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The Early Multimedia World of Oz

Are you a friend of Dorothy’s? Well, even if you’re not, you’re sure to enjoy this column of Jim Korkis’, which details the many different forms that L. Frank Baum’s fabulous fantasy has taken over the years.

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“Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas any more,” stated little Dorothy Gale of Kansas and, for almost a century, millions of people have joined her in her adventure to a magical fantasy land called Oz.

The success of THE WIZARD OF OZ by Lyman Frank Baum in 1900 led to thirteen additional Oz books by the author and more than thirty sequels by a half a dozen other authors. Even Russia had its own series of original Oz books written by Alexandr Volkov.

A musical stage production of THE WIZARD OF OZ was personally supervised by Baum in 1902 and it was followed by a variety of other appearances including silent movies (several produced by Baum himself), radio programs, animated cartoons, television programs and the memorable MGM musical film from 1939 and the Seventies’ Broadway smash THE WIZ. (It was conservatively estimated in 1939 that over eighty million people had read THE WIZARD OF OZ.)

THE WIZARD OF OZ was written by L. Frank Baum who was born on May 15, 1856 in upper New York State. Indulged by his well-to-do parents, Baum explored many fascinations including chicken breeding (his first published book was about the subject), printing (he published a weekly newspaper unsuccessfully for a time) and acting (during a tour of a play he had written, he met his future wife). For a number of reasons, Baum seemed to have financial bad luck in whatever endeavor he was involved in at the time. His attempts at opening his own variety store, Baum’s Bazaar, and his later flings at newspaper reporting, being a buyer for a department store, and finally a traveling salesman definitely indicated that he had not found his niche.

His mother-in-law encouraged him to write down the bedtime stories he was telling his sons and the result was Baum’s first children book, MOTHER GOOSE IN PROSE in 1897. It was the first book illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, who would receive great acclaim as an artist within the next decade.

The success of the book convinced Baum to concentrate on writing and he was able to launch a trade magazine entitled THE SHOW WINDOW, about how to “dress” store windows to attract more customers. This new venture not only supplied Baum with a steady income to support his family but also allowed him to stay at home and write.

Baum became a member of the Chicago Press Club where he met William Wallace Denslow, a book jacket artist and poster designer who already had a strong reputation. They were the same age (early 40s) but Denslow lived up to the artistic stereotype of being touchy and tempermental.

The two men became partners and put together a book of Baum’s verse and Denslow’s pictures entitled FATHER GOOSE: HIS BOOK which appeared in 1899 and within two years sold almost 60,000 copies. Baum had bits and pieces of another story in his head which he sometimes shared with his children and their friends and decided now was the time to put it down on paper and publish it. (Legend has it that the name “OZ” came from Baum looking at one of his filing cabinet drawers which was labelled “O-Z”.) Denslow claimed that he was also involved in the development of the story and after the informal partnership later fell apart, he went on to chronicle alternative adventures.

The book underwent a number of title changes from THE EMERALD CITY to FROM KANSAS TO FAIRYLAND to THE FAIRYLAND OF OZ until it was eventually published in September 1900 as THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. Of the two hundred and two reviews Baum kept in his scrapbook, only two were unfavorable. However, Baum produced four other children’s books that year and as a result the sales for WIZARD were barely 20,000.

By 1902, the publisher went bankrupt and Baum signed on with Bobbs-Merril which issued several new Baum books including LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS and eventually a new edition of WIZARD entitled THE NEW WIZARD OF OZ so that it could obtain a copyright for the work since there was some difficulty about the original 1900 copyright. That new edition officially ended the collaboration of Baum and Denslow.

It is generally reported that what broke up the team was the stage production. In 1901, Baum joined with composer Paul Tietjens to devise a musical stage production based on THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ. Denslow also felt the material had stage possibilities and became involved, fully expecting that he would receive a large portion of the profits even though he was only contributing costume designs. The play had little to do with the book, concentrating primarily on the comedy team of the Scarecrow and the Tin Man. (The Cowardly Lion was not involved at all.) The Wizard’s army was played by chorus girls in tights. Dorothy is accompanied to Oz not by her dog but by her cow, Imogene, and Dorothy is now a young lady rather than a child so that there can be some romantic involvement. There is even a waitress from Topeka called Tryxie Tryfle whom the Wizard lured into his balloon before the cyclone blew them to Oz. Certainly, it was a different interpretation to say the least.

