘s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit  ExpertGriller.com prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont

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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage

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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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