Connect with us


Wednesdays with Wade: Walt Disney reflects on Mickey Mouse’s career

Wade Sampson returns from his week-long vacation with a transcript of a 1948 radio broadcast where Walt looks back over the then-20 years that he and Mickey had worked together.



I’ve uncovered some great stories to share in the next few weeks as a direct result of last week’s vacation. But today, I would like to talk about Disney books and Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse.

We seem to be in store for a new flood of Disney related books and I was reminded of that when I picked up a remaindered copy of “The Wonderful World of Disney,” an interesting book that came out in 2004 from Disney Press (when you open the cover, it plays “It’s A Small World”). The book includes reprints of the children’s book adaptations of Disney films like “The Shaggy Dog,””Darby O’Gill,””Old Yeller,” “Pollyana” and several others. In addition, the book reprints without captions seventeen color pages from “Good Housekeeping” that appeared during the Forties to publicize Disney cartoons.

David Gerstein, well known for his historical writing about animation (check out his Oswald the Rabbit research at or his Felix the Cat website), is putting together a special book for Gemstone Publishing to come out in a couple of months entitled “Mickey and the Gang — Classic Stories in Verse”. While it is not a dynamic title, the book will reprint all the “Good Housekeeping” pages along with Gerstein’s research and commentary on the cartoons represented including the ones that were never made including one slated to be directed by Frank Tashlin.

If you are unfamiliar with the series, check out Jim Korkis’s three part series in the jimhillmedia archives. I know Jim sent David a copy of his article for him to use in the research of this forthcoming book.


In addition, at the San Diego Comic Con, Dark Horse Publishing announced that at the beginning of next year, they would reprint Roald Dahl’s very first book that has never been reprinted, “The Gremlins”. This is the book that was to serve as the inspiration for a never made Disney animated feature and the book is filled with artwork by Disney artists, primarily Bill Justice who was instrumental in the creation of the gremlin character designs. The book cover is forgotten work by Mary Blair. The editor assigned to the book has said he wants the book to be filled with “extras” so it is like a DVD version. I hope he contacts Jim Korkis or Paul Anderson to use Jim’s definitive article on “The Gremlins” that was supposed to have appeared years ago in the long delayed World War II issue of the Disney historical magazine, “Persistence of Vision.” Everyone who has read the extensive article, including myself, has been impressed with the depth of research Jim did (including correspondence with Dahl) to unravel what happened to the project.

Kathy Merlock Jackson is working on a book to be published by the University Press of Mississippi in January 2006 entitled “Walt Disney–Conversations”. Jackson is also the author of “Walt Disney: A Bio-Bbliography” published by Greenwood Press in 1993. At the time she was Associate Professor Communications at Virginia Weseleyan College, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia. Chapter Three was devoted to “Disney On Disney.” That chapter contained transcriptions of some interviews Walt had done including one for the University of the Air in 1948.

The University of the Air radio series is little known even by Old Time Radio enthusiasts today. It spanned four years (1944-1948) and presented adaptations of the world’s great novels sort of like an audio version of “Classics Illustrated.” Some colleges even offered college credit for listening and a companion book to the series was available. For example, during the broadcast of “The Red Badge of Courage,” there is a message from the University of Louisville that they were using the broadcasts as part of its program of study. The broadcast of “Free” (July 9, 1948) includes a short message from the Dean of the University of Chicago. The shows were produced by the NBC University of the Air, in Chicago. Episodes were only thirty minutes long so some novels were multi-part adaptations running up to six weeks.

In 1948, the series was re-titled “NBC University Theater” and production was moved to Hollywood. These adaptations were, for the most part, 60 minutes long and apparently there were short interviews as well. I suspect Walt’s interview was late in 1948 as part of “NBC University Theater’s” production of “Alice in Wonderland” that according to my research was unrelated to Walt’s work on the title. Of course, Walt was also doing the interview to publicize Mickey’s twentieth birthday which was celebrated anytime between September and December depending on the release date of whatever Fall Disney film or cartoon was being released. It was Dave Smith who finally made Mickey’s birthday officially his appearance at the Colony Theater.

