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Why For?

After far-too-long a delay, Jim Hill returns with even more answers to your Disney related questions. This time around, Jim answers your queries about “Finding Nemo,” the Jabberwock, Captain EO, Universal’s “Mummy” coaster and pornographic Disney posters. Also … keep an eye out for even more new articles on JimHillMedia.com this weekend!

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First up, Harry C. from Kowloon, Hong Hong writes in to ask:

Dear Jim:

A short question for “Why For”? but Pixar-related rather than Disney-related? Why are there no bloopers at the end of “Finding Nemo”?

Thanks and keep up the terrific work!

Best,
Harry C.

Dear Harry:

To hear “Finding Nemo” director Andrew Stanton tell it, the real reason that Pixar opted not to include any out-takes with this film is so that the studio wouldn’t get pigeon-holed. So that Pixar wouldn’t become too predictable. That their films wouldn’t start to feel too formulaic.

This is also why Pixar chose Thomas Newman — rather than the studio’s usual composer, Randy Newman — to provide the score for “Finding Nemo.” Just to mix things up a bit. (Given his long association with Pixar Animation Studio, I’m sure that Newman was a little disappointed when he learned that he wasn’t getting the “Finding Nemo” scoring job. But — then again — given that this gig went to his cousin, Thomas, I would imagine that Randy wasn’t too too upset. After all, at least the job stayed within the Newman family.)

Look for Pixar to continue to play with people’s preconceived notions about their pictures with the studio’s November 2004 release, “The Incredibles.” This Brad Bird film will be the very first Pixar production to feature a mostly human cast (No toys. No bugs. No blue furry monsters or cute little clown fish) as well as a score by four time Academy Award winner John Barry. The early buzz on this film is that “The Incredibles” could be the best Pixar picture yet.

Better than “Monsters, Inc.” or “Toy Story II?” That hardly seems possible. But we shall see come the Fall of 2004 …

Next, Bill K. checks in with an “Alice in Wonderland” related question:

Hi Jim,

Let me say that I’m a big fan of your site. It never fails (that) I learn something every time I visit.

I have a question I was hoping you could answer for me. When I was younger, I had the “Little Golden Book” version of Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland” animated feature. The book hit most of the highlights of the film. But what I found much more interesting was the sequence it contained that wasn’t in the film.

In the book, Alice encounters the Jabberwock. Which – if I remember correctly – had flames in its eyes and a sort of smoke-stack nose.

There’s a part in the movie where it looks like such a scene may have existed. Since it is surrounded by references to Lewis Carroll’s original poem, such as the “mome raths” and the “tulgey wood.” However, the only version of Alice I have ever seen contains no encounter with the Jabberwock. Was it cut? Did it ever exist? If you have the answer, I’d love to hear.

Thanks!

Bill K.

Dear Bill K.

Sadly, I too have been trying to chase down the truth about the infamous “Jabberwocky” sequence for a number of years now. But — for the life of me, Bill — I haven’t been able to get to the bottom of what actually happened to this particular piece of Disney’s animated feature, “Alice in Wonderland.”

What IS clear is that — at least at one time — a sequence that was based on Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem WAS put into development. But just how far this particular scene actually made it along Disney’s development track before “Jabberwocky” got cut remains to be seen.

This much is clear. The “Jabberwocky” sequence for “Alice” at least got far enough along to be storyboarded. For these brightly colored drawings (done in pastels, if I’m remembering correctly) were used as the illustrations for a “Jabberwocky” book that Disney Press published back in 1992.

And voice veteran Stan Freberg has repeatedly claimed that — in the late 1940s / early 1950s — he made several trips to Disney Studios to record voices for the “Jabberwocky” sequence for the animated “Alice in Wonderland.”

But I should also point out here that — in a letter I received from Disney archivist Dave Smith back in the early 1990s — Smith insisted that (according to studio record searches that his staff has done over the years) the “Jabberwocky” sequence for Disney’s animated “Alice in Wonderland” never actually went into production.

