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An Electrifying Why For

Jim Hill offers up a detailed look at Edison Square, another never-built “land” at Disneyland … as well as announcing that JHM has officially begun taking names of those readers who wish to recieve an audio version of his now-defunct Disneyland history tour.

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Manny the Uncanny writes in to say:

Dear Jim —

I was severely bummed to hear that Disneyland Security booted you out of the park last Sunday for daring to give your “The Disneyland That Never Was” tour. I was actually planning on signing up for the next round of tours that you were going to give in July. But now I guess I missed my chance.

Now I know you’re supposedly putting together a CD version of your Disneyland tour. But — being a longtime JHM reader — I know that what Jim promises isn’t necessarily what Jim delivers. Case in point: The JHM newsletter, which was originally supposed to have come out last spring.

I don’t mean to bust your b*lls, Jim. But — just in case this CD never actually appears — can you at least give us a taste of some of the stories that you used to give on your Disneyland history tour?

Somewhat respectfully yours,

Manny the Uncanny

Dear Manny the Uncanny —

First of all, it’s nice to see that there’s at least one other Paul Rugg fan out there. By that I mean: For the longest time, I thought that Nancy & I were the only two grown-ups on the planet who actually enjoyed watching Rugg’s antics as Manny the Uncanny on ABC’s long defunct Saturday morning cartoon block, “One Saturday Morning.” But your signature suggests that you too enjoyed Paul’s goofy man-on-the-street schtick.

And as for busting my b*lls about not delivering long-promised projects on time, Manny … It only hurts because it’s true.

After all, I am running a year behind schedule on delivering the JHM newsletter. And — as for my unauthorized Disneyland history, “Once Upon an Orange Grove” — that was due at the publishers months ago. So I can obviously understand why you might be a wee bit skeptical about me actually being able to deliver on that promise to produce a CD version of the JHM Disneyland tour.

Well, all I can tell you, Manny is that tomorrow I’m driving down to Connecticut to meet with Jeff Lange. Jeff’s serving as the defacto producer of the JHM Disneyland audio tour project. And tomorrow afternoon, he and I will be putting together a very detailed production schedule for this project. Setting specific deadlines for the delivery of the script, recording dates, etc. With our ultimate goal being that we have a finished product ready for ship by the middle of May. June 1st at the absolute latest.

(A special note to those of you who took part in JHM’s donation drive last year: You’ll be among the first to receive a copy of this Disneyland audio tour. And that CD will be sent out to you free of charge as a very belated “Thank You” gift for taking part in last spring’s fund-raiser for the site.)

“So what happens if I don’t actually deliver?,” you ask, Manny … Well, Jeff has said that he will actually bust my b*lls. He’s supposedly already made a trip to Home Depot to pick out an appropriate ball peen hammer. Which will be used in the event that I miss even one of my deadlines.

So — as you can see, Mr. Uncanny — it’s actually in my own best interests to deliver the audio version of the JHM Disneyland tour on time. Which is why I’ve already begun writing the script for the CD. I actually finished the first five pages of the thing on Tuesday as I was flying back from Honolulu.

Now — as for giving you a taste of the stories that I do on my “Disneyland That Never Was” tour … I guess that only seems fair. Soooo … Since we talked about Liberty Street a few weeks back, why don’t we now talk about another proposed addition to Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A., Edison Square?

Copyright 1958 WED Enterprises

According to a promotional booklet that WED created back in the mid-1950s (With the hope that this booklet could then be used to convince G.E. officials to put up the funds necessary to build this proposed addition to the Anaheim theme park), Edison Square was supposed to be located ” … just a few steps from Main Street and near the Plaza … A paved brick street on which America will be seen passing from the ‘old’ of the 19th Century to the ‘new’ of the early 1900s. The electric light is seen taking the place of gas lamps; horse-drawn vehicles are giving way to electrical and gasoline-powered ‘horseless carriages.’ “

Edison Square architecturally was supposed to be a composite of a number of major American cities at the turn of the century. Among the distinct architectural styles that were to be represented in this proposed addition to Disneyland were:

  • The red brick buildings of Philadelphia
  • The brownstones of New York City
  • The graystones of Chicago
  • The ornate wooden structures found in St. Louis and San Francisco
  • As well as Boston’s distinct colonial brick buildings

Copyright 1958 WED Enterprises

Guests entering this extension of Main Street U.S.A. would first have had to walk under the Edison Arch Marquee. As they did, they’d undoubtedly have noticed the new “land” ‘s central landmark. Which was a life-size statue of Thomas A. Edison.

