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So you think that Disney Consumer Products isn’t “Brave” enough to continue on with its Merida makeover? Think again

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While I was away in San Diego,
The-World's-No.-1-Brave-Fan sent me this e-mail:

I was wondering what your take was on that whole Merida
makeover controversy
which happened back in May. Do you think that it was wise
of Disney Consumer Products to try & turn Pixar's first princess into one
of their glitzy & glamorous Disney princesses?


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

What do you mean "try" ?

Look, I know that over a quarter of a million people signed
that Change.org online petition asking Disney to " … say no to the Merida
makeover, keep our hero 'Brave'." And as a direct result of the media
firestorm that followed, the Company did remove some 2D artwork from the Disney
Princess website
which showed a glamorized version of this Pixar character and
then replaced that artwork with CG images of Merida
as she originally appeared in Pixar's 2012 theatrical release.


The current version of the Merida
page over at the Disney Princess website.
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

But if you think that this very public gesture means that
The Walt Disney Company has now abandoned its efforts to sell and/or promote a
more glamorized version of Merida, please
allow me to direct your attention to the July / August 2013 issue of "Disney
Princess" magazine


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… which features a picture story that shows the glamorized
version of this "Brave" character being welcomed into Disney's royal
court by Belle, Cinderella, Jasmine …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

 

… Mulan, Ariel and Briar Rose.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Not to mention this "Emotions Eleven" Disney
Princess t-shirt

that the online version of the Disney Store currently has available for purchase.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Or the backpack / lunch tote combination on the left in the picture below that's currently on sale at the Disney Store's Back to School shop.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… or this rolling luggage case


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… or this Disney Princess pencil box.

 


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Look, to be fair here, the above items were already in
Disney's distribution channels when the Merida
makeover controversy erupted back in May. But given all of the bad publicity that
Mickey has had to deal with since those images of the glammed-up version of
this "Brave" character first began popping up online, Disney Company
officials could have easily just opted to pulp the entire run of the July /
August 2013 issue of "Disney Princess" magazine and/or removed all of these Disney Princess items from the Disney Store's online catalog. But
the Mouse didn't do that.

And why not? Because the Company knows that — in spite of
the Merida makeover controversy
back in May — there is still a very large & incredibly passionate group of
consumers and collectors out there who are eager to get their hands on glammed-up
versions of this "Brave" character.

That's the part of this story which I think the people who
signed that Change.org petition didn't entirely understand. That Disney
Consumer Products didn't create a spanglier, sleeker version of Merida
just because it was looking for ways to annoy female empowerment proponents.
But — rather — because they were looking to create another product for Disney
Princess fans to purchase.

And make no mistake, folks. Given that this particular brand
generates $4 billion in sales annually for The Walt Disney Company, there are an
awful lot of Disney Princess fans out there. And among the products that this
coveted group of consumers responds mostly strongly to are (you guessed it) glammed-up versions of the Disney royals.

Now please keep in mind that it's only been since 2000 that Disney
Consumer Products has been marketing these beloved Disney heroines as a group.
Or — rather — a set. With the hope that girls and women of all ages will then
(to borrow a line from the Pokémon theme song) " … gotta catch 'em
all."

Mind you, in order to now sell the Disney Princesses as an actual set of
characters (rather than a loose grouping of individual princesses), Disney
Consumer Products had to tweak the look of some of the Studio's earlier
princesses so that their design would then be more consistent with Disney's
more recent royals (i.e., Ariel, Belle & Jasmine). Which is why the Snow
White of today …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

… looks decidedly different from the way that Disney's first princess was depicted during her debut in 1937.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And Cinderella received a similar sort of makeover out
ahead of last year's Blu-ray release on this Disney animated feature
. With this
being how Cindy looked back in 1950 …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… and the below image being the way that DCP has
reimagined this Disney Princess for today's consumers.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