It was also a spectacular hit, running fourteen weeks in Chicago and then moving to Broadway where it opened on January 20, 1903 and ran for 293 performances. It was one of the greatest successes on Broadway up to that time and the show toured the country for the next decade. Baum, who had always had a love for the theater, was already thinking about another Oz book that he might also convert into a stage musical. However, the fighting between Baum and Denslow increased in intensity as Denslow felt he was not receiving the credit nor the money he deserved.

Each man went his separate way and began to independently develop further adventures for the Oz characters. Understandably, there was a deep bitterness and a very real competition between the two creators.

Denslow released a small booklet of his drawings for WIZARD with a new story written by Thomas Russell to fit the pictures. From December 1904 to March 1905, Denslow produced his comic page for Sunday newspaper editions entitled “Denslow’s SCARECROW AND TIN MAN.” The feature apparently appeared in only a very few newspapers and Denslow concentrated on the Scarecrow and the Tin Man because of their popularity on the stage. (Baum’s next book was originally going to be titled THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF THE SCARECROW AND THE TIN WOODMAN for the same reason. In fact, it was dedicated to Fred Stone and David Montgomery, the actors who had achieved much fame playing those two roles in the stage play.) Denslow’s Sunday comic page has little in common with the comics of today. It was a full page, primarily a text story with a series of illustrations scattered throughout and Denslow’s famous “seahorse” signature.

At about the same time, Baum also invaded the comic page. His second Oz book was finally entitled THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ and was published by a new company, Reilly and Britton, in July 1904. Dorothy does not appear in the story (although she would in some of the later books). Instead, the book is filled with some new creations by Baum, including Mr. H.M. Woogle-Bug, T.E.

H.M. (“Highly Magnified”) Woogle Bug, T. E. (“Thoroughly Educated”) gained his great education at a schoolhouse and gained his great size when he escaped after the teacher had projected his magnified image on a screen for the education of the students.

Baum was apparently very excited about the character. Baum wrote another musical stage extravaganza called THE WOGGLE BUG which opened at the Garrick Theater in Chicago on June 18, 1905. This time the shapely girl army in tights belonged to Glinda and the comedy pairing of the Scarecrow and the Tin Man was replaced by a similar team of Jack Pumpkinhead and the Woggle Bug. The plot was generally the same as Baum’s book, MARVELOUS LAND, but unlike the previous stage play, this production was not successful and was branded merely a lifeless copy of THE WIZARD OF OZ. When the production closed less than a month later on July 12, the cast had not been paid in some time and the electric lights used in the show had been repossessed.

About a month after THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ was released, Baum brought Oz to the comic page. The Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman, The Woggle Bug and other characters came to the United States in *** VISITORS FROM THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ. The Sunday page ran reportedly from August 1904 to February 1905 and was illustrated by Walt McDougall, who was well known at the time for his political cartooning. Running at almost the exact same time as Denslow’s comic page, there were some similarities but also some significant differences. It was similar in the fact that it was primarily a text story with accompanying appropriate illustrations. It was different because Baum did try to use dialog balloons and because of the popular “What did the Woggle Bug say?” contest.

Each episode in 1904 had a problem that was solved by the Woggle Bug and ended with the question “What did the Woggle Bug Say?” Readers could win prizes for getting the correct answer. In fact, it became a national catch phrase. An ad in the September 1904 issue of The Publisher’s Weekly states: “What did the Woggle Bug say? Thousands of children are guessing, thousands are wearing Woggle Bug buttons, 3,000,000 newspapers are asking the question every day… THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ… will be the most extensively advertised book ever put on the American market because of the Children’s Guessing Contest, conducted by a syndicate of newspapers extending from the Atlantic to the Pacific.” The ad continued that there was already free distribution of 500,000 Woggle Bug buttons.

