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Why For?

Jim’s in a really generous mood this week. So — what the hell — here’s even more answers to your Disney related questions. This time around, Hill responds to JHM reader queries about the Big Bad Wolf, Walt Disney himself, the “Love Bug” and “20,000 Leagues” DVDs … as well as clueing you folks in Southern California on another fun event you can attend this weekend.

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First off, Mark F. writes in to ask:

Hi Jim –

First off, I want to say I’ve been reading your articles since the days of the Dreamfinder … I was so glad to see you finally get your own site, and I visit almost daily.

With your vast knowledge of Disney, I thought you might have an answer to my question.

Last night, I was watching the “Walt Disney Treasures – Silly Symphony” DVD with a few of my friends. We were watching the Three Little Pigs, and when it came to the part where the wolf comes to the brick house, we noticed that the quality of the animation changed. Suddenly, the colors didn’t look as faded as the rest of the film had up until that point. It made us wonder if that portion of the film had somehow been re-animated or edited from the original release. If you want to check it out, it is about six minutes and 26 seconds into the cartoon. We were just wondering if it is coincidental, or was there was something so “politically incorrect” in this film that Disney had to edit it out before it was released on DVD?

If you have any insight, we’d love to know!

Thanks!

Mark F.

Dear Mark:

Congrats to you and your friends for paying such close attention while watching your “Walt Disney Treasures – Silly Symphony” DVD. It’s not everyone who catches that quick change in quality in that particular portion of Disney’s “The Three Little Pigs.”

Yep, there was something definitely different in this sequence in the short. Back when “The Three Little Pigs” originally hit theaters back in May of 1933, there was a different piece of animation in place of the one that you can see there today. You see, the way this gag originally played out was that the Big Bad Wolf came up to Practical Pig’s house dressed as a stereotypical Jewish peddler.

Don’t believe me? Then follow this link to a web page where some kind soul was nice enough to post some image captures that they took off of the Japanese laser disc version of a “Three Little Pigs” shorts compilation. If you scroll down this page, you’ll eventually be able to see the Big Bad Wolf in all his … well, maybe “glory” isn’t really the right word to use in this instance.

Anyway … as you can see from that image capture, Disney’s animators — when they were putting together this picture back in the early 1930s — didn’t miss a single cliché. Which is why the Big Bad Wolf — while he’s in disguise as a Jewish peddler — has a large nose as well as a long thick black beard. If you look closely, you can even see that the wolf — as part of his disguise — is actually wearing a yarmulka.

Now — looking back on this particular gag from the oh-so politically correct times that we currently live in — it might be easy to take offense at this joke. But — were you to place “The Three Little Pigs” back in the time and culture in which this short was originally created — you’d realize that Americans were much more tolerant of ethnic humor back then. Which is why “Amos & Andy” and “The Goldbergs” were such huge hits on the radio back then.

Of course, that began to change as the 1940s rolled around. This is just about the time that Walt Disney was reportedly contacted by the Hays Office (Hollywood’s once all-powerful arbiter of good taste; during the late 1930s and well into the 1940s, the Hays Office had final say as to whether a film contained objectionable material or not) concerning this “objectionable” moment in “The Three Little Pigs.”

Rather than just cutting the Jewish Peddler sequence out of the picture, Walt opted to have his animators rework this scene. Though — this time around — Disney made sure that the Big Bad Wolf wear a more socially acceptable disguise.

Now where this gets interesting is that — just about the same time that Walt was ordering that his animators rework this one short sequence in “The Three Little Pigs” — Disney’s artists are allegedly already hard at work on a redo of the film. This brand new version of the Academy Award winning short — which would recycle whole sections of animation from the 1933 film — was done for the National Film Board of Canada. Released in 1941, the retitled film was now called “Thrifty Pig.”

And how was “Thrifty Pig” different from “The Three Little Pigs?” Well, this time around, Practical Pig built his sturdy little house out of Canadian War Savings Bonds. And the Big Bad Wolf … well, in this version of the “Three Little Pigs” story, the wolf is portrayed (I kid you not, folks) as an armband-wearing Nazi!

