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Making Fun of the Mouse: Part III

In the final installment of this three part series, Jim Hill pays tribute to those magical movie moments when WDFA & Dreamworks Animation employees put the “dis” in “Disney”

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Picking up where we left off yesterday … Of course, it’s not just outsiders who get their jollies by riffing on Mickey. Sometimes it’s the Disney Studio employees themselves who like to get in an occassional shot at the Mouse and/or like to slip in a quick tribute to their favorite Disney character or film.


And — just for the record — today’s article deliberately steers clear of mentioning this trio of recent Walt Disney Pictures releases …



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… For “The Country Bears,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” and “The Haunted Mansion” don’t exactly make fun of and/or pay tribute to the Disney theme park attractions that these films were based on. But — rather — these movies actually use these classic rides as the jumping-off point for brand-new cinematic experiences.


And today, we’re not talking about “brand-new cinematic experiences.” We’re strictly here for the jokes, folks. Particularly those gags that are from the blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em school.


Now when it comes to quick character cameos being folded into new Disney releases, most film historians tend to give credit the crew that was doing visual effects on “Tron.” For they’re the ones who were able to “slip a Mickey” into this July 1982 Walt Disney Productions release.



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The guys working on “The Black Cauldron” tried to do something similiar with that 1984 film. Does that itty-bitty pixie between Taran & Princess Eilonwy look familiar? She should. That’s supposed to be Tinkerbell from “Peter Pan.”



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Sometimes these Disney character cameos were less than subtle. Witness Dumbo’s appearance as a bubble-blowing toy in 1986’s “The Great Mouse Detective.”



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While still other appearances by the Disney characters are damned near impossible to see. Take — for example — Mickey, Donald & Goofy’s cameo in 1989’s “The Little Mermaid.” These three are actually sitting in the audience for what’s-supposed-to-be Ariel’s musical debut.


“Where exactly?,” you ask. Look closely at the image capture below. Paying particular attention to the area between Triton’s flowing white hair and the seashell that the King rode in on. If you look carefully in this spot, you’ll eventually be able to see Goofy’s long pale muzzle, Donald’s orange bill as well as Mickey’s round ears.



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But as time went by (And the studio’s film-makers — particularly Ron Clements & John Musker — got more & more brazen), these character-based gags got more & more overt. Witness Pinocchio’s cameo in 1992’s “Aladdin.”



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But — at the same time — the artists at Disney Feature Animation still tried to slide some fairly subtle in-jokes by the audience. Take — for example — the image capture below. Which shows a pile of the Sultan’s toys.



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Did you spy one of the title characters from Disney’s 1991 Academy Award winner, “Beauty & the Beast“? Better yet, how about that dog that’s wearing a bandana while holding a Frisbee?


The Beast’s appearance in this pile of toys is self-explanatory. He’s just anothe Disney character cameo. The dog … is a different matter. His inclusion in “Aladdin” is supposedly a tribute to an artist’s much-beloved pet that passed while this particular animated feature was in production.



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Getting back to the gags now … With “Aladdin,” the handcuffs really came off. It was now considered okay to make fun of the safety spiels at the Disney theme parks (“Keep your hands & arms inside the carpet”) …



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… Not to mention spoofing the advertising slogans that the Walt Disney Company then used to promote its theme parks (“Aladdin. You’ve just won the heart of the princess. What are you going to do now?”)



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Even the souvenirs that were sold at the Disney theme parks were now considered fair game for lampooning. Check out the Goofy Hat that the Genie is wearing in “Aladdin” ‘s group hug scene.



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The theme park-related gags continued with 1994’s “The Lion King,” with Scar asking Zazu to sing something with ” … a little bounce it.” When the caged bird responds by warbling “It’s a Small World,” the self-appointed ruler immediately interrupted, saying: “No! Anything but that!”



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Kevin Lima also tried to cram a variety of Disney-related gags into his directorial debut, 1995’s “A Goofy Movie.” Some of these were subtle (Witness the trademark Disney “D” on Goofy’s car keys) while others were not (I.E. Mickey & Donald’s quick appearance in the film’s “On the Open Road” musical number).



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But one of the main reasons that so many Disneyana fans love “A Goofy Movie” is the film’s “Lester’s Possum Park” sequence. Which not-so-lovingly pays tribute to that Disney theme park staple, “The Country Bear Jamboree.”



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Over time, it eventually became something of a game at WDFA to see how many “tributes” to earlier animated films you could slip into the project that you then had in production. Take — for example — the two image capture below from 1996’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” Can you spot the nods to “Beauty & the Beast,” “Aladdin” and “The Lion King?”


The tribute to “Beauty & the Beast” is easy enough to spot. That’s Belle in the lower right-hand corner, walking out of the picture as she reads a book. As for “Aladdin” … Check out the salesman dressed in green directly above Belle. Do you see what he’s got draped over his arm? That’s supposed to be the magic carpet from “Aladdin.”


As for “The Lion King” … Well, you’re going to have to take my word on this one. But those two men who are about to walk out of the shot in the lower left-hand corner? Between them, they’re carrying a pole. And tied to that pole is Pumbaa from “The Lion King.”



