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Nate D. Sanders’ auction throws a spotlight on Ray Bradbury’s long association with The Walt Disney Company

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When I dropped by Disneyland earlier
this month, I made a point of walking through Frontierland. Not so much to
check out the "Legends of Frontierland: Gold Rush" game …


Photo by Jim Hill

… which — I have to admit — given all the Guests crowded
around the telegraph station that afternoon looked wildly popular / like a lot
of fun.


Photo by Jim Hill

No, the reason I was there was to check out the Halloween
Tree. But because I was there on September 8th and Disneyland's
Halloween Time didn't officially get underway 'til September 12th, this
seasonal tribute to Ray Bradbury had yet to be decorated.

Here's a picture of the 2013 version of Disneyland's
Halloween Tree …


Photo by Jim Hill

… as well as a few close-ups of the jack-o-lanterns that
decorated its branches.


Photo by Jim Hill


Photo by Jim Hill

For those of you who don't know the history behind Disneyland's
Halloween Tree, this seasonal display actually started some seven years ago.
Appropriately enough on October 31,
2007. Ray himself was on hand for the occasion …


Disney Legend Tony Baxter (L) looks on as Ray Bradbury flips the switch and lights up
Disneyland's Halloween Tree on October 31, 2007. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… and was gifted a copy of the plaque that's always on display in
Frontierland whenever the Halloween Tree is lit up.


Photo by Jim Hill

Now if you were to ask the folks who were at the Halloween
Tree's official dedication on Halloween night 2007, they tell you that the main
reason that this presentation was done at that time was to commemorate the 35th
anniversary of the publication of Bradbury's "Halloween Tree" book.

But there was another unsaid reason for holding this
specific event at that specific time. You see, Ray (who was 87 at that time)
was in declining health. And the folks at Imagineering wanted to let Bradbury
know how important he was to them. How much all of his years of hard work for
WED / WDI had been appreciated.

See, that's what a lot of Disney fans don't understand about
Ray Bradbury's relationship with the Mouse House. Sure, they may know the stories
about Ray's meeting with Walt in the early 1960s. Or about the feature film
version of Bradbury's magnum opus, "Something Wicked This Way Comes"


Ray (center of photo, in a
powder-blue suit) waves to the camera along the rest of the
cast of this Jack
Clayton film. Copyright 1983 Walt Disney Productions.
All rights reserved

… that Walt Disney Productions released to theaters back
in 1983.

No, I'm talking about the first real project-of-size that Ray worked on for the
Mouse House. Which — according to Marty Sklar's memoir, "Dream It! Do It!
My Half-Century Creating Disney's Magic Kingdoms" (Disney Editions, August
2013) — was …

… a show for Monsanto (a diversified company that has
evolved into the food biotech company of today). He worked with Marc Davis, one
of the greatest animators in the Disney studio. Ray wrote the treatment and the
script for the show. It had to do with the birth of the universe, and it was
spectacular. They used audio-animatronics and dimensional sets, but Ray was so
disappointed that no one had the imagination to be able to see what it was. Ray
would paint a word picture and Marc would draw the visuals. It was such a
spectacular undertaking that people in the business world couldn't see why they
should sponsor it.


Image courtesy of Nate D.
Sanders. All rights reserved

Davis & Bradbury worked together on this project off & on throughout
much of 1970. And while his "birth-of-the-Universe" show for Monsanto
never really got off the ground, the folks at WED had so enjoyed working with
Ray that when Card Walker finally allowed them to begin developing
Epcot-the-theme-park, the Imagineers immediately asked Bradbury to come back to
1401 Flower Street and help them dream up some rides, shows and attractions for
the place.


Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Now I've previously written about Ray's work on the core
concept & original script for Future World's signature attraction,
Spaceship Earth. Which is why — today — I'd like to talk about the other
pavilion that Bradbury did a lot of work on. You can see it to the right in the
photo above.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights
reserved

That's the original version of Epcot's Space pavilion. It
was supposed to be the attraction that Ray hoped would reignite American's
interest in exploring the cosmos. Which seemed to be on the wane in the 1970s,
what with NASA abandoning its Apollo program in favor of
what-was-thought-to-be-far-more-cost-effective-by-Congress-anyway Skylab &
Space Shuttle programs.


Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

What Bradbury wanted every Epcot visitor to be able to do
was take a walk in an astronaut's shoes. Which is why the exterior queue of
this pavilion was deliberately supposed to have resembled those enormous
gantries that you used to see standing next to the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo
rockets prior to launch. 


Ray Bradbury holding the
Titan 1 Model. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Once these WDW visitors had climbed aboard the Titan 1
(which — according the description of this proposed Future World attraction
that was printed up in Walt Disney Production's annual report of 1977 — was
supposed to have been this "huge, interstellar 'Space Vehicle' [that
would] transport passengers to the outer frontiers of the universe, highlighting
man's efforts to reach out for the stars around him"), that's when the
Wizards of WED would have really begun work their magic.


Designer John De Cuir (L)
views the interior of the Titan 1 model with Ray Bradbury.
Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

You see, the Imagineers really wanted to give Epcot visitors
the impression that they were actually floating out in space. Which is why the
ride compartment that WDW Guests were supposed to sit in while they were
experiencing the Space pavilion was supposed to built on this massive
cantilever. Which — because it hung out over this massive futuristic structure
which was ringed with faux windows that were supposed to show these
synchronized pieces of FX footage of starfields — would have given people the
impression that they were in fact in deep space, spinning among the stars.