Now the life of that famous American inventor wasobviously to have played an important part in Edison Square. And indeed — as you entered the pre-show area for this new “land” ‘s main attraction, the “Harnessing the Lightning” show — you would have encountered five full-dimensional dioramas. Which — by making use of specialized lighting and animated effects — these dioramas were supposedly to “come to life,” recreating various dramatic scenes from Edison’s life.

The climax of this pre-show was supposed to have been “The 40 Hour Watch.” A diorama that showed Thomas A. & his associates finally achieving their ultimate goal. Which was when they created the first incandescent lamp that burned for 40 consecutive hours back in 1879.

As the lights dimmed on that diorama, special Disney-created theme music, lighting effects and voice recordings were supposed to signal to the audience that it’s time for Act I. So the 125 guests who were assembled in the “Harnessing the Lightning” lobby area would then shuffle into the first theater. Where the footlights would now come on, the curtains would pull back and the stage show would finally get underway.

Copyright 1958 WED Enterprises

Now most Disneyland history buffs will tell you that the “Harnessing the Lightning” show was actually the predecessor for the “Carousel of Progress.” Only in the Edison Square version of this attraction, the audience didn’t ride in a theater-go-round as they moved from scenes to scenes. But — rather — Disneyland guests stood throughout the entire presentation and were then expected to walk to the next theater as each scene of the attraction ended.

But me … I have to tell you that I’m pretty intrigued by the differences between the proposed script for “Harnessing the Lightning” and the show that Walt eventually put on his theater-go-round building. The scenes set in the then-modern day of 1958 & the future of 19?8 are markedly different.

Don’t believe me? Okay. Then here’s a word-for-word transcript of what the show was supposed to have been  like from that booklet that WED personnel put together for those G.E. executives:

Act I: Circa 1898 — 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration

Act I will present on stage a unique play in which the setting is an American home just prior to the turn of the Century, in 1898. This particular home has been selected as the model for the period, containing all the latest up to date furnishings and appliances

It is the days of pre-electricity. Our narrator, Mr. Wilbur K. Watt, is an incredible electro-mechanical man. As he rocks back and forth in his armchair, he describes the scene we see on the stage. It is almost as though Mr. Watt were alive, for his movements are synchronized and life-like as he describes the play.

As though the scene were a Broadway play coming to life, Mr. Watt takes us into this model American home of 1898, where we will meet all the wonderful characters who will demonstrate the “newest” home appliances which have made life easier for them.

Like Wilbur K. Watt, these characters are full-sized electro-mechanical figures. Walt Disney and his creative staff will bring them to life before our eyes. They will move, talk and go about their daily household activities, actually acting out their roles in the drama.

Each member of our cast of life-like figures is highly stylized, dressed in the mode of the day and anxious to demonstrate these “newest” appliances so that the scene on stage becomes a living, vital drama of their home life.

Various aspects of their everyday existence will be acted out as the spotlight features the Monday wash, the newest ice box, the new model in stoves and other “modern conveniences,” some of which are detailed on the following pages. Mr. Watt will explain these “new gadgets” as the play progresses.

Assisting Mr. Watt in the presentation of this stage setting is the musical background, grinding out the theme songs of the day on a phonograph whose sound, though sometimes scratchy, is nevertheless “hi-fi” quality of its day.

Before we leave this family of 1898, Mr. Watt will make the optimistic prediction that some day, the very latest electrical appliances will help make these people to Live Better Electrically.

As Act I is completed, the music will increase in tempo, the house lights will go on, and the audience will progress into the second theatre for Act II.

Act II: Circa 1918 — The Initials of a Friend

We have now moved into the second stage setting, the transition accompanied by theme music from the old phonograph. As the lights brighten in the theatre, we hear our narrator, Wilbur K. Watt, describing the scene on stage, a post-war family in the year 1918.

The play now depicts a model American home in the early days of electricity. Although it is electrically lighted, containing all the very latest General Electric lighting, refridgerators, toasters, water heaters and other fine appliances, this up-to-date home is also a veritable jungle of wires.

Our electro-mechanical cast of characters will again actually move, talk and demonstrate all the latest, up-to-date lighting and appliances, accompanied by sound effects from the vacuum, washing machines and other conveniences and energy-saving devices. Before our eyes, these appliances will be operated by our life-like cast, just as they were used in 1918.