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Getting back to John Musker & Ron Clements now … When Ron ‘n’ John got their next shot at directing an animated feature for Disney, these guys decided to really up the ante. Which is why — with 1997’s “Hercules” — they gleefully went after all aspects of the Disney empire. Lampooning everything from the Disney Stores …



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… to demonstrating how Scar (I.E. The villain from “The Lion King”) came to a particularly bad end. Winding up as a cape that Hercules casually tosses on the floor.



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This film’s dialogue bristled with one-liners that made fun of the Mouse. Take — for example — Meg’s description of the bunny & the chipmunk that you see below: “Oh, look. A couple of rodents in search of a theme park.”



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The image capture below … Well, this is from one of the more interesting moments in “Hercules.” A spot in the film where Musker & Clements actually had to remove an in-joke from their movie because it worked a little too well.


You see, in the original version of “Zero to Hero,” at this spot in the song, Hercules & Pegasus are soaring through a star-filled sky. And among the constellations that they encountered in this corner of the sky was one shaped like Sebastian the Crab & another shaped like Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.”  


When this brief scene was shown to test audiences, they roared with delight. The only problem was … This in-joke also pulled movie-goers out of the film that they were watching. These people were so busy saying: “Did you see that? That was Ariel & Sebastian from ‘The Little Mermaid’ ” … That they actually missed out on the end of “Zero to Hero.”


Obviously, as good as this Disney-related gag may have been, it really didn’t work for Musker & Clements to suddenly have people not paying attention to their movie. Which is why Ariel & Sebastian’s cameo in “Hercules” was eventually cut out of that movie. Which is why it’s now Marilyn Monroe — wearing the skirt that she wore in 1955’s “The Seven Year Itch” — that appears in the night sky in this Disney animated feature.



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So, okay. It’s sad that that particular in-joke got cut out of “Hercules.” But given all the great Disney-related gags that remain in this film (Take — for example — the Muses making like the singing busts that you see in the graveyard sequence from that Disney theme park favorite, the Haunted Mansion), there’s still a lot to like about this WDFA production. 



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And the Disney character-based cameos kept on coming with 1999’s “Tarzan.” With Mrs. Potts & Chip from “Beauty & the Beast” turning up among Jane & Professor Porter’s belongings in that film’s “Trashing the Camp” sequence. Not mention the Beanie Baby version of Little Brother (I.E. Mulan’s dog in Disney’s 1998 release, “Mulan“) that comes tumbling out of the professor’s pocket when he’s up-ended by the apes.



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Disney theme park-related gags remain a favorite with the company’s animators. Witness the roller coaster that Yzma & Kronk have to use every time they make their way to the Secret Lab in 2000’s “The Emperor’s New Groove.” If you listen carefully, you can hear the standard Disney safety spiel (I.E. “Please keep your hands & arms inside the vehicle at all times”) play right before this roller coaster launches.



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Mind you, it’s not just the folks at WDFA who find the Disney theme parks to be pretty darn amusing. The talented artists & technicians at Dreamworks Animation also find all of those rides, shows and attractions to be ripe targets for satire as well.


Don’t believe me? Then check out this sequence that was storyboarded for the original “Shrek.” Which was eventually dropped from that 2001 Dreamworks Animation release because … Well, to be honest, this particular sequence may have had too much fun at the expense of the Disney theme parks.


For reasons that are too difficult to explain now … Shrek, Donkey & Fiona find themselves deep underground inside the mine of the Seven Dwarfs. And the only possible way to escape the mine  climb aboard one of the Dwarfs’ mine car …



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… Which then sends this trio careening down an incredibly steep hill before they go crashing through a door …



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Which sends Shrek, Donkey & Fiona right through the heart of the Seven Dwarfs’ mine. Which the ogre accidentally destroys because he’s just too tall to be speeding through such a confined space. After knocking numerous dwarfs into the air …



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… the minecar whizzes by a talking skull-and-crossbones that looks just like the one that you see in Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride. It then zooms by an Abominable Snowman that looks just like the one that you spy while riding through Disneyland‘s “Matterhorn.”



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Seconds later, this trio has a rather close encounter with the “Five Bear Rugs” from “The Country Bear Jamboree.”



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As you can see, Donkey, Shrek & Fiona have very different reactions to their experience in the Seven Dwarfs’ mine.



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Anyway … That’s an overview of some of the Disney-related in-jokes that have appeared in WDFA & Dreamworks Animation releases over the past 25 years. This list is far from definitive (I’m sure that there are a couple of gags that got by me). But — even so — I hope that you enjoyed reading the past three days’ worth of animation-related stories.


By the way, before I close here … I’d like to pay tribute to Nancy Stadler. Who spent the past three days cropping, formating and color-correcting the over-one-hundred images that I used to illustrate this multi-part article. Without Ms. Stadler’s talent, patience and expertise, “Making Fun of the Mouse” wouldn’t have been nearly as fun to look at. So be sure to toss a few compliments Nancy’s way.


Beyond that … I know that I managed to miss a few Disney in-jokes along the way. So how’s about you help out by pointing out the gags that I missed. So that — sometime further on down the line — I can do a follow-up story that finally makes this “Making Fun of the Mouse” series definitive.


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.

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“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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