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Mouse FACTory 5.0

Dale Ward’s back with even more historical trivia about the Walt Disney Company. This time around, Dale goes under the ice with the really-for-real Nautilus, down to Walt Disney World to experience “America on Parade” ‘s premiere, reveals how Mr. Johnson got his name as well as takes us back to Donald Duck’s big-screen debut … among other stories.

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June 6th

June 6, 1959 — Disneyland’s “Submarine Voyage” Attraction opens in Tomorrowland: On July 23, 1958, the USS. Nautilus (SSN-571) left sunny Pearl Harbor. She was embarking on the completely misnamed “Operation Sunshine.” Misnamed because Nautilus was going to be the first ship to reach the geographic North Pole.

USS Nautilus was the world’s first nuclear submarine. She was the sixth US ship to carry the name but the first to live up to Jules Verne’s fictional sub. She had been christened just a few weeks after Walt released “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” and her first mission set a record for submersion. Just a few years into her career, the Nautilus logged 60,000 miles(I.E. The equivalent of 20,000 leagues). And she continued to set depth and speed records throughout her entire career.

On August 1, 1958, the Nautilus submerged in the Barrow Sea Valley near Alaska and reached the North Pole on August 3rd. It took another three days and almost 2000 miles of ice before she surfaced again near Greenland. She had been under the ice for close to 6 days, an important milestone at the time.

Nuclear power taking man to places he’d never been before and pioneers’ taming the last great unknown was the kind of stuff that Walt loved. Development of Disneyland’s “Submarine Voyage” was just getting under development when “Operation Sunshine” took place. Which is why this naval operation eventually became the template for this Tomorrowland attraction.

Walt’s Navy consisted of 1/6th scale subs patterned after the USS Nautilus. He was fond of saying his eight new subs were the 8th largest submarine fleet in the world. Of course, Disney failed to mention that his submarines were only 50 feet long, had flat bottoms and a top speed of less than 2 miles an hour.

On Disneyland’s expedition to the North pole and back, your sub encountered a coral reef, sunken treasure, a storm at sea, the remains of a lost civilization, a giant squid, mermaids and a sea monster. Not bad for an eight minute long trip.

June 6, 1975 — “America on Parade” debuts at Walt Disney World: For America’s Bicentennial, Walt Disney Productions put together a really big parade with some really big characters. “America on Parade” featured fifty different floats that tried to represent the entire social history of the United States. Marching along with these floats were 150 eight foot tall characters, all dressed in appropriate period clothing

The music for Disney’s “America on Parade” parade was provided by a moog synthesizer which was then mixed with a 1901 band organ. For those of you who don’t know: Band organs were huge instruments used at the end of the 19th century for traveling shows and carnivals. Disney’s search for just the right sound for this show led them to St. Louis. Where they found a band organ nicknamed “Sadie Mae,” who was a big girl with a big voice.

Sadie is a 99-key Military Trumpet Organ and she makes some serious noise. Besides her 200-plus pipes, Sadie plays a bass drum, snare drum, cymbal and 17 tuned bells. Her origins are a little sketchy. But it’s now believed she was made by DeKleist, an American Organ Company in Tonawanda, NY. If this is true, Sadie is a rare instrument with an important American lineage.

Disney found Sadie in St. Louis where she had been making music at the Gay 90’s Melody Museum. In the years before that, she had played in Ramona Park, a now defunct amusement park outside of Grand Rapids Michigan. Walt Disney Productions bought Sadie, then had this band organ shipped her to Nashville. Where Sadie was reconstructed in a recording studio.

Band organs play on the same principle as player pianos — with rolls of paper that mechanically change the notes. Sadie was given custom hand punched rolls made just for her “America on Parade” recordings.

Getting those “books” proved to be more of a challenge than the Mouse had bargained for. Given that not many companies made copies of rolls for pianos or band organs anymore. More importantly, given there weren’t any companies in the United States that could custom-make new ones.

As a result, the rolls that were used for the “America on Parade” were finally made by a man in Belgium who seemed to be the last maestro of a dying art. The results of Sadie Mae’s recording sessions were then sent to LA. Where this recording of a band organ was mixed with a Moog synthesizer — the hip, happening instrument of 1975.

