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A JimHillMedia.com exclusive: Your first look at “Home on the Range”

JimHillMedia scores another exclusive, presenting the first truly in-depth look at Disney Feature Animation’s April 2004 release. Which — based on what lucky reader JC has to say — sounds like one hell of a funny MOOOOO-vie.

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Right now, every other Disney info site out there on the web is talking up “Brother Bear.” Which is understandable, given that this animated feature is opening nationally on November 1st (on October 24th in NYC and LA).

But — here at JimHillMedia.com – we like to do things a little differently. Not do what everyone is doing. So — while I’m sure that we’ll be doing some stories about “Brother Bear” in the not-so-distant future — today, I’d like to talk about the Disney animated film that comes after “BB.” The one that isn’t actually due out in theaters ’til April 2004: “Home on the Range.”

Thanks to Olivier Mouroux at animated-movies.com
for use of this image.

Me personally, I’ve been keeping track of this WDFA project for years now. Of course, back then, this film was called “Sweatin’ Bullets” and/or “Sweating Bullets.” And Mike Gabriel and Mike Giamo were riding herd on the production. And — to be honest — the buzz on this picture wasn’t all that hot.

But then the two Mikes were replaced by Will Finn and John Sanford. And with two new directors calling the shots on this animated western, I began to hear (from WDFA insiders) that things were improving on this production. That the film was constantly getting tighter and funnier. That Will and John were on the job. And that — slowly but surely — they were getting things turned around.

But then came the news that Finn and Sanford had hired Roseanne to provide the voice of Maggie, the lead cow in this animated musical comedy. Which may be the most appropriate piece of animation vocal casting ever. Which was when I knew that “Home on the Range” was really going to be a film to watch out for. That this WDFA production had the potential to become one funny flick.

Happily, it appears that my hunch about “Home on the Range” was correct. How do I know? Well, because I got this great e-mail from a nice guy called JC who lives in Orlando. He wrote to me Friday to say:

(I) just wanted to give you a heads-up about a sneak preview I attended on 10-1 of the completely finished “Home on the Range.” As I was waiting in line to pick up my children from school on Monday, a woman walked by my car and asked if I would like to bring my children to see a new animated movie from Disney that wouldn’t be released until next summer. I immediately knew she was talking about “Home on the Range.” I told her we would love to go, so she gave us a paper and a toll free number to call to RSVP.

We were told to be at Pleasure Island AMC 1 hour before show time which was scheduled at 4:30pm. We arrived at 3:20 and were 84th in line. Seating was limited so we knew we would make it in. We were told that this was a special screening for the Showeast convention and there would be many conventioneers there.

We were let in at 4PM to the theater were almost half the seats were roped off for the invited guests. My kids and I were lucky enough to sit in the “stadium” seats. Before we were let in to the theater, we had to go through security to be checked for recording devices including cell phones with picture capabilities. The theater was completely filled and the show began.

First, let me say I have been following the stories about “Home on the Range” for the past two years and I heard all the discussions concerning the voice talents and story line changes. I really thought we were going to see a “work in progress” film, somewhat akin to “Beauty and the Beast” special edition with a combination of pencil sketches rough drafts and completed animation. Boy was I wrong! This was a complete movie!

Within the first two minutes of the film I knew we were in for a special treat! I won’t go in to great detail about the story line but I can tell you this is going to be a great Disney classic. The animation reminded me of early 1950 Disney work and my son remarked the animals looked like they came right out of “Mary Poppins”! The musical score and songs from Alan Menken are topnotch. The blended computer and traditional animation were seamless.

Both my children said it was one of the funniest movies they had ever seen and I have to agree with them in the context of recent Disney animated pictures. This is definitely the funniest since “Aladdin.” The movie received a huge round of applause at the finish with more than half of the audience waiting to leave until the final credits were through.

I forgot to mention that before the movie began, one of the men in charge of the screening made an announcement that everyone had been searched for recording devices and if anyone saw someone else taping or taking pictures during the movie, they should report them immediately. The organizers walked the aisles continually throughout the movie watching for anyone taking pictures.