Anyway, for those awaiting the Jackson book and don’t have a copy of “Walt Disney: A Bio-Bibliography” :

“The Story of Mickey Mouse”
By Walt Disney

The following was broadcast on University of the Air, 1948

WALT: Mickey Mouse to me is the symbol of independence. He was a means to an end. He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad twenty years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when the business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb and disaster seemed right around the corner. Born of necessity, the little fellow literally freed us of immediate worry. He provided the means for expanding our organization to its present dimensions and for extending the medium of cartoon animation toward new entertainment levels. Mickey enabled me to go ahead and do the things I had in mind and the things I foresaw as a natural trend of film fantasy. He spelled production liberation for us.

His first actual screen appearance was at the old Colony Theater in New York in “Steamboat Willie” with its sound effects and cautious speech. His current appearance is in our new musical fantasy feature, combining live and animated action, “Fun and Fancy Free.” In between, he has appeared in more pictures than any flesh and blood star. He was the first cartoon character to express personality and to be constantly kept in character. I thought of him from the first as a distinct individual not just a cartoon type or symbol going through comedy routine. I kept him away from stock symbols and situations. We exposed him in close-ups. Instead of speeding the cartoons, as was then the fashion, we were not afraid to slow down the tempo and let Mickey emote. We allowed audiences to get acquainted with him. To recognize him as a personage, motivated by character instead of situations.

Quite consciously, I had been preparing Mickey and his screen pals for the advent of sound. I’d made quite a few silent pictures prior to “Steamboat Willie.” It may seem a curious thing that even those in early films with their explanatory balloons, I had thought of them in terms of sound and speech and dreamed of the day when the voice would be synchronized with the silent action. But I felt sure it was coming. Our tempo and rhythm and general animation technique were already being adjusted so that sound could fit in readily when it came.

As early as 1923, I was doing song films. I seldom thought out our silent product without some musical complement. I used to talk to the organist in the theater on arrangements before a film was shown. I even had a gadget which insured a crude kind of synchronization between the organ music and the picture action.

In 1925, I had an animated cat in one of our silents direct the orchestra in the pit from the screen. While this was all preliminary to sound and film, it was preparatory background and equipment for that first Mickey Mouse talkie and the subsequent swift evolvement of sound.

Of course, sound had a very considerable effect on our treatment of Mickey Mouse. It gave his character a new dimension. It rounded him into complete life-likeness. And it carried us into a new phase of his development. Mickey had reached the state where we had to be very careful about what we permitted him to do. He’d become a hero in the eyes of his audiences, especially the youngsters. Mickey could do no wrong. I could never attribute any meanness or callous traits to him. We kept him loveable although ludicrous in his blundering heroics. And that’s the way he’s remained despite any outside influences. He’s grown into a consistent, predictable character to whom we could assign only the kind of role and antics which were correct for his reputation.

Naturally, I am pleased with his continued popularity here and abroad; with the esteem he has won as an entertainment name among youngsters and grownups; with the honors he’s brought our studio; with the high compliment bestowed when his name was the password for the invasion of France and with his selection for insignia by scores of fighting units during the war years. These are tributes beyond all words of appreciation.

In a business way, as I’ve indicated, Mickey meant almost incalculable things to my brother Roy, and to me, as we went through our ups and downs towards founding our present organization with its Burbank Studio, its extensive personnel, and its continuous picture schedules. At this turning point in our career, already referred to, I need just such a fresh cartoon personality to sell a projected series of short subjects which, after failing to get over my ideas with another cartoon venture in New York, I proposed a new series. I felt I had to rely on a sustained character appeal rather than on the merit of each separate issue.

Mickey fitted the deed exactly. He brought in the money which saved the day. He paved the way for a more elaborate screen venture. He enabled us to explore our medium and to evolve the technical advances which were to appear in our first feature length animation fantasy, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” and successively in other features, like “Bambi,” “Dumbo,” “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia,” “The Three Caballeros,” “Saludos Amigos,” “Make Mine Music,” “Song of the South” and so up to our latest and current production “Fun and Fancy Free.”