You see what I'm saying here, right? That it's not just Merida
who recently received a makeover. That the other Disney Princesses have
been glitzed & glamored up as well. All with the hope that the people who bought the
Ultimate Disney Princess Collection when Tiana joined the royal family back in
2009 …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… and then sprang for a similar set of dolls when Rapunzel
became a Disney Princess back in 2010 …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… would now want to purchase the 2012 version of the
Ultimate Disney Princess Collection. Just so that they could then own a version
of this playset where Merida has a
look & a design that's consistent with all of the other Disney Princesses.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

That — when you get right down to it — is why Disney
Consumer Products really gave Merida
her makeover. They weren't actually looking for ways to make this Pixar
character seem sleeker or sexier. But — rather — this was really all about DCP
finding ways to make Merida's look
consistent with all of the other Disney Princesses that were already out there. So that
it would then be easier for Disney Consumer Products to sell these characters
as a set.

Don't believe me? Okay. Then let's take another look at the
CG version of Rapunzel from "Tangled." Back when the artwork
associated with this character was still loaded with plenty of personality.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Now take a look at the official Disney Princess version of
Rapunzel. While this 2D take of this "Tangled" character is now admittedly
looks much more regal & glamorous, it has also lost a lot of the quirky
detail that originally made Rapunzel so appealing.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But for little girls (who — according to DCP's own market
research — would genuinely prefer to own a set of Disney Princess dolls where
all of these characters have a very consistent look & design), the fact
that the doll versions of Rapunzel or Merida that they're playing with don't
actually look all that much like the versions of these characters as they
appeared in their respective CG films ultimately doesn't matter all that much.
What  DOES matter is that — because the dolls in the Ultimate Disney Princess
Collection set are all the same height and share the same design aesthetic …
Well, that then makes it that easier for these children to imagine that these
Disney Princess dolls are actually friends. Which then makes playing with /
owning a set of dolls like this a far more enjoyable / desirable experience.
Which is what then helps to keep sales so high for this particular line of DCP
products.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So in the end, Merida's
makeover wasn't really about feminizing and/or glamming up this particular
Pixar character. But — rather — making the newest Disney Princess look more
like all of the Disney Princesses that were already out there. Which then made things far
easier for the folks at Disney Consumer Products when it came time to sell
t-shirts & doll sets which featured this brand / group of characters together
as a set.

Mind you, there are artists out there who have figured out
how to draw / portray the Disney Princesses in such a way that — while they
still have a unifying look & design — these characters retain much of
their individual quirks & personalities. Case in point: Amy Mebberson's
Pocket Princesses
. Which actually manages to mine quite a bit of humor out of
the idea that — were Merida to
ever actually be folded into a grouping of Disney Princesses — this fiery
Scottish lass would then probably have a lot of trouble fitting in.


Copyright Disney / Acme Archives Direct. All rights reserved

I mean, check out "Singalong," this limited
edition piece that Mebberson just created for Acme Archives Direct. Which
clearly shows how Merida probably
wouldn't be all that enthusiastic when it came to all these Disney Princesses
coming together and singing stuff.


Copyright Disney / Acme Archives Direct.
All rights reserved

Look, no disrespect to the people who sign that Change.org
petition back in May. They saw that a CG version of Merida
had replaced the 2D glammed up version of this Pixar princess which had
previously appeared on the Disney Princess webpage and figured "We won."
And they then moved on to the next online controversy.

But as for Disney Consumer Products, once the Merida
makeover PR crisis had passed, it was pretty much back to business as usual in
regards to the Disney Princess brand. If anything, given that
"Frozen" is headed into theaters in late November …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… DCP is already transitioning from marketing a glammed-up
version of Merida to looking for unique
& exciting ways to introduce Disney's two new princesses — Anna & Elsa
— to the world.

Again, let me stress here that I mean no disrespect to the
251,160 people who (to date) have signed that online petition over Change.org
which asked The Walt Disney Company to " … keep our hero brave."
I'm sure that these folks had their hearts in the right place. But that said,
I still don't think that they entirely understood what DCP was doing with its Merida
makeover. Which was answering the need of a very specific, incredibly
lucrative market segment that actually likes these glammed-up version of the
Disney Princesses.

