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Waise the woof! It’s a special going-to-the-dogs edition of Why For

Since he’s already in the doghouse with so many JHM readers, Mr. Hill decided to go totally canine with this week’s column. As Jim now answers your questions about how Pluto really got his name, who actually came up with the basic premise for “Lady & the Tramp” as well as revealing some of the better Disney spoofs that are hidden in the “Teacher’s Pet” movie

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First up, Greg O. writes to say:



Jim,


I’m a long time reader and quite honestly I don’t understand the brouhaha regarding your site. I don’t particularly have an interest in the business side of the WDC, but I agree with you, news is news. I think the biggest gripe is that it appears you have been spending far more time on the business side of the WDC and not the entertainment and creative side. But me personally, I’m glad to read ANYTHING about the mouse company.


Now to the real reason I’m writing. I read earlier today that the astronomy eggheads decided that Pluto is no longer a planet. Now if I were a sharp person working in the PR department at Disney, I would be releasing a press release stating that while the astronomy world no longer considers Pluto a planet, the Walt Disney Company still considers Pluto a dog, Mickey’s best pal, and a STAR in it’s universe. If a lowly ******* manager at a *** firm can think up something like that, why can’t those high-priced suits at Disney do it?


Greg O.


Dear Greg:


As it turns out, the people who work in Disney’s PR department are pretty sharp. Literally minutes after I got your e-mail, this press release popped up in my in-box:



In reaction to news today that Pluto was demoted to the status of “dwarf planet,” the Seven Dwarfs issued their own short statement:



“Although we think it’s DOPEY that Pluto has been downgraded to a dwarf planet, which has made some people GRUMPY and others just SLEEPY, we are not BASHFUL in saying we would be HAPPY if Disney’s Pluto would join us as an 8th dwarf. We think this is just what the DOC ordered and is nothing to SNEEZE at.”



Copyright 2006  Disney Enterprises


As Mickey Mouse’s faithful companion, Pluto made his debut in 1930 – the same year that scientists discovered what they believed was a ninth planet. Said a white-gloved, yellow-shoed source close to Disney’s top dog, “I think the whole thing is goofy. Pluto has never been interested in astronomy before, other than maybe an occasional howl at the moon.”


Now — as I mentioned in Tuesday’s “Really? But I thought that you hated the Walt Disney Company” column — I normally don’t reprint press releases at JHM. But — in this case — I’ll make an exception. Why For? Because I’m kind of intrigued by what the Mouse is trying to do with this particular press release. Which is attempt to clear up a pretty common mis-conception about this Disney character.


To explain: Check out this rather intriguing sentence. Which appears toward the end of yesterday’s press release:



Pluto made his debut in 1930 – the same year that scientists discovered what they believed was a ninth planet.


“So what’s so intriguing about that?,” you ask. Well, it’s not so much what that sentence says. But — rather — what it doesn’t say.


You see, until relatively recently, it was always part of the established Disney Company mythos that Pluto (the cartoon character) was named after Pluto (the planet). Which was a story that — when taken at face value — sort of made sense. After all, the ninth planet in our solar system was discovered back in 1930. Which was the exact same year that Pluto made his initial appearance in a Mickey Mouse short called “Chain Gang.”


Except that … If one were to actually watch “Chain Gang,” you’d notice that it’s not one dog that’s trying to track down Mickey after he busts out of prison. But two …



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises


And then — when you get the chance to look at these dogs up-close later on in this same short — you’ll see that these two are really supposed to be bloodhoods. Which makes sense. Given that this pair of hounds has been sent out into the swamp to track down prisoners.



Copyright 2004 Disney Enterprises


Mind you, later that same year, another dog did appear in a Mickey Mouse short, “The Picnic.” Only this time around, this cartoon canine was supposed to be Minnie Mouse’s dog and his name was then Rover.


 


It wasn’t until 1931 that a new dog character appeared in a Mickey Mouse short, “The Moose Hunt,” where Mickey actually called that character “Pluto.” And to hear animation historian John Canemaker tell the tale on “The Complete Pluto: Volume One” DVD set, Pluto finally got his name not because anyone at the studio wanted to pay tribute to the newest planet in our solar system. But — rather — because Walt himself then supposedly had a dog that was named Pluto.


Which is why one day in early 1931, when the studio’s storymen were struggling to come up with a proper name for this dog that was making an appearance in “The Moose Hunt,” Walt supposedly said: “Pluto’s a good name.” And then the storymen (who were obviously anxious to please the boss) immediately said: “You’re right, Walt. Pluto’s a great name for a dog. Let’s call him Pluto!”


So that’s how Pluto really got his name. Walt was allegedly paying tribute to his own pet, not the newest planet in our solar system. Which is why it’s nice to see that Disney’s PR staff didn’t use yesterday’s press release to perpetuate this particular tall tale.


Because — Lord knows — the Mouse’s marketing department has dropped some real whoppers in previous press releases. Take — for example — this e-mail that I just got from Alicia P. Which talks about the press releases that Disney Studios sent out for the first theatrical release of “Lady & the Tramp.”



Jim,


Don’t be so quick to label all of the press releases that the Walt Disney Company sends out as junk. I’ve been collecting Disney press kits for several years now and I find them to be truly fascinating reading. Where else am I going to be able to learn about the real-life inspiration for “Lady & the Tramp“? That Christmas when Walt gave his wife a hat box. Only when Lily opened up the box, she found that there was a cocker spaniel puppy inside.