So maybe what actually happened here was that the production staff at Disney Studios only got as far as making a leica reel of the proposed “Jabberwocky” sequence. (“What’s a leica reel?” you ask. Well, this is what animators put together when they want to test a particular scene. See if it stands on its own, even in extremely rough form. So they film the storyboard, add a temporary soundtrack, then screen the thing to see if the sequence actually holds together.)

Perhaps what happened to the “Jabberwocky” sequence is that — after they added Stan’s vocals to those brightly colored storyboards — Walt just didn’t like what he saw and ordered the scene cut from the picture.

It’s just too bad that Scott McQueen, the former senior manager of library restoration at the studio, no longer works for the Walt Disney Company. If ever there were a person who could have told us definitively if there had been a “Jabberwocky” sequence animated for “Alice in Wonderland,” Scott was that guy. Disney lost a real prize when the Mouse was stupid enough to let McQueen walk on out the door. He regularly found footage that people had said was missing for decades …

Sorry that I couldn’t be more helpful here, Bill. But — if it’s any consolation — you now at least know that you have some company when it comes to pondering this particular Disney animation mystery.

Next, Rick G. asks:

Jim,

I was wondering if we will ever see Captain EO on DVD.

Still love your site. Keep up the cool stuff!

Rick G.

Dear Rick:

It’s really unlikely that Buena Vista Home Entertainment will ever put “Captain EO” out on DVD. Why for? Well, because of all those deals that Disney had to cut with Hollywood heavy hitters like George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Jackson in order to make “Captain EO” happen.

As I understand it, the initial up-front fee and subsequent royalty deals that Theme Park Productions (That’s the name of WDI’s in-house film production division. Under the guidance of Imagineering veteran Tom Fitzgerald, TTP produces all of the movies — be they full screen 3D extravaganzas or just brief overhead monitor shows — that you see once you’re inside a Disney theme park) made with George, Francis and Michael were written with the specific understanding that “Captain EO” would only be shown inside Disney theme parks.

Were Disney to ever want to release “Captain EO” on home video or DVD, that would mean that the Mouse would have to start a brand new series of negotiations with Lucas, Coppola and Jackson. And — chances are — this trio of show business sharpies would make Mickey pay through the nose for the privilege of releasing “Captain EO” through Buena Vista Home Entertainment.

Speaking of noses, one of the other reasons that we’ll probably never see “Captain EO” on home video and DVD is that this 3D movie was made ‘way back in 1986. That’s quite a number of plastic surgery procedures ago for Mr. Jackson. Back when Michael was in his Audrey Hepburn / Elizabeth Taylor / Bambi phase.

So — since Jackson continues to insist that he’s never ever had plastic surgery — I seriously doubt that Jacko would ever allow “Captain EO” to be seen again. Otherwise, how would Michael explain away that he had one sort of nose back in 1986 and an entirely different schnozz in 2003.

Anyway … personal message to Rick G. here: Sorry that I missed you when I was out in LA last week. But — as usual — I had far too little time and far too many people to see when I was out in Southern California. So how’s about dropping me a line toward the end of August (after Alice goes back to Poway) and we’ll see if we can’t work something out then, okay?

Next, Nick drops me a line to ask:

Hey Jim,

I’m one of your more younger (teenaged) fans and I enjoy your articles a lot. Can you give any inside detail on what ROTM will be like (any chance there’ll be inversions?)?

Keep up the great work,
Nick

Nick –

Sorry, but my friends over at Universal Studios’ theme park division have sworn me to secrecy about ROTM. (For those of you out there who aren’t theme park weenies, ROTM stands for “Return of the Mummy” — the amazing new coaster that Universal Creative is currently building for the company’s Orlando theme park to replace “Kongfrontation.”)

What I CAN tell you, Nick, is that — yes — ROTM will have at least one inversion. And that this Universal Studios Orlando attraction — once it opens in the Spring of 2004 — will really raise the bar when it comes to themed thrill rides in Central Florida.

So how good is “Return of the Mummy” going to be, Nick? Think of this as Universal Studio’s “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The attraction that you just HAVE TO ride whenever you visit that park. The ride where you see all sorts of cool new details whenever you ride the attraction.

