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Wednesdays with Wade: Did the NAACP kill “Song of the South”?

Wade Sampson takes a close look at a little-known aspect of the history of this still controversial Disney Studio production: The time when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People actually picketed this motion picture

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This month is the 59th anniversary of the premiere of Disney’s still controversial “Song of the South.” Even though Disney has released the film in both Asian and European markets with no race riots occurring nor lengthy diatribes published condemning the film, the Walt Disney Company still hesitates to release the film in the United States. Despite the fact that — for many years now — there has been a healthy “blackmarket” selling bootleg copies to those who desperately want to see the film.

However, the story of why “Song of the South” is not available in the United States and the controversy sparked by its initial release is a saddening mixture of insensitivity, misunderstandings, and urban legends. It is a much more tangled web than many people realize.

Thanks to the extensive research work of Animation Historian Karl Cohen, whose book “Forbidden Animation” from McFarland Press devotes an entire chapter to the film’s release, and the historical article on the making of the film by Disney Historian Jim Korkis entitled “Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South?” that is scheduled to be printed early next year, I think I have enough understanding now to briefly discuss the connection of the NAACP in the controversy surrounding the film. I’d like to thank both those gentlemen for their groundbreaking research work.

It is important to remember that the “Song of the South” came out in 1946 and there was no balance of media images that featured the Huxtable family or John Shaft or George Jefferson or even Spike Lee. African-American performers often portrayed comic roles where they were characterized as lazy, slow-witted, easily scared, subserviant and worse.

Also remember that in 1946, the United States was a highly segregated country with separate facilities for non-whites. And that the brutal torture and lynching of African-Americans was so commonplace that the National Headquarters of the NAACP would fly a black flag out its window when news of a new lynching was confirmed.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was officially formed on February 12, 1909 (timed to coincide with Abraham Lincoln’s one-hundredth birthday, although the name itself was not chosen until 1910). Appalled at the violence that was committed against African-American citizens including wide-spread lynchings as well as the “Jim Crow” laws that promoted racial discrimination and segregation, the organization contained both white and black members. In fact, white members held key positions on the board in the beginning.

One of its first protests against the portrayal of African-Americans in films was during the release of D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” (1915) that the NAACP felt glamorized the birth of the Ku Klux Klan and sparked race riots across the country. Despite all its nationwide attempts to have the film banned, “Birth of the Nation” became a highly successful film and it is still widely available today as an example of innovations in filmmaking even while its racial slant is criticized.

Throughout the 1940s the NAACP saw enormous growth in its membership, claiming nearly 500,000 members by 1946. However, it wasn’t until 1948, that the NAACP was successful in pressuring President Harry Truman to sign an Executive Order banning discrimination by the Federal government.

When “Song of the South” was released, the NAACP was acting as a legislative and legal advocate, pushing unsuccessfully for a federal anti-lynching law and for an end to state-mandated segregation.

The NAACP attempted to create a “Hollywood Bureau” to convince Hollywood Studios to counter derogatory stereotypes of African Americans in motion pictures and to promote more realistic roles for black performers. There was extensive correspondence with producers such as David O. Selznick, Daryl F. Zanuck and other major studio moguls about such classic films as “Gone With the Wind,” “Ox Bow Incident,” “Pinky” and — of course — “Song of the South”.

The Disney Studio had come under close scrutiny when it first announced its work on the stories of Uncle Remus.

Reading the first drafts for the screenplay prepared by a Southern author named Dalton Reymond, who

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sprinkled the script with stereotypes and terms that were offensive when referring to African Americans, The Hays Office sent a warning to Disney. It was non-negotiable that those terms needed to be removed but that overall the film was acceptable in meeting the demands of the Production Code. However it strongly suggested “… again the advisability of your taking counsel with some responsible Negro authorities concerning the overall acceptability, from the standpoint of Negroes, of this story … Our Negro friends appear to be a bit critical of all motion picture stories which treat their people, and it may be that they will find in this story some material which may not be acceptable to them.”

Disney hired Clarence Muse in 1944. Clarence Edouard Muse was born in 1889. He was an African-American lawyer, writer, director, composer, and actor. After high school he earned a degree in International Law from The Dickinson School of Law of Pennsylvania in 1911. Disgusted with the poor opportunities for Black lawyers he then selected a show business career. Muse appeared as an opera singer, minstrel show performer, vaudeville and Broadway actor; he also wrote songs, plays, and sketches. He appeared in very dignified roles in films made for all Black audiences and was so articulate as to be considered a spokesman for the Black community.

Muse quit Disney early in 1944 after his ideas to portray the African American characters as more dignified and prosperous were rejected. Once Muse left Disney, he began to inform people about the nature of the Disney feature while it was still in the rough draft outline and before radical leftist screenwriter, Maurice Rapf had been brought in to make the script more acceptable. Muse wrote letters to the editors of black publications a that Disney was going to depict Negroes in an inferior capacity and that the film was “detrimental to the cultural advancement of the Negro people.” So the pump was already primed for disaster.

In later years, screenwriter Maurice Rapf remembered that Walt “had a theory that the reason why the film was picketed and particularly attacked by the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP was because the head of the local chapter was actor Clarence Muse. He knew that Walt Disney wanted to do a Remus story, and Muse wanted to play Remus. He was a standard serious black actor, but Disney got someone else. Now others said that couldn’t be true, because Muse was a technical adviser on the film, though I think if that’s true he didn’t do a very good job advising.”

