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Scenes that You DIDN’T Get to See: Like the prologue from “Beauty and the Beast”

Jim Hill takes you through a memorable moment from Disney’s 1991 animated classic that ultimately DIDN’T make it into the final version of the film.

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Just like many of you out there, I spent ‘way too much time over the past couple of days looking at the newly released Platinum Edition of Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast – Special Edition” DVD. All in all, I think that Buena Vista Home Entertainment did a wonderful job with their latest release … and yet …

Well, call me picky (Okay. You’re picky). But would it have killed these guys to have folded in a little footage from the aborted non-musical version of “B & B”? You know, the one that director Richard Purdum reportedly spent several months supervising over in London? Before then-Disney studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg shut the whole project down in the Fall of 1989 for radical revamping?

Or – better yet – how about showing us a story reel of the original prologue for the picture?

What’s that? You say that you don’t know anything about how “Beauty and the Beast” was originally supposed to have opened? The version that wasn’t just a series of stained glass windows but a fully animated sequence?

Well then … Pull up a chair, kids. For now it’s time to get a new take on “A Tale as Old as Time.” By that I mean, would “Beauty and the Beast” have been just as enjoyable for you if ithad started out like this …

The prologue started off as the opening for most Disney animated films that are based on classic fairy tales usually do: With a shot of an ornate storybook. The storybook opens to reveal an illustration of a shining white castle that looms over a lush green country side. An off-screen narrator says:

NARRATOR Once upon a Time … There lived a spoiled, self-centered little boy who would – one day – grow up to rule a kingdom …

The camera now pushes in on the palace and – as the illustration gives way to full animation – we see this eleven year old boy as he is being dressed and fussed over by a slew of harried servants. But the Prince is making it impossible for his staff to do its job. He’s sick and tired of getting all dressed up … sick and tired of being polite … sick and tired of boring old ceremonies.

As he’s being dressed, the Prince’s two loyal Regents try to explain to the boy that a wise old woman, a person who’s respected throughout all the land, is coming to pay him a visit. This wise woman once gave advice to his parents and is rumored to have magical powers.

PRINCE I don’t care! It’s my castle and I’m only going to do what I want!

Pushing the servants away, the boy races from the room.

PRINCE Just try and stop me!

The Prince then races outside into the courtyard – where he collides with a Beggar Woman who’s carrying a basket of flowers. Onlookers gasp as the boy accidentally knocks the old crone to the ground. Then the two Regents rush over and help the old woman to her feet.

The old Beggar Woman now levels her gaze at the boy. She’s a craggy old crone who has the wisdom of the ages in her eyes.

BEGGAR WOMAN I’m waiting for an apology.

Surprised that a commoner would dare to say such a thing to a royal, the boy laughs.

PRINCE You can wait all day.

BEGGAR WOMAN You’re not going to apologize?

The Prince crosses his arms.

PRINCE I don’t have to.

The Beggar Woman smiles patiently.

BEGGAR WOMAN I’ll give you one more chance.

The boy’s temper flares.

PRINCE Why should I say I’m sorry to some old beggar woman? I don’t care about you!

The Prince now angrily kicks the old Beggar Woman’s basket, scattering her flowers across the courtyard.

Fierce power now emanates from the eyes of the old Beggar Woman, as she gazes deeply into the Prince’s soul.

BEGGAR WOMAN I can see that … you care for nothing … you love no one but yourself ..

PRINCE (arrogantly) Why should I?

The old Beggar Woman shakes her head.

BEGGAR WOMAN Then you are no better than a beast …

The old Beggar Woman now raises her arms. The Prince gasps as the crone begins to glow with magic and power. His eyes grow wide and he bolts back into the castle.

The boy flees past his two Regents, who now – as they step in front of the Beggar Woman – attempt to apologize for the Prince’s impetuous behavior.

REGENT 1 Forgive him! He’s just a child!

BEGGAR WOMAN A child in need of a lesson.

The two Regents now try to stop the crone from entering the castle.

REGENT 2 Please! We can’t let you harm him!

BEGGAR WOMAN I warn you not to interfere.

The two Regents still attempt to block the Beggar Woman’s way. With a wave of her arm, the crone turns the two men into enchanted objects: a mantle clock and a candleabra.

The Beggar Woman now enters the castle, continuing after the fleeing boy, transforming any and all who dare to get in her way.

The frightened Prince races through the castle, looking over his shoulder as he flees. Eventually, he reaches the safety of his own room. The terrified boy attempts to bar the way by shoving furniture against the door, then cowers in a corner.

Moments later, the Beggar Woman appears in front of him. The Prince hides behind a chair.

BEGGAR WOMAN Since you are no better than a beast, then you deserve to look like one.

With a wave of her hand, the Prince is turned into a hideous creature: half-boy, half-beast.

BEGGAR WOMAN And you will remain a prisoner in this enchanted place with no human company.

The Beggar Woman now takes a single red Rose from her basket. The flower then begins to glow with enchantment.

BEGGAR WOMAN This Rose will bloom until your twenty-first birthday. If you can learn to love another and earn their love in return by the time the Rose withers … then the spell will be broken. If not, you will be doomed to remain a beast forever.

The Beggar Woman places the enchanted Rose in an empty vase on the table.

BEGGAR WOMAN I leave you with that … and a gift.

The Beggar Woman again reaches into her basket. This time, she produces an ornate, golden Mirror. The old crone places it on the table next to the Rose.

BEGGAR WOMAN This enchanted Mirror will show you any part of the wide world that you wish to see. Look well … for it’s a world you can no longer be part of.

And – in a flash of mystical light – the old Beggar Woman is gone.

The beastly Prince now races desperately through the castle … Up to the highest tower. From there, he spies the old Beggar Woman walking away from his palace. Disappearing into the deep, enchanted mist that’s now engulfing the castle.