I mean, if you folks are really looking for something Disney
Princess-related to get upset about, then please let me draw your attention to
these …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… the Disney Princess
Palace Pals
. Which is this all-new
collection of overly-cute kittens, puppies & ponies that DCP has recently
come up with as a way to expand the Disney Princess product line.

I don't know why it is that something like the Disney
Princess Palace Pals offends me more than a Merida
who's been deliberately glammed-up. I mean, I get that a redesigned version of this
"Brave" character would then be a better visual fit whenever she's
grouped with Cinderella, Tiana and the rest of the Disney royals …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… whereas the  whole
Disney Princess Palace Pals product line just comes across (to me, anyway) as this naked cash
grab.

More to the point, while I can understand why some folks may
think that this glammed-up version of Merida
undercuts the original message of this Mark Andrews / Brenda Chapman film, here's the hard reality: Not a single frame of that Pixar film has been
changed. More importantly, the  message
of female empowerment that people got when they watched "Brave" after
it first debuted in theaters back in June of 2012 hasn't been changed either. Nor
will that message change in the decades yet to come whenever people sit down to watch this Academy Award-winner.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

These glammed-up Merida
dolls and/or the other products that feature this "Brave" character
folded in with all of the other Disney Princesses actually exist outside of that
movie. So those products' ability to undermine the overall message of this particular Pixar
production is — at best — minimal.

Long story short: Disney Consumer Products created this
sleeker, glitzier version of Merida
because it was looking for ways to expand its Disney Princess brand. No one at
the Company deliberately went out of their way to try and undermine the "Change
Your Fate / Control Your Destiny" message associated with "Brave."
What this was really all about was finding new ways to keep that $4-billion-a-year
business going / growing by creating a product that the people who actually
like the Disney Princess line might then want to purchase.

And speaking of keeping the Disney Princess brand going /
growing, if you enjoy that coronation ceremony that DCP held for Princess Tiana
in Manhattan's Grand Ballroom back
in March of 2010 …


Copyright Disney Enterprises,
Inc. All rights reserved

… or the coronation ceremony that Disney Consumer Products
staged for Rapunzel at Kensington Palace
in London in October of 2011 …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… or the regal celebration that DCP put together back in
May of this year where Merida was welcomed into the Disney Princess royal court
in a ceremony that was staged in front of Cinderella Castle at WDW's Magic
Kingdom …


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

… just wait 'til you see what Disney Consumer Products has
in the works for Anna & Elsa. I can promise you that — when it comes time
for the two sisters who drive the storyline of Disney's "Frozen" to
finally officially become Disney Princesses — their induction ceremony is
going to be very, very cool.

Beyond that … My apologies for being off-the-air here at
JHM for the past few days. But between some family obligations as well as that
case of the creeping crud which I picked up out in San Diego last week, I've
basically been out of commission since I got back from Comic-Con.

But even so, I'm now making plans to return to Southern
California early next month. Where — out ahead of the D23 EXPO
Len Testa & I will be heading out to Palm Springs.
Where we'll then be recording an all-new episode of our "Unofficial Guide
Disney Dish" podcast series
that then focuses on the history of Smoke Tree
Ranch
.

And while we're out in the desert, Len & I also plan on
shooting something for the Touring Plans' YouTube channel. This all-new show
is supposed to be called "Ask Jim Hill." Where (as you might have
guessed by the title) I'm then going to try and answer Disney & theme
park-related questions that people have sent in.

So if you'd like to be part of the first-but-hopefully-not-last
episode of "Ask Jim Hill," please head on over to the TouringPlans blog
right now and then submit a question that Len & I can possibly use as part of the premiere of this new YouTube show.

That's it for now, folks. Again, my apologies for the lack
of stories this week. I'll get back to sharing all that I saw & heard at
this year's San Diego Comic-Con shortly. In the meantime, you all take care,
okay?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

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

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

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

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

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