The contest certainly was popular. So much so that by the end of 1904, a rival paper that was not publishing the series did print an ad for Hamm’s Beer featuring the Woggle Bug. The smiling bug, with four overflowing mugs of beer in each of his arm like extensions, was accompanied by the ad copy: “The Woggle Bug SAID Drink Hamm’s Beer.” Doubtless, many considered that the correct answer to whatever question the Woggle Bug ventured to ask.

Baum’s publisher, Reilly and Britton, released sheet music for a song entitled “What Did the Woggle Bug Say?” The music was by Paul Tietjens, the composer of the music for the WIZARD OF OZ stage play, and the lyrics were by Baum himself. Baum also wrote THE WOGGLE BUG BOOK, which was published in 1905 before the disastrous stage play. The book features the Woggle Bug’s adventures in the United States after he had become separated from the other “*** Visitors.” There were also postcards, a Parker Brothers’ Woggle Bug game and other giveaways.

The episodes from the comic page were later collected by Reilly and Lee Co. and heavily rewritten (though still officially credited to Baum) into book form and published in 1960 as THE VISITORS FROM OZ with illustrations by *** Martin.

There may be several reasons why the strip ended. Certainly one of them was that Baum was entering one of the most prolific writing periods of his life. He was churning out many books, most under pseudonyms because he did not want his name on display too frequently so that he could sell more books. While he is remembered for his OZ books which he began to turn out at the rate of one a year, Baum was actively involved in many other projects. Besides his other books under names like “Edith Van Dyne” and “Schuyler Staunton,” Baum developed a multimedia production featuring him on stage, along with silent movie scenes and colored slides, telling stories of Oz. In 1911, Baum and his wife moved to Hollywood, California and by 1913 had formed the Oz Film Compnay which made several silent films before Baum’s death on May 6, 1919.

In WHO’S WHO IN OZ, author Jack Snow claims that Baum was responsible for the creation of 220 characters. However, Ruth Plumly Thompson is credited with 320 characters who populated Oz. After Baum’s death, Thompson was hired by the publishers to continue the series and she ended up writing more books than Baum.

Despite Baum’s death, the popularity of Oz continued to grow. One silent film had comedian Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodman in 1925. The first animated cartoon version was produced and directed by Ted Eshbaugh in 1931. The storyline for the seven minute cartoon was Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man all go to meet the Wizard who does magical tricks involving hens laying eggs containing strange creatures. The cartoon included music by Carl Stalling!

There was a radio show in the Thirties sponsored by Jell-O. Then there was the MGM movie with Judy Garland (although Shirley Temple had been the first choice). It is now also know that the part of the Wizard was turned down by actors like Ed Wynn and Wallace Beery before going to Frank Morgan and that Buddy Ebsen was the first Tin Woodman but had an almost fatal allergic reaction to the makeup.

In the mid-Fifties, Walt Disney purchased the theatrical rights to the thirteen Baum Oz books (MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ to GLINDA OF OZ) and planned to make a live action movie called THE RAINBOW ROAD TO OZ featuring the Mouseketeers. Disney even had plans to include a glimpse of Oz inside the Big Rock Candy Mountain ride for Disneyland in 1955. That attraction was never built.

In 1960, Shirley Temple appeared as Tip and Ozma in a television adaptation of THE LAND OF OZ. Filmation produced a full length animated feature in the mid-Seventies which featured Judy Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnellli doing the voice of Dorothy and good old Margaret Hamilton not as the witch but as the voice of Aunt Em! One of the most underappreciated versions was the 1985 Disney live action version entitled RETURN TO OZ which launched the career of Fairuza Balk (recently seen in THE WATER BOY) and was severely criticized for its “dark” vision of Oz.

In 1987, a national survey was conducted. One of the questions was “What is the first thing you think of when I say ‘Kansas’?” One person in six answered “Dorothy”, “Wizard of Oz” or “Yellow Brick Road.” Another four percent said “tornadoes.” It is obvious inhabitants and visitors are just as alive today in the hearts and minds of millions of people as when they were first created.

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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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