I’m not sure if you had heard about the screening but as one of the lucky few to see it, I have to say this is going to be a bonafide hit for Disney. 2-D animation is not dead! 🙂

Gee, I hope you’re right, JC. That — if “Home on the Range” really is as good as you say — 2-D animation at Walt Disney Studios really isn’t dead after all.

Now the above story was great all by itself. But you know me, folks. I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. So I wrote back to JC and — after thanking him profusely for sending along this info to share with JHM readers — asked JC if he could share even more information about “Home on the Range.” Like — perhaps — recounting the film’s plot and/or talking about his favorite characters from the film.

Well, JC rose to the challenge. And just yesterday, he sent along a second e-mail. Which — I have to warn you — contains MASSIVE SPOILERS about “Home on the Range”‘s characters and storyline. So — if you want to walk into your local multiplex next April without knowing what this whole picture is about — NOW would be a really good time to bail out of this article.

I’m serious, people. MASSIVE SPOILERS about Disney’s “Home on the Range” are just a paragraph or so away. If you really don’t want to know what this film is about, head to the exits now. I mean it.

Okay. Still here? Good. ‘Cause you’re going to LOVE to read what JC has to say about “Home on the Range.”

The movie began with a rousing musical number which (I think) is sung by kd Lang. Maggie (a cow voiced by Roseanne) is being led on the back of a wagon to her new farm owned by a kindly widow lady (shades of Widow Tweed in “The Fox and the Hound”). Of course Maggie doesn’t fit in with the existing farm animals because she is loud and brash but this is what makes her so special. She is especially disliked by Mrs. Calloway (another cow voiced by Judi Dench). The third cow, Grace (voiced by Meg Tilly) is ever-so sweet and not-so-smart and immediately likes Maggie.

Maggie’s previous owner has had to auction off his ranch because Alameda Slim has rustled the entire herd. While Maggie is settling in to her new farm, the sheriff arrives with a notice for the widow that the bank is going to foreclose on her ranch (known as Patch of Heaven) if she doesn’t come up with $750. The sheriff’s horse is named Buck (voiced by Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who thinks he is God’s gift to horses. He is one of the best characters of the film.

All seems lost until Maggie remembers there is a state fair coming up and she is going to enter for Best of Show and she decides to head to town. Grace and Mrs. Calloway go along with her. On the way, they pass Maggie’s old farm (which) is being auctioned off to a man named Y. Odel. He is a big man with lots of cash and huge smile. Maggie and the girls continue on their way.

There is a great scene when they arrive into town and unknowingly enter a saloon stage show. This is so fast paced it was hard to watch it all, everything happening at the same time, but all-in-all a great scene.

After they leave the saloon, a huge cloud of dust rises outside of town like a storm coming up fast. The townsfolk begin whispering, “Rico!”, a bounty hunter. He is bringing in a wanted man to the sheriff. When he arrives he requests a fresh horse and Buck, who has dreamed of being Rico’s horse, is chosen for the job. They ride out of town on the lookout for Alameda Slim. That’s where Maggie gets the idea to bring Alameda Slim to justice and win the $750 reward for his capture and save the Widow’s farm.

The next scene introduces Alameda Slim and his unusual way of cattle rustling. He yodels, which hypnotizes the cattle to follow him anywhere. This scene is great! The visuals are reminiscent of “Pink Elephants” from “Dumbo” and “Be our Guest” from “Beauty and the Beast.” My kids loved it! Alameda has the cattle in a secret mountain hiding place with the help of his three idiot nephews.

