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APATOONS: The birth of Animation Fandom

Jim Korkis returns with a column about the early, early days of animation fandom. Back before there was an Internet, when animation historians and fans were forced to communicate using an extremely primitive device. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Paper?

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Once upon a time, there was no animation fandom. To include an animation column in a major comic fanzine would have brought an outcry of protest from the readers. Serious fans would have transferred their loyalties to other fanzines because cartoons were just for kids, the same prejudice that haunted comic book collectors in those days. The firth and early development of an animation fandom is probably directly related to efforts of one man and his fanzine which grew into a legend.

In the mid-Sixties, it was the Golden Age of Comic Book Fanzines. Besides Don and Maggie Thompsons’ Comic Art, Bails-Thomas’ Alter Ego, and Spicer’s Fantasy Illustrated, there were countless ditto and mimeo fanzines extolling the virtues of superheroes. Most of the scholarship centered on superheroes from the Forties although there was a growing faction passionately devoted to proclaiming that Marvel Comics were the only worthwhile comics in existence.

Funny animal comics were scorned and considered of little value by serious fans. Animation was merely an interesting diversion and like Funny Animal comics, it was something to amuse small children, a philosophy that seemed to be held as well by the producers of this material. For most fans, the world “animation” merely meant “Disney”. Perhaps the more knowledgeable fans would have included Warner Brothers and Hanna-Barbera in that definition but precious little else since no information on the field existed in any easily accessible format. And in those days before VCRs, many of the classics of animation were not available for viewing or aired during the day when people were at work.

Into this land of ignorance strode Michael Barrier.

His only credential was an unabashed love for Funny Animal comics and Animation. In October 1966, he published the first issue of Funnyworld for Capa-Alpha, the comic book apa started by Jerry Bails which appeared monthly and is currently still going after 320 some issues. Apas are amateur press associations which date back to the last century, when proliferation of small letterpresses made it possible for anyone sufficiently motivated to create his own publication. The first apas were simply trading clubs for home-produced little magazines. In the 1930s, the invention of the mailing comment, wherein other members are addressed in print by name and response is given to what they write, set the stage for the modern apa. Today’s apas physically resemble mosaics of ditto, mimeo, Xerox and professional printing, but in essence they’re mail order cocktail parties, filled with the same fun and misunderstandings associated with that type of social gathering.

Using the science-fiction apas as a guide, Dr. Jerry Bails created the first apa devoted to comic books. The first issue of Funnyworld was fourteen mimeographed pages and the main feature was a listing of Warner Bros. comic books 1941-1966 (remember, this was pre-Overstreet Price Guide). Why was the zine christened Funnyworld? In that first issue, Barrier explained, “There was a comic book called Funnyworld, by the way, although I know nothing more about it than it existed, probably briefly, and probably as one of the multitude of rotten funny animal comic books spawned in the early Forties by the success of Looney Tunes. The more immediate source of the title is, of course, Richard Kyle’s late lamented Wonderworld. Not that I’m going to try to emulate Kyle, except in the most general way; I just dug his zine.”

Barrier’s primary interest was on gathering and publishing information on this unexplored world of funny animals. Richard Kyle was one of the first analytical writers about comic books, digging out new information and looking closely at themes.

Six months later (Funnyworld 5, April 1967) Barrier included in his fanzine his first animation information. At that time, it was a natural extension from his funny animal comic book research since there were many comic books based on animated cartoon characters. Little did Barrier suspect that animation articles would soon displace all talk of comic books. A year later (Funnyworld 9) the fanzine had expanded to forty-six mimeographed pages and Barrier was selling the extra copies he printed for fifty cents. (It was free “for published contributions of art, articles, reviews, letters, questions, answers, news, historical anecdotes and the like.”)

Funnyworld had outgrown its original purpose of being one man’s attempt to uncover information about some of his childhood memories; it had become a rallying center for animation fans who had no other source available for this material. Barrier was developing a well-earned reputation as an animation scholar and expert on funny animal comics and animation. The summer of 1970 saw the release of Funnyworld 12. It was the first offset issue and sold for a dollar. The main feature of the almost fifty-page issue was a still controversial interview with Bob Clampett. More and more animation news, reviews and interviews began appearing in the pages of Funnyworld. The increased press run and the new ability to include photographs expanded the magazine’s reputation. The magazine continued to be published sporadically until issue 16 (Winter 1974-75) which was intended as the final issue. The magazine lost money because it was published infrequently and it was published infrequently because Barrier lacked the necessary financial resources to publish more often. Barrier decided the only way to remedy the situation was to close up shop and devote his time to writing a book on the history of animation and to concentrate on his regular job.

Funnyworld was revived several years later when the magazine was sold to Mark Lilien (after attempts to have others including Bill Blackbeard resume publication of it). Supposedly Lilien was to take over the business end of production, distribution, advertisements, etc. while the editorial control would remain with Barrier. However, after six issues, Barrier resigned because of strong disagreements with the way the magazine was being handled. That resignation officially sounded the death knell for the magazine.

One of the major contributions Barrier made to animation fandom was to stop publishing Funnyworld. Funnyworld was the unquestioned center for animation scholarship and once it disappeared, it forced the development of other magazines to fill the void.

During this period, Mindrot began. Like Funnyworld, it was designed as an apa zine for Vootie, the funny animal cartoonists’ apa. David Mruz, editor and publisher, remembered his school teachers warning him not to read comic books or watch cartoons because they would “rot” his mind, so Mruz created a fanzine for others with similarly rotted minds. The first issue appeared April 1976 and was only two pages long but by the end of the year it had grown to eight pages of offset type devoted to animation and sold to the general public for fifty cents. A favorable plug for Mindrot in Mark Mayerson’s short-lived animation column for Film Collector’s World attracted the interest of many animation fans looking for a place to share animation information.