If you’re wondering what happened to Sadie Mae: After her “America on Parade” recordings, this band organ was then shipped to Walt Disney World. Where Sadie Mae sat for years until this band organ was sold to a private party in the 90’s.

After 100 years, Sadie Mae is still making music. Not many can say that.

June 7th

June 7, 1975 — Disney World’s “Mission to Mars” debuts in Tomorrowland: When “Rocket to the Moon” opened at Disneyland in July of ’55, it was an exciting fictional trip to the moon well ahead of its time. When “Flight to the Moon” opened in WDW in October of 1971, it was 15 months after Neil Armstrong and Apollo 11 had changed fiction to fact. So obviously it was time for the Imagineers to reach a little farther.

On this date 30 years ago, “Mission to Mars” premiered at WDW’s Magic Kingdom. More importantly, this Tomorrowland attraction introduced Mr. Johnson, the AA host of “M2M” to the world. For those who don’t know: Mr. Johnson’s name isn’t just some WED inside joke. But — rather — Johnson’s name is a nod to the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Which — of course — is named after our 36th president, Lyndon Baines Johnson.

June 9, 1934 — Donald Duck makes his big screen debut in “The Wise Little Hen”: Of the “Fab Five” (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy & Pluto), Donald was the last character to appear in a cartoon and the only one to premiere in color. He was also the first of the characters to have a voice before he had ever been put to paper.

Clarence Nash grew up on a farm in Oklahoma. To amuse himself, he imitated the sounds of the animals. He turned his imitations into a vaudeville act which led to radio gigs. His best gag was reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb” as a billy goat. It’s Nash’s billy goat voice that became Donald.

Depending on who you talk to, the story of Clarence Nash’s meeting with Walt Disney varies. Some say it was Walt who heard Nash doing the “Mary Had a Little Lamb” skit on the radio while others say Nash went and applied at Disney. In either case, the result was the same. Clarence “Ducky” Nash was hired to be the voice of a yet-undrawn duck.

Donald’s first appearance is more like a walk-on role than a starring vehicle. He and Peter Pig are two lazy and whiny buddies who lie to their neighbor (I.E. The title character in 1934’s “The Wise Little Hen”) to get out of working. While he has a much longer beak and much more feathery fingers, the duck that we have grown to love was still underneath. He’s wearing his trademark sailor suit and his “I’ve got a bellyache” excuse is all Donald.

Donald’s second cartoon is opposite Mickey in 1935’s “Orphans Benefit.” And it’s here that Donald’s popularity really begins to soar. The Duck spends all his on-stage time in this cartoon trying to recite “Mary Had a Little Lamb” while being heckled by the audience. In fact, it’s the hecklers who send Donald into his very first tantrum. Which is also the first time this character strikes his infamous “fighting pose,” hopping up and down while swinging his fist. That pose was created by animator *** Lundy.

Starting in Sept. of 1935, Donald appeared frequently in the “Silly Symphonies” comic strip. Donald’s own comic strip started on February 7, 1938. It was scripted by Bob Karp and drawn by Al Taliaferro. The two talented artists remained with the strip for over 30 years. Karp and Taliaferro were also responsible for Donald’s Sunday comic strip, which premiered Dec. 10, 1939.

In 1942, Carl Barks and Jack Hannah were approached to draw a “Donald Duck” comic book. Barks & Hannah had been story men at Disney and had written some of Donald’s funniest early cartoons. The comic script they were given was an adaptation of a Donald cartoon that was never made. Barks and Hannah split the pages to draw and made Disney history (The comic today is worth around $10,000). “Donald Duck Finds Pirate Gold” was in Dell Color Comics No. 9 and was the beginning of Carl Barks’ comic career.

Barks went on to become one of the most influential and beloved comic book creators in the world. He is responsible for Grandma Duck, Gyro Gearloose, Magica de Spell and his most memorable character: Scrooge McDuck (who wouldn’t appear in a Disney cartoon for 30 years).