NOW do you understand why — earlier this year — Disney suddenly announced that it was adding “Expedition Everest” to Animal Kingdom’s meager assortment of attractions? The theme park industry is a relatively small world, Nick. And the people designing these amazing new attractions naturally talk with their friends and competitors about the various rides their particular company has in the pipeline.

You see what I’m saying, Nick? The Imagineers must have heard that Universal had this killer new attraction in the works for its Central Florida theme park. That’s why the Mouse felt that it had to move quickly, rise to Universal Studio’s challenge — top “Return of the Mummy” or risk becoming the also-ran resort in Orlando.

The upside of this battle between Disney and Universal is … over the next few years, thrill ride fans will soon have two very good reasons to visit Central Florida. Universal Studio’s “Return of the Mummy” and Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s “Expedition Everest: Legend of the Yeti.” So it’s really hard to complain about something like that.

And finally, Suzanne O. writes in to ask:

Hi Jim,

Just read an article on Digital Media you did on inside in animation films by Disney artists. I owned (stored away from view) a framed 1970’s poster with most if not all the Disney characters in pornographic positions. Bright Day glow colors … very specific stuff. All I know about the piece is that it was pulled from shelves after a suit from Disney. Someone said to me that it was done by a famous Warner Brothers artist. Have you heard or do you know anything about this piece?

Suzanne O.

Suzanne –

Yes. I’m familiar with the unauthorized Disney poster that you’re talking about. And — up until recently — I knew virtually nothing about its origins, Suzanne.

But then I read Bob Levin’s great new book, “The Pirates and the Mouse: Disney’s War Against the Counterculture” (Fantagraphics Books, June 2003). And right there — on Page 79 — the real history behind this pornographic Disney poster was finally revealed to me.

That section of “The Pirates and the Mouse” reads as follows:

The counterculture’s first strike against Disney occurred shortly after Walt Disney’s death in 1966, when Paul Krassner, who would become one of the founders of the Youth International Party, better known as the Yippies, but was then a one-man assault unit as editor of the savagely satirical, virulently anti-establishment “Realist” (I mean, there was nothing f*cking like it), decided to “demystify” the entire Disney oeuvre and “signify the crumbling of an empire.” “Disney’s characters were taken so seriously,” he says. “They were spokesfigures for this entire system of stifling, arbitrary rules. I thought that, with Disney — the creator of these repressed characters — dead, it was time they went on a binge.”

Krassner solicited the help of Wally Wood, the ex-E.C. great, whom he had met when he sold a story idea to “Mad,” and Wood delivered “a magnificent degenerate montage.” His “Walt Disney Memorial Orgy” showed Mickey shooting up, Goofy scr*wing Minnie, the Seven Dwarfs having their way with Snow White. Krassner ran it as a centerfold spread in his May 1967 issue …

Krassner also released “Orgy” in poster form. The Disney organization ignored these defamations because, (Paul) says, it knew he was judgment-proof and didn’t want to give him free publicity. But when the poster didn’t disappear but began appearing on dorm room and crash pad walls in a colorized, bootleg edition, Disney sued its publisher, a San Franciscan named Sam Ridge, and forced him out of business.

So there you go, Suzanne. The full story of the origins of your pornographic Disney poster. It really is a crude but still somewhat cool curio, don’t you think?

By the way … next Thursday, JimHillMedia.com will be doing a full blown review of Bob Levin’s “The Pirates and the Mouse” book. So be sure to drop by the site next week to check that out, okay?

Alright. That’s it for today, folks. I hope you enjoyed this week’s assortment of stories. See you on Monday, okay?

jrh

 

P.S. Almost forgot. This weekend, we’re going to try something different at JimHillMedia.com. We’re going to run a new story on both Saturday and Sunday to see if JHM readers might actually be interested in regularly reading new material over the weekend.

So — if you’d like to be part of our little experiment — be sure to drop by JimHillMedia.com on both Saturday and Sunday to check out Jim Korkis’ newest series, “The History of Comics.”

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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