It’s those sorts of colorful little ancedotes that you’ll only find in Disney press releases. Which is why you — as a guy who makes his living writing about Disney history — should always make a point of reading them. So that you can then take these stories and fold them into the articles that you write for JHM.


I think that your decision to deliberately disregard Disney’s press releases is a wrong one. Please reconsider.


Alicia —


I think you’re a little confused. In Tuesday’s article, I didn’t say that I totally disregard Disney’s press releases. Only that I didn’t like to reprint them unedited on my website.


Though — that said — the story you cite in your e-mail (I.E. The cocker spaniel puppy in the hat box story) is a perfect example of why you really have to be careful about accepting unquestioned the stories that Disney’s PR department regularly churns out.


You see, the real inspiration for “Lady & the Tramp” wasn’t that cocker spaniel puppy that Walt supposedly gave Lily one long-ago Christmas. But — rather — veteran Disney storyman Joe Grant‘s dog. Who was an English Springer Spaniel, by the way. Not a Cocker Spaniel.


In the late 1930s, Walt supposedly saw a sketch that Joe had done of his family’s dog (FYI: This English Springer Spaniel actually was called Lady. Mostly because of the way Lady’s fur hung off of her hind quarters. Which made it appear as the Grant’s family dog were wearing a furry skirt). Disney reportedly saw some real potential in that sketch. Which is why he asked Joe to do some additional sketches, see if there was actually enough material there to do a full-length feature on the life of a pampered house pet.


Well, it took Joe over five years to finally flesh out Walt’s idea. But eventually in June of 1943, Grant was actually able to show his boss the series of storyboards that he’d put together for a proposed feature that Joe was already calling (in honor of the Grant family dog) “Lady.”



Copyright 1944 Walt Disney Productions


This cartoon (as Joe envisioned it) was supposed to have chronicled the life of a very pampered Springer Spaniel named Lady. This dog’s homelife had recently been disrupted when her owners (Mr. & Mrs. Fred) had had a baby. But Lady was starting to get a handle on things … Until, of course, Mr. Fred’s mother-in-law arrives with her two terrible Siamese cats, Nip & Tuck, in tow.


As for the rest of this film’s story (Which was reportedly directly inspired by events from Grant’s own life. This veteran story artist had noticed how out of sorts his dog had become after Joe & his wife, Jennie, had had their daughter Carol. How Lady — who had once been the center of attention in the Grant household — really had trouble adjusting to her new place in the pecking order once Carol came along) … Grant tried mightily to insert some real drama into this storyline. He even had Lady do battle with a rat that had snuck into the house and was threatening the new baby.



Copyright 2006 Disney Enterprises


But in the end, the 1943 version of “Lady” was shelved because Walt felt that the story (as Joe had originally laid it out) was just too soft. Sure, the Springer Spaniel character that Grant had created was cute. Charming, even. But charm all by itself wasn’t enough to sustain a full length animated feature. To do that, you needed conflict.


It wasn’t ’til nearly two years later, when Walt read Ward Greene’s “Happy Dan, the Cynical Dog” article in “Cosmopolitan” magazine, that he finally found what he was looking for. That somewhat cynical, antagonistic character that could then serve as a counterpoint to the overly sweet Lady. But even then — having discovered the vital ingrediant that this dog picture was missing — it would still be another decade before “Lady & the Tramp” finally made it into theaters.


Now as to that Cocker-spaniel-puppy-in-a-hatbox story … Well, that may have actually happened one Christmas in the Disney household. But as for that one event supposedly providing the true inspiration for “Lady & the Tramp” … I’m afraid that Carol Grant Grubb (I.E. Joe Grant’s daughter) would vehemently disagree with that.


And speaking of disagreeable things, Lane S. wrote in this week to complain about a 2003 Walt Disney Pictures release:



Jim,


I just read your story about how Disney Toon Studios is really cutting back on the number of video premieres that they’re going to make each year. I think that this is really great news. I can’t wait for Disney to stop turning out these pieces of trash. Did you ever see that “Teacher’s Pet” movie? It was really ugly and full of all these mean-spirited spoofs of classic Disney animated films. If that’s really the best that this studio can do these days, then I agree. Just shut down that entire arm of the company and don’t do any more of these awful cheapquels.The only way Disney will ever get back its traditional animation audience is if it stops making awful movies like “Teacher’s Pet.”


Lane S.


I’m afraid that we’re just going to have to agree to disagree when it comes to “Teacher’s Pet.” I — for one — loved this Timothy Bjorklund film. Especially because it made use of Gary Baseman‘s signature style to send up such classic Disney films as “Pinocchio,” “Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs,” …



Copyright 2003 Disney Enterprises


… “Cinderella” & “Sleeping Beauty.”



Copyright 2003 Disney Enterprises


Of course, if you were to ask the folks who were actually working at Disney Feature Animation back in 2003 about what their favorite moment from the “Teacher’s Pet” movie was, I’m betting that it might be when the Disney lot is depicted as a “Home for the Insane” (If you look close at the image capture below, you can actually see the grim little skeletons that are serving as the pillars for this macabre version of the Team Disney Burbank building). Or — better yet — that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene from the very end of this animated feature. Which shows animators with incredibly bloodshot eyes struggling to finish working on the “Teacher’s Pet” movie.



Copyright 2003 Disney Enterprises

And speaking of finishing … That’s pretty much it for this week at JHM, folks. Special thanks to those of you who hung in there after all the uproar on Monday & Tuesday. Here’s hoping that next week won’t be quite as tumultuous.

 


Have a great weekend, 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.

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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