In the 40’s, Donald reached the peak of his fame. During wartime, Donald had eclipsed Mickey in popularity and was the most requested character for war insignias during WWII (an estimated 400). By the 60’s, the Duck had made over 120 cartoon shorts and was probably the most popular guest star on “The Wonderful World of Disney.”

For Donald in the 21st century, the fickle pendulum of fame has swung the other way. Both Mickey and Winnie the Pooh are more popular characters but it hasn’t slowed him down much. In 2001, he appeared in “House of Mouse.” And in 2003, the Duck stole the show at Walt Disney World’s “PhilharMagic.”

Donald Duck also appeared with Mick and Goof in last year’s “Three Musketeers” and “Twice Upon a Christmas.” And — this year — he’s appearing opposite Steve Martin in the “Disneyland: The First 50 Magical Years” movie that’s playing at the Main Street Opera House.

While most ducks in their seventies are getting ready for that last flight south, Donald still makes time to sign autographs at Disney Parks all over the world. It looks like the tough old bird will be around for quite a while.

Who’s got the sweetest disposition
One guess, guess who?
Who never never starts an argument
Who never shows a bit of temperament
Who’s never wrong but always right
Who’d never dream of starting a fight
Who gets stuck with all the bad luck
No one, but Donald Duck

— Donald’s theme song

June 10th

June 10, 1995 — Disney’s “Pocahontas” premieres in Central Park: One hundred and ten thousand people gather on the Great Lawn in NYC’s Central Park for the world premiere for “Pocahontas.” The Walt Disney Company paid $1 million dollars to the Parks Department for the right to show this animated film there and it appears that they did it none too soon.

Not long after this event. the Great Lawn was closed off, torn out and replanted. This Central Park refurbishment project was a massive & much needed undertaking, replenishing the lawn and installing a state-of-the-art irrigation system. Experts now figure that the Great Lawn can take 3 or 4 venues a year with crowds of no more than 60,000 people.

This is such great news for concert goers because — you know — only 60,000 makes a concert or premiere feel so much more … intimate.

June 12th

June 12, 1957 — Disneyland’s “House of the Future” opens: This Monsanto exhibit may have looked like just another attraction dreamed up by Walt and his Imagineers. But — truth be told — this Tomorrowland attraction was actually designed by architects at MIT.

Monsanto wanted to show both consumers and the construction industry just what plastics could do. So they went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with the idea of building a plastic house. The design process started in 1954, a year before Disneyland was open. And by the time the design was completed, Monsanto hadn’t quite decided where they were going to put the house. This problem was solved when Walt offered up a primo piece of real estate inside of Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.

The decision as to where to actually place the house in the park, Walt left to Imagineer John Hench. Hench chose a location just off of the Hub and designed the “House of the Future” outdoor landscaping to include a pond and waterfall. FYI: That pond was used to run the house’s futuristic cooling system.

Monsanto’s “House of the Future” remained in the park for ten years before it was removed. But this Tomorrowland icon didn’t go quietly into the night. The house actually resisted the wrecking ball and finally had to be pulled apart with hand tools before it could finally be carted away.

June 12, 1999 — “Tarzan” premieres at the El Capitan: Edgar Rice Burroughs was living check to check when he took a job as a sales manager for a pencil sharpener company. One day while waiting for his sales reps to come back with orders, Burroughs was reviewing some of the magazines in the office for the placement of his company’s pencil sharpener ads.

One of these mags was a “pulp,” an early science fiction and fantasy magazine filled with new short stories from an emerging genre. While he enjoyed what he was reading, Burroughs felt he could write something as good or better. So he wrote a novel about “A Princess on Mars” and sold it right out of the chute, on the first try.

Two novels later, Burroughs struck pay dirt again with “Tarzan.” The first installment of Tarzan appeared in the October 1912 issue of “All-Story Magazine” and the jungle legend began.

Guests at the El Capitan premiere of Disney’s “Tarzan” were treated to a Tarzan-inspired stage show, a Phil Collins concert performance as well as the debut of the “Mighty Wurlitzer.”