The girls leave town following Rico’s tracks. Along the way, Rico ditches Buck for a less skittish horse. Buck realizes the girls are still following Rico and tries to confuse them by trampling on the tracks. Discouraged and lost, Mrs. Calloway and Grace decide to head back to the farm after a huge rainstorm. Maggie will go on alone. As they head back they meet Jack, a jack rabbit who helps them regain the trail and they are back on the hunt. They come upon the secret hideout of Alameda which is guarded by a huge buffalo (another great character). Buck is trying to get past the buffalo without luck. The girls walk up as if they had strayed from the heard and are let right in. Buck asks them to help him get in but knowing he tried to get them lost, they won’t help. The girls head in and with the aid of Jack’s cotton tail, they close off their ears so they can’t hear Alameda’s yodeling. Alameda is busy counting the herd so they can board a train.

The next scene is a no holds barred show stopper! I had so many different thoughts and images running through my mind. It turns out to be a hilarious chase scene between the girls and Jack, Alameda Slim, Rico and Buck, and the train. This was “Rollercoaster Rabbit,” “Runaway Brain” and Big Thunder Mountain all rolled into one! I can see the reviews now… “one hell of a ride!”

Needless to say, it all has a happy ending, and we were sad to see it end! The final musical number was a reprise of the title song and tied it all together. It will be very interesting to see if they make any changes after the test previews.

All I can say is I feel very fortunate to have been one of the first to see it.

And I feel very fortunate that JC thought enough of JimHillMedia to send this story along to our site. So that you folks could be among the first to hear the good news about Disney’s “Home on the Range.”

I mean, doesn’t that sound like a great movie? A flat out funny film with some wonderful musical numbers. Who wouldn’t want to see a new Disney animated feature like that?

So kudos to Will Finn and John Sanford as well as the rest of the crew who worked on “Home on the Range.” The people who took a deeply troubled production and turned it into what sounds like one really entertaining movie.

Which is why — come April 2004 — I’ll be leaving my house in the woods to head out for “Home on the Range.”

Now — totally changing the subject here — I have a couple of bits of news that I need to share today:

1) We got a really nice response this past weekend from a lot of people who were interested in taking part in the next round of JHM Disneyland tours (which will be held at the Anaheim Resort on Saturday, November 1st and Sunday, November 2nd).

Just so you know, this is the tentative schedule for these JHM readers events:

Saturday, November 1st
10 a.m. to 12 Noon — 1st Tour of Disneyland
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. — Informal Lunch with Tour Participants
2:00 to 4 p.m. — 2nd Tour of Disneyland
4:30 – 5:30 p.m. — Tour Follow-up Q & A

Sunday, November 2nd
10 a.m. to 12 Noon — 3rd Tour of Disneyland
12:30 to 1:30 p.m. — Informal Lunch with Tour Participants
2:00 to 4 p.m. — 1st Tour of Disney’s California Adventure
4:30 – 5:30 p.m. — Tour Follow-up Q & A

There’s also been some discussion of doing a “JHM Night at the Movies” that Saturday evening. Which basically means that — on November 1st — a group of JHM readers would go over to the Downtown Disneyland AMC to catch a screening of “Brother Bear.” Then — after that — we’d head out to an area restaurant (possibly “Whitewater Snacks” at Disney’s Grand California Resort Hotel) for a nosh … where I’d then share some stories about the making of this particular WDFA production.

So — if you’d be interested in taking part in any of the above events — please drop us a line here at JimHillMedia.com and we’ll put your name on the appropriate list.

2) Next up, I have a special request of your JHM readers who have extensive laser disc collections. I am looking for someone who has a copy of the original version of the “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” laser disc. If anyone out there has a copy of this laser disc that they’d be willing to share, I’d really appreciate hearing from you ASAP.

3) And — speaking of sharing — I just had to share this photograph that Paul N. was nice enough to send along.

Now I know that a lot of the other Disneyana websites out there have had pictures of the “Hollywood Tower Hotel” sign (which went up on DCA’s “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” show building late last week). But how many of those other sites had this picture?

DCA’s Tower of Terror. Click to view image full size.

Which is rather appropriate, don’t you think? Given that this entire attraction is basically a “Guest Drop Off Area.”

Anyway … here’s hoping that today’s article helped you fill your daily minimum requirement for Disney-related information as well as ironic photographs.

Your thoughts?

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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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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