Both Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP at the time, and June Blythe, the director of the American Council on Race Relations, had requested to see a treatment of Disney’s “Song of the South” when the production was first announced. But they were ignored or politely given the run-around. Neither the NAACP nor the American Council on Race Relations had any opportunity to review the project before the press screening.

“Song of the South” had its premiere at Atlanta’s Fox Theater on November 12, 1946. The location was chosen to tie in with author Joel Chandler Harris who besides writing several books of the Uncle Remus stories was also a popular writer on the “Atlanta Constitution.”

However, “Song of the South’s” African American cast members were not able to join Walt Disney and the white cast members at the movie’s premiere in Atlanta, GA. because Atlanta was a segregated city. African Americans could not enter the movie theater or any other public buildings downtown. No hotel within reach of the theater would rent a room to James Baskett who portrayed Uncle Remus.

Walter White, the executive secretary of the NAACP, telegraphed major newspapers around the country with the following statement:

“The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People recognizes in ‘Song of the South’ remarkable artistic merit in the music and in the combination of living actors and the cartoon technique. It regrets, however, that in an effort neither to offend audiences in the north or south, the production helps to perpetuate a dangerously glorified picture of slavery. Making use of the beautiful Uncle Remus folklore, ‘Song of the South’ unfortunately gives the impression of an idyllic master-slave relationship which is a distortion of the facts.”

However, White had not yet seen the film and based his statement on memos sent to him by two NAACP staff members in New York who had attended a press screening on November 20, 1946. Norma Jensen wrote that the film was “so artistically beautiful that it is difficult to be provoked over the clichés” but that the film did contain “all the clichés in the book.” She did feel the Uncle Remus stories were commendable and she found “very touching” the relationship between the rich white boy and the black boy and white daughter of a tenant farmer but objected to scenes like the African Americans singing traditional songs since it was an offensive stereotype.

The other staff member, Hope Springarn, listed several objectionable images in the film, including the use of Negro dialect and the “Negroes singing outside the house” when the little white boy was dying.

Both Jensen and Springarn were also confused about the time of the story since it wasn’t clear that it was taking place during the Reconstruction and not during the Plantation days of slavery. It was something that also confused other reviewers who from the tone of the film and the type of similar recent Hollywood movies assumed it must also be set during the time of slavery.

So based on the information in those memos, White released the official position of the NAACP in that telegram that was widely quoted in newspapers including the December 4, 1946 issue of “Variety”, the trade journal of the motion picture industry.

Racially diverse groups of protesters organized to picket movie theaters in major American cities such as New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston. Yet the racial “harmony” demonstrated by these integrated groups of protesters was not common in most of the United States at the time and the philosophical make-up of these protestors resembled similar groups that protested and marched for civil rights in the Sixties. They were not so much protesting a particular incident or item but using that particular thing as a forum to protest a much larger injustice.

“We want films on Democracy not Slavery” and “Don’t prejudice children’s minds with films like this” were some of the slogans that decorated the signs of a racially diverse group of protesters who marched outside of the Paramount Theater in downtown Oakland, California. The protesters included African Americans and whites, men and women, old and young. The location of the protest was significant because in the 1940s, downtown Oakland was an elegant district with fancy hotels, expensive department stores, and several large-scale movie “palaces.”

At the film’s New York premiere in Times Square, dozens of black and white picketers, including African American servicemen recently returned from fighting in World War II, chanted:”We fought for Uncle Sam, not Uncle Tom.” While local chapters of the NAACP called for a total boycott of the film. And The National Negro Congress declared that the film “is an insult to the Negro people because it uses offensive dialect; it portrays the Negro as a low, inferior servant; it glorifies slavery” and called on Black people to “run the picture out of the area.”

The New York Tribune reported that at a press conference Walt Disney said that any real antagonism towards the film would come from radicals “who just love stirring up trouble whenever they can.” Disney defended it as a “monument to the Negro race,” pointing out that it was set after the Civil War and therefore could not be about slavery and “that the time had not yet come when Negro susceptibilities could be treated with as much delicacy as Hollywood reserves for, say, American Catholics.”

New York Times film reviewer Bosley Crowther wrote that the movie was a “travesty on the antebellum South…no matter how much one argues that it’s all childish fiction, anyhow, the master-and-slave relation is so lovingly regarded in your yarn, with the Negroes bowing and scraping and singing spirituals in the night that one might almost imagine that you figure Abe Lincoln made a mistake. Put down that mint julep, Mr. Disney.”

So did the NAACP kill Disney’s “Song of the South”? Not really, even though its initial criticism of the film may have been based on some faulty information. It did use the film as a rallying point that resulted in some changes in how films depicting African Americans were made.

Walt and the Disney Studio were not totally innocent either. The ambiguity of the story suggesting that all those happy, singing African Americans might indeed by slaves and Walt naively treating the film as another Disney fantasy (evident by those strong Mary Blair color stylings even in the live action scenes) rather than realizing that using real people would make people think it was all real added to the confusion and made defending the film more difficult than it should have been.

In a public interview, actor James Baskett who played Uncle Remus responded to the criticism by saying: “I believe that certain groups are doing my race more harm in seeking to create dissension than can ever possibly come out of the ‘Song of the South’.”

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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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