PRINCE I’m sorry! Please! … Come back! I’m sorry!

The camera pulls back – away from the Prince as he continues to shout down at the crone from his tower – and the palace is swallowed up by the mist …

Pretty cool, huh? Now, before Disney’s lawyers descend on JimHillMedia.com with their nasty little briefcases, let me point out that the above is just an approximation of what the original prologue of Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast” was supposed to have been like. (Where did I get all of my info? Well, I’m lucky enough to have a few friends at Disney Feature Animation who once showed me what the storyboards for this proposed prologue for this picture looked like. Over the past 10 years, I’ve also had access to the first draft of the Ashman / Menken redo of “B & B” – dated 6/14/90 – as well as the second draft of Linda Woolverton’s screenplay – dated 6/29/90. The recreated dialogue used here is a melding of what I remember from reading those two versions of the script.)

So why did Disney not to open “Beauty and the Beast” in this manner? Admittedly, there are some great dramatic moments in this version of the opening of the movie (I particularly like the idea of getting to see Lumiere & Cogsworth – in a valiant attempt to protect their lord & master – block the way of the old beggar woman. Only to have the loyal servants then be transformed into a mantle clock and a candlelabra. And that scene between the arrogant young boy & the ugly old crone out in the courtyard isn’t half bad either). But – beyond that …

Oh, let’s be honest here, folks. The middle part of this proposed prologue for the picture (Where the old crone is spelling out the exact way her curse works. What the Mirror does. What the Rose signifies. Blah blah blah) gets real talky. “B & B”‘s screenwriter Linda Woolverton tries to cram a fairly large chunk of exposition down the audience’s throat in a small amount of time. Which is – perhaps – why we all had trouble swallowing this particular section of the sequence.

Still, as originally written, “Beauty and the Beast”‘s prologue did end really strongly. With the anguished Prince in the highest tower of the Castle, yelling down at the crone. Begging for the old Beggar Woman’s forgiveness as she walks off into the fog.

What’s particularly interesting is – after this point in the script – the screenplay indicates that the film’s title was to have appeared (albeit briefly): Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” rising up out of the mist. Then – as the title and the mist faded away – we’re outside Belle’s village. We see Belle and Maurice’s cottage in the distance. As the music rises, Belle steps out of her front door on a crisp fall morning and …

The film picks up right where it does today. With Belle, Gaston, Lefou and the villagers singing “Belle.”

So why did “B & B” directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale ultimately decide to ditch Woolverton’s proposed prologue for “Beauty and the Beast”? Opting instead to go with the stain glass window version of the opening that the film has now? Two words (that almost every animator has heard ‘way too often): “Cheaper” & “Faster.”

If Wise & Trousdale had gone forward with Linda’s prologue as originally written, that would have translated out to an additional five or six minutes of screen-time. And – back in the late 1980s/ early 1990s – it was reportedly costing Walt Disney Feature Animation over $100,000 to produce a minute of finished animation. So – by cutting out this one sequence – Disney could shave over a half million dollars off of “B & B”‘s production costs.

But – more to the point – by putting together a shorter, more cost effective opening for “Beauty and the Beast,” Kirk & Gary could get their film underway that much faster. So Linda’s five to six minute prologue was dropped in favor of a 2 ½ minute long opening sequence that elegantly & concisely laid out all of the film’s necessary exposition. (Of course, it should be noted here that Wise & Trousdale spent months massaging the exact wording of the film’s opening narration. In fact, they supposedly continued to refine the wording right up until late September 1989 – just six weeks before “B & B” was due to hit theaters nationwide. All in an effort to get the wording of the film’s opening narration just right.)

Which is how we all ended up with the opening sequence that you can see today on your DVD or Home Video version of the Plantium Edition of Walt Disney Pictures’ “Beauty and the Beast.” Rather than the one I recreated earlier.

Of course, some of you might now be saying “But, Jim … That B & B opening sequence seems awfully familiar to me. I just know that I’ve seen or heard something similar to that before.” Well, that’s because you’ve probably seen the 1997 direct-to-video sequel to “Beauty and the Beast,” “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas.”

While they were getting ready to write this “B & B” sequel, “The Enchanted Christmas”‘s writers (Flip Kobler & Cindy Marcus and Bill Motz & Bob Roth) unearthed Linda Woolverton’s original screenplay for the movie. Why? Because they were hoping that they might find a few unused ideas that they might be able to fold into their direct-to-video project. Which is why the teleplay team also went over to WDFA’s Reference Library and dug out all of “Beauty and The Beast”‘s old storyboards … which is where they found all of the visualization work that had been done on the picture’s proposed prologue sequence.

Liking what they saw, Kobler, Marcus, Motz & Roth took the basic idea behind Woolverton’s prologue for “Beauty and the Beast” and bent the sequence a bit. So that it now fit into the storyline that Flip, Cindy, Bill and Bob had mapped out for “Enchanted Christmas.”

So – in this new version of “B & B”‘s original opening scene – the old Beggar Woman now shows up at the Prince’s castle on Christmas Eve. The arrogant young boy has just rejected a gift that his loyal staff has given him (A storybook, if I’m remembering correctly).

There’s then a knock at the front door of the palace. The Prince opens the door to find an old beggar woman, who ” … offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the Prince sneered at the gift and turned the old woman away …”

The rest of the story … I’m sure you know by heart. But what is kind of cool about this sequence in “The Enchanted Christmas” is you actually do get to see Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts and Chip get turned into enchanted objects.

As for the rest of this direct-to-video sequel to “Beauty & the Beast” … Well, it has its moments. But nothing that’s as strong as this little leftover piece of “B & B”‘s original prologue.

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.

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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