The “Mighty Wurlitzer” installed at El Capitan was originally a giant organ that came from the Fox theater in San Francisco. Billed by those in the know as the finest theater ever built on the west coast.

When the Fox theater was demolished in 1964, the organ was saved and moved to the home of Frank Lanterman, a California state legislator who was once a theater organist. From there, it became the property of the City of Glendale and then was finally purchased by the Walt Disney Company.

The “Mighty Wurlitzer” added to an already immersive experience in the El Capitan Theater, giving patrons the opportunity to experience a movie like they used to be seen back in Hollywood’s golden era. The organ is now part of the El Capitan’s preshow, giving audiences the chance to hear the rich full sound of a concert organ and step back some 80 years or more in movie history.

Birthdays

June 10 — Bob Cummings (1908 -1990) : ABC television and Disney decided to do a live show for the opening of Disneyland. Walt asked longtime friend Art Linkletter if he would host the live telecast. Art agreed and hand picked his two co-hosts, Ronnie Reagan and Bob Cummings. While today Cummings is probably the least known of the three hosts of “Dateline: Disneyland,” he was on a roll at the time.

Cummings had been in movies since the early 30’s. In early films, he often played the somewhat bumbling young suitor. He handled both dramatic and comedic roles well and was always a solid Hollywood player. But 1954 and 55 were breakout years for Bob.

First Cummings started off 1954 with Alfred Hitchcock’s 3-D thriller “Dial M for Murder.” While the 3-D aspect was mildly smarmy, co-starring with Grace Kelly was good for anyone’s career. He followed the movie with an Emmy winning performance in Studio One’s live television presentation of “12 Angry Men.”

In January of 1955, Cummings starred in a new sitcom with the ever-so-original name “The Bob Cummings Show”. The show is a hit and Bob is the “it” guy for 1955.

Okay — for those of you scoring at home — let’s recap. Big budget picture. Emmy winning performance. Hit sitcom. You can’t get more buzz than that unless your porn tapes end up on the internet.

Oh, yeah. One last thing. If you’ve seen the “Walt Disney Treasures — Disneyland USA” DVD, Leonard Maltin talks about errors during the live performance. One of those errors shown is Cummings flirting with and kissing a girl at the park. That’s not an error. That’s Bob doing his thing. That’s the character he played on his sitcom, a playboy and ladies man. He was just giving people what they expected.

If you’re going to have a “thing,” flirting with the opposite sex is a really good one. I wish I’d thought of that. Can I just make it my “thing” now?

Why are people laughing?

June 12th

June 12 — Richard Sherman (1928 – ): It started with a bet.

Richard and Robert Sherman were sharing an apartment in LA. And — like most guys just out of college — they had big dreams and no focus. Robert wanted to write the great American novel, while Richard was working on the great American symphony.

The Sherman’s dad, Al, was a songwriter who made his living writing popular tunes. Al bet his sons they couldn’t write a tune “that a kid would spend their lunch money on.”

The brothers accepted the challenge and wrote “Gold Can’t Buy You Anything But Love” which was recorded by singing cowboy Gene Autry and that started the ball rolling.

In 1958, ex-Mouseketeer Judy Harriet records “Tall Paul,” a song the Shermans co-wrote with Bob Roberts. A Disney executive hears the song and thinks it might be good for another Mouseketeer, Annette Funicello. The song is Annette’s first big hit and the Shermans continue to write songs for her. Well, you can’t be writing music for Walt’s golden girl and not get Walt’s attention.

The first song that Richard and Robert officially wrote for Walt Disney Studios was the “Medfield Fight Song” for 1961’s “The Absent Minded Professor.” And like so many other talented people who came to Disney to do just one project, the Sherman Brothers stayed for 12 years.

In those 12 years, the Sherman Brothers wrote over 150 songs. Among the 150 are songs for “Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book,” “The Parent Trap” and “Winnie the Pooh.”

And the hits just keep on comin’, because Richard & Robert recently wrote new songs for the uber-successful London & Broadway stage productions of “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

If there was an actual dollar amount placed on the bet between Al and his sons, I’m pretty sure Dad didn’t mind ponying up. Because it sure paid off in the long run.

 

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.

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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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