Copyright 1958 WED Enterprises

The theme music, sometimes drowned out by the deafening noise of an elevated train passing by the window, now emanates from the brassy radio, playing the popular tunes of the day.

As the radio music increases in volume, Mr. Watt makes the prediction that radio is becoming so real you can almost imagine sound becoming sight.

The audience then progresses into the third stage setting for the presentation of Act III.

Act III: Circa 1958 — Live Better Electrically

The theme music tells us that we have now reached the present day in our evolving electrical drama, and are viewing, on stage, another American family in its model contemporary home of the year 1958.

Mr. Watt’s prediction of 50 years ago has come true. We are indeed seeing an American family Living Better Electrically, with the aid of all the very newest interior lighting and automatic home equipment.

This American family of 1958 is enjoying the comforts of its combination family room and patio. Outside, it is snowing, but they never even notice: their radiant heat and climate control shield them completely from the weather while they swim, watch television or bask in the General Electric “sunshine.”


Copyright 1958 WED Enterprises

Our electro-mechanical cast of characters acts out the drama. Mom is keeping tabs on the kids through the scanner which allows her to see any other room in the house. She has already set the automatic equipment for Dad’s dinner, which is cooking by itself while she relaxes.

Before the lighting and musical effects signal the end of Act III and we move to the final theatre, Mr. Watt, ever the optimist, can’t help taking leave of 1958 without the prediction that some day, these same people will be traveling into outer space.

Act IV: Circa 19?8 — More Power to America

Ever moving toward the future, we have reached the ultimate of present predictions in Act IV, the year 19?8.

The scene is a penthouse overlooking New York City of the Future. There are stars above us and stars below us in this “island in the sky.”

The audience itself is on stage in this scene. We walk in and make ourselves at home among the space scanners, the ultra-modern furnishings, and the automatic, time-savings devices.

Mom is programming her dinners for the entire week in her automation-controlled kitchen. She presses a button, and her “cooking” for the week is completed, with the proper diet and calorie content included for every member of the family. She takes a look into an electronically controlled scanner, presses another button, and the bedroom is cleaned automatically.

Through the skyview, spaceships are seen racing across the nighttime sky toward their destination: anywhere in the universe.

Now — at this point — you may be asking: Where’s the show’s host gone? What has become of the ever-present Wilbur K. Watt.

Well, this is when Mom turns our attention to a wall screen. On it, a telecast shows the first space ship from Earth to successfully land on Venus. And who’s among this ship’s very important passengers? You guessed it. Wilbur K. Watt.

Copyright 1958 WED Enterprises

As he get ready to disembark, Wilbur notices that his space ship’s nuclear reactor are emblazoned with “the Initials of a Friend.” As in: The ship’s power plant was supposedly built by G.E. Who — even in the far-off future — is still supposedly putting out  great products.

Adjusting the oxygen dial on his space helmet, Wibur strides confidently out onto the surface of Venus … As the curtains to Act IV automatically close and the audience moves into “Harnessing the Lightning” ‘s post-show area.

This part of the proposed Edison Square attraction was euphamistically called the “institutional-product area.” Translation: This was the G.E. product showroom. Here, various product displays would have demonstrated General Electrical’s clear superiority in the home appliance field by talking up the corporation’s continuing commitment to research & development, advances in manufacturing technique as well as the company’s speedy product delivery system.

As they left this area, Disneyland visitors were supposed to be left with the impression that G.E. was tops when it came to Living — and working — Better Electrically on land, sea or air.

So — as I was saying — obviously those last two scenes in “Harnessing the Lightning” were significantly different from what Disney eventually did with the last two sequences of “Carousel of Progress.” So why did Walt ultimately decide to make those changes?

Copyright 1958 WED Enterprises

Well, that part of the story … I think I’ll hold back for the audio version of my Disneyland tour …

If you’d like to be on the official notification list for this CD (I.E. If you’d like me to send you a note letting you know when it actually becomes available), please send an e-mail to my jim@jimhillmedia.com address. And I’ll make sure that your name gets put on the appropriate list.

Anywho … That’s it for this week, folks. I hope to see you all again here next Monday morning. Til then, you take care, okay?

Best Regards,

jrh

           Special thanks to Uncle Skippy for provided me with all that great Edison Square research material.

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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