In his immediate and continuously successful appeal to all kinds of audiences, Mickey first subsidized our first Silly Symphony Series. From there he sustained other ventures, plugging along as our bread and butter hero. He was a studio prodigy and pet and we treated him accordingly. In due time, we gave Mickey that contrasting, temperamental sidekick, Donald Duck. Then Pluto the naive, credulous hound came along. We used to play these three together in the same picture. Later, we divided them into separate vehicles. Mickey, Donald and Pluto. These meant fewer pictures for each. And, of course, Mickey appeared less often. But you’ll see him again in his most harassing in “Mickey and the Beanstalk,” an escapade from “Fun and Fancy Free”. Prior to this, his top performance was in “Fantasia,” as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice.

In the early days, I did the voice of most of our characters. It wasn’t financially feasible to hire people for such assignments. In “Steamboat Willie”, in addition to speaking for Mickey, I also supplied a few sound effects for Minnie, his girl friend, and for the parrot. For Mickey’s first picture, I planned to go all out on sound. And those plans came very near spelling a major disaster for us. To launch our picture impressively, I had hired a full New York orchestra with a famous director to do the recording. The musicians were to cost $10 an hour. I thought fifteen men would be enough but the director insisted on having thirty men. Because I was awed by him, I was finally persuaded to take the thirty.

The upshot was that I had to borrow on my automobile and Roy and I had to mortgage our homes as well to cover the cost of the first synchronization of Steamboat Willie. And when it was finished, the picture wouldn’t synchronize with the sound. And we had to do it all over after the orchestra leader had reluctantly consented to follow the mechanics that we had prepared at the studio. What I wanted most of all I didn’t get: a bull fiddle for the base. The recording room was so small that the orchestra could hardly be jammed into it. The bull fiddle blasted so loud it ruined the other sound and depth blowing out all of the recording lamps. A sad thing, I thought at the time, to launch our Mickey without benefit of bull fiddle in so precarious a world of new possibilities and increased competition.

But he survived and thrived and set the pace in his entertainment field. The cost of his first vehicles ranged from… a bare $1,200 for “Steamboat Willie” to seven figures for “Fun and Fancy Free” in which he shared prominence with Donald, Goofy, Jiminy Cricket and several new cartoon creations, and with Edgar Bergen and his pals, Charlie McCarthy, Mortimer Snerd and also Dinah Shore and our own little starlet, Luana Patten.

I often find myself surprised at what has been said about our redoubtable little Mickey who was never really a mouse nor yet wholly a man, although always recognizably human, I hope. The psychoanalysts have probed him. Wise men of critical inclination have pondered him. Columnists have kidded him. Admirers have saluted him in extraordinary terms. The League of Nations gave him a special medal as a symbol of international good will. Hitler was infuriated by him… and thunderingly forbade his people to wear the then-popular Mickey Mouse lapel button in place of the swastika. The little fellow’s grin was too infectious for Nazism.

But all we ever intended for him and expected of him was that he should continue to make people everywhere chuckle with him and at him. We didn’t burden him with any social symbolism. We made him no mouthpiece for frustrations or harsh satire. Mickey was simply a little personality assigned to the purposes of laughter. And it is certainly gratifying that the public which first welcomed him two decades ago, as well as their children, have not permitted us, even if we had wished to, to change him in any manner or degree, other than a few minor revisions of his physical appearance. In a sense he was never young. In the same sense, he never grows old in our eyes. All we can do is give him things to overcome in his own, rather stubborn way, in his cartoon universe.

There is much nostalgia for me in these reflections. The life and ventures of Mickey Mouse have been closely bound up with my own personal and professional life. It is understandable that I should have sentimental attachment for the little personage who played so big a part in the course of Disney productions and has been so happily accepted as an amusing friend wherever films are show around the world. He still speaks for me and I still speak for him.

Mickey, I think on this occasion you should say something to all our friends who are listening around the world.

MICKEY: O.K. Well… uh…. Happy Birthday, everybody.

WALT: No, no, Mickey. You don’t understand. It’s your birthday. This is your 20th birthday.

MICKEY: Oh… gosh… well, I’ll be seein’ ya.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


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



Listen to the Article

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 prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

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

Continue Reading


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



Listen to the Article

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

Continue Reading


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



Listen to the Article

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

Continue Reading