This influx of interest encouraged Mruz in June 1977 to further expand his fanzine and to develop its familiar format of forty pages in the form of a booklet. Like Funnyworld, the magazine featured lengthy interviews with animators and historic research. Unlike Funnyworld, the magazine featured detailed episode listings of animated series and several regular columns by animation historians including myself whose interest in animation history had been inspired by Mike Barrier’s work. Some potential readers were confused by the title of the magazine so Mruz changed the name to Animania (issue 20, Feb. 1981) and the name change increased sales and recognition (although fans still refer to it as Mindrot when talking). However, Mruz needed to devote more time to his business and his family and the final issue of Animania was 27 (Dec. 1983). Mruz made no farewell announcement and over the years has thought about reviving the title.

Animania inspired other animation fanzines in a similar format including Reg Hartt’s Animazine and Mike Ventrella’s Animato! Since that time Animato!, in particular under the editorship of Harry McCracken, grew into a respected and eagerly-anticipated animation magazine filled with many of the elements that made both Funnyworld and Animania vital sources for animation fans.

One of the most unique creations inspired by Funnyworld and Animania was APATOONS. On May 12, 1981, Don Markstein and GiGi Dane sent out a one-page orange flyer to a select group of fans. The flyer announced the formation of an apa for “animation buffs”. Markstein wrote, “There’s a potential for an animation fandom lurking among publishing fans. We don’t know how many people there are in it, but we do know Funnyworld and Mindrot aren’t being published in a vacuum. That potential has probably always been there, but lately, with more and more lifelong cartoon buffs becoming video collectors, it’s been exploding. Just as comics fandom grew out of science fiction fandom to create its own fan movement 20 years ago, we expect cartoon fandom to come into its own very soon now. That’s the hifalutin’ reason. What actually happened is that as we were cataloguing the latest tape from our mutual cartoon collection, GiGi asked Don if there was an apa where they talked mostly about cartoons. Of course there wasn’t – but there is now.”

Markstein further stated that “we’re hoping for a fairly small group, say about 20-25 members, and definitely no more than 30. Organization will be loose: There will be a roster, a mailing schedule, a copy requirement, a person in charge, and a general expectation (but not an ironclad rule) that those participating will mostly stick to the subject.”

The first issue of APATOONS appeared July 1981 and that first issue had only seven members: Jim Korkis, Alan Hutchinson, Don Markstein, Meera Dane (GiGi’s daughter), GiGig Dane, Marcus Wielage and Rick Norwood. There were sixty pages in that first mailing, although 26 of those were supplied by Jim Korkis who in a rift of unbridled enthusiasm sent in two separate contributions. In addition, Markstein enclosed a 22-page songbook containing the lyrics to over 40 cartoon “ditties” which he had originally done up for the 100th mailing of SFPA, another apa he was a member of at the time.

That first mailing included such items as a Saturday Morning Cartoon Index (1964-1974), samples of Chuck Jones’s syndicated comic strip and a signed self-portrait of Disney animator Ward Kimball. The apa grew rapidly as word of its existence spread from friend to friend.

By issue three, Mark Evanier had designed the official logo for the apa. Evanier, well-known for his scripting of numerous animated shows among many other credits, contributed his thoughts through Wielage’s apazine. However, over the years, the roster has included Mike Barrier (editor of Funnyworld), Dave Mruz (editor of Animania), Mike Ventrella and Harry McCracken (of Animato! fame), Jerry Beck (co-author of the best book on Warner cartoons) and his co-writer Will Friedwald, Leonard Maltin, Tim Fay, Mark Mayerson, Mark Kausler, John Cawley, Fred Patten, Jim Korkis, Dave Bennett, Bob Miller, Nancy Beiman, Milton Gray, Will Ryan, Keith Scott, Dan Haskett and Van Partible just to mention a few of the names who have contributed so much to animation scholarship during the last two decades.

APATOONS held a special animation party at the 1983 San Diego Con where rare animation was screened. In 1985, APATOONS and Get Animated! jointly hosted another party of animation rarities.

Jerry Beck took over as Fearless Leader in September 1984 with issue number 18 after he successfully edited the first APATOONS San Diego Sampler that was distributed in the summer of 1984. Under Beck’s leadership a more professional look and attitude established itself. Some issues would include actual animation cels or strips of animation film. One issue had a 3-D cover while another showcased an original limited edition cel of famous animation birds. APATOONS became the source for preliminary drafts of articles that would later appear in a variety of magazines including Animato! and Animation magazine.

By issues number thirty (September 1986), famed animator Dave Bennett created an official cartoon mascot for the apa, the Rooster. The Rooster appeared throughout the mailing, but his special place of honor was at the beginning of The Clipping File, a collection of animated related newspaper and magazine articles from around the United States, which appears every issue.

In 1990, with issue number fifty-five, animation writer Bob Miller took over the Fearless Leader position from Jerry Beck and set about revamping and expanding the apa. Under his direction, the celebration of APATOONS’ tenth anniversary in July 1991 was marked by the creation of a special San Diego Sampler to coincide with the regular mailing. Copies of the issue were given to the regular roster of members as well as being offered for sale through the Comics Buyer’s Guide and the Get Animated! table at the San Diego Convention which ironically was being held in July after many years of always being held the first week in August.

Over the years, other animation magazines continued to appear and disappear including Animation Planet, Animated Life, Toon, Animation and many others which I will discuss in a future column. For those interested in joining Apatoons which is still going strong as a forum for animation discussion, there is a website run by Harry McCracken and a new Sampler issue available for interested members.

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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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