Concept art for the interior
of the original version of Epcot's Space pavilion.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Unfortunately, what with all of the cuts that the U.S.
Government had made to its space program, none of the aerospace corporations
which WED approached to possibly sponsor this Future World pavilion were
actually in a position to fund construction of the version of Space that Ray
Bradbury & John De Cuir dreamed up in the late 1970s / early 1980s. In
fact, it wasn't 'til the late 1990s / early 2000s — that the Imagineers
finally found a corporation that was willing to underwrite the cost of
constructing a spaceflight ride at Epcot. And that was Compaq /
Hewlett-Packard.


Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Speaking of flight, it is one of the supreme ironies of Ray
Bradbury's life that, for most of the time that he was on this planet — in
spite of the fact that this acclaimed author spending decades telling his
readers to reach for the stars / let their dreams take flight — he was deathly
afraid of flying.

Don't believe me? Then check out this excerpt from  Sam Weller's excellent "Listen to the
Echoes: The Ray Bradbury Interviews" (Stop Smiling Books, June 2010).
Which reveals that …


Copyright Stop Smiling
Books. All rights reserved

Ray didn't fly in an airplane until 1982, when he was 62.
Prior to that, he had always crossed the country by passenger rail, and he
ventured to Europe by ocean liner. But in 1982, while
celebrating the opening of EPCOT Center
in Orlando, his train was
unexpectedly cancelled. Needing desperately to return home to work, he
acquiesced to his aviophobia and told his Disney hosts to buy him a plane
ticket, give him three double martinis and "pour him on the
airplane."


Image courtesy of Nate D.
Sanders. All rights reserved

From that moment on, Bradbury conquered his fear of flying. "I discovered
that I wasn't afraid of flying," he remarked. "I was afraid of me. I
was afraid that I would run up and down the aisles screaming for them to stop
the plane." When his fear did not come to fruition, Bradbury embraced the
airplane, and from that point forward, he became a frequent flyer.


Ray Bradbury speaking at a
meeting of Imagineers in the late 1970s.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All
rights

Yeah, the Imagineers had insisted that Ray be on hand for the grand opening of EPCOT
Center. Bradbury had not just been
one of the key creative voices during the realy developmental phase of the
project, he had also been one of the project's biggest cheerleaders as this science-and-discovery
theme park moved into its steel-and-concrete phase. The Wizards of WED just
loved Ray for saying things like …

… the way I look at the EPCOT project, if we build it
beautifully, if we set an example for the world, we can change the whole damn
country. That's how important you are. That's how important I feel, working
with you.


Image courtesy of Nate D.
Sanders. All rights reserved

Which is why the Imagineers (because they knew that Bradbury
had a love of Disney that went back for decades) always made sure to send swell
swag Ray's way. Whether it was a lithograph of Mickey's official 60th
anniversary portrait (which then showed the Mouse posing in front of the exact
same picture of EPCOT Center that Bradbury had been photographed in front of)
or the lithograph that Harry N. Abrams had created back in 1973 to celebrate
the publication of "The Art of Walt Disney."


Image courtesy of Nate D. Sanders. All rights
reserved

What's great about the above Al Hirschfeld-produced litho is
that it apes one that the King of Caricature did in 1962 to pay tribute to the
famed Algonquin Roundtable. Only this time around, you don't have Lynn
Fontanne, Alfred Lunt, Frank Crowninshield and Frank Case lurking in the
background.


Copyright Al Hirschfeld Group. All rights reserved

But rather Julie Andrews, Peter Ustinov, a very young Walt Disney


Image courtesy of Nate D.
Sanders. All rights reserved

… and Annette Funicello are looking on as Mickey, Donald
& Pluto sit in for Robert Benchley, Dorothy Parker and George S. Kaufman.


Image courtesy of Nate D.
Sanders. All rights reserved

Anyway … The Imagineers did this all the time for Mr.
Bradbury. Gifting him with things to let him know how special he was to WED,
how much this man & his writings meant to their collective creative
community. Take — for example — this poster for Disneyland Paris' Space
Mountain: De la Terre à la Lune.


Image courtesy of Nate D.
Sanders. All rights reserved

Tim Delaney (i.e., the then-Vice President of Show Design at
Walt Disney Imagineering. Not to mention the show producer of Disneyland Paris'
Space Mountain:
De la Terre à la Lune) made a point of signing this poster before sending it
off to Mr. Bradbury. I've posted a photo of that inscription below …


Image courtesy of Nate D.
Sanders. All rights reserved

… which reads:

Ray,


I dedicated Paris' Space
Mountain to my favorite visionaries
– Jules Verne and Ray Bradbury. Thanks for being in my life.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                  — Tim Delaney

Insert Bradbury 39. jpeg here — Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So how do I know all of these stories about Ray's dealings
with Disney? Well, I'm not just a Mouse House historian. I'm also a lover of
Bradbury's work. Which is why — earlier this week — I found myself thumbing
through the online catalog that Nate D. Sanders has created for his auction of
the Ray Bradbury estate
.


Image courtesy of Nate D.
Sanders. All rights reserved

Nate has put together 462 lots loaded with absolutely
amazing items. Things that Ray himself kept around his desk and/or had on
display in his home to help inspire him. Me personally, I'm just hoping that
someone bids on Lot 456. Which is a bunch of hats that
Ray personally owned. Just so this particular set of Halloween-themed set of
Mouse Ears can then be worn by someone willing to visit Disneyland
Park …


Image courtesy of Nate D.
Sanders. All rights reserved

… so that a little bit of Ray can make one last trip to
see the Halloween Tree.

Nate D. Sanders' auction of the Ray Bradbury estate ends on
Thursday, September 25th at 5 p.m. PT.

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

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling

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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse’s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit  ExpertGriller.com prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont

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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage

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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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