Kind of kind of ironic, don’t you think? That — just as Disney’s animators were getting ready to reanimate certain sections of the original “Three Little Pigs” because the Big-Bad-Wolf-as-a-Jewish-Peddler has been deemed to be offensive — animators in that same studio were gearing up to animate the Big Bad Wolf as a full-blown Nazi.

Anyway … if you’d like to see this short … well … I know that “Thifty Pig” short is out there. Over the years, I’ve seen video versions of it for sale at various Disneyana shows. And who knows? Maybe it’ll turn up as part of that “The War Years” DVD set that’s supposed to hit store shelves sometime this fall. You know, as part of that on-going “Walt Disney Treasures” series?

As for how the Jewish Peddler sequence (which near as I can figure, has officially cut out of that short since 1941) ended up on the Japanese laser disc version of that “Three Little Pigs” compilation … I don’t know what to tell you, folks. Maybe back in the mid-1990s, someone in the Disney film archives accidentally gave the folks at Buena Vista Home Entertainment International the wrong version of “The Three Little Pigs” to dub onto that laser disc.

But then again, given that Japan is one of the only places in the world where you can purchase a video of another Disney animated classic that’s been repeatedly accused of being racially insensitive — “South of the South” — maybe this wasn’t actually an accident. Maybe there are folks at Disney who thought the Jewish Peddler version of the Big Bad Wolf would go over great in the Orient.

I wish I had the definitive answer on this subject for you folks. Does anyone out there have an authoritative explanation as to how this long-hidden-away piece of animation suddenly ended up as part of the Japanese laser disc version of “The Three Little Pigs?” I’m sure that it would make a really great story for JimHillMedia.com … if we could just get to the bottom of that particular movie mystery.

Next up, DJ writes in to ask:

Hi Jim –

I’m an avid reader of your site and am always amazed that you have answers to some pretty far out questions. Well, in that vein, I’m hoping that you can lend some insight to mine. I have a couple of questions in regards to that “Disney After Dark” show that I recently got in my “Disneyland Treasure” collection. In the show, Walt is seen autographing hats and these appearances seem to be canned. So my questions are:

1. Was Walt really signing and — if he was — what happened to all those hats?
2. Why was Walt’s appearance taped? There were a lot of big stars on this show, so I’m surprised that Walt wasn’t there live.

Keep up the great work!

DJ

Dear DJ:

Thanks for the kind words about JimHillMedia.com. As for the show you’re asking about, according to my handy-dandy copy of Bill Cotter’s “The Wonderful World of Disney Television: A Complete History” (which no serious Disneyana fan should be without, so go pick up a copy today), it was actually called “Disneyland After Dark.” And it originally aired as an episode of NBC’s “The Wonderful World of Color” ‘way back on April 15, 1962.

And you’re right about those shots of Walt that are featured in the program being canned, DJ. Those are what used to be called process shots. In order to achieve this illusion … well, Walt would stand in front of a big yellow screen on a soundstage on the Disney lot while the cameras rolled. He’d then interact with the various actors who’d been hired to portray typical Disneyland guests who just wanted the old Mousetro’s autograph.

After those scenes were shot … well, the special effects wizards at Disney Studio would just take Walt’s footage and fold that in with stuff that they’d shot previously of really-for-real guests milling around in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle. When these two pieces of film were combined … Presto Changeo! It would appear as if Walt actually were out in Anaheim being amusingly annoyed by tourists.

As to why Walt himself didn’t really make a trip out to the park to take part in the festivities. Well, you have to understand, DJ, that the appearances by Louis Armstrong, the Osmond Brothers, Annette Funicello and Bobby Rydell that are featured in the show actually happened over several different weekends in the Summer and Fall of1961. So trying to arrange to have Walt on hand as each of these sequences were shot would have been a bit of a logistical nightmare.

Not to mention that back in late 1961 / early 1962, Walt Disney was a really busy guy. He had literally dozens of irons in the fire at this point. Lots of ambitious projects like “Mary Poppins” and “The Enchanted Tiki Room” (not to mention the high covert land search for the East Coast version of Disneyland as well as all the shows for the 1964 New York World’s Fair) occupying his mind. Eating up all of his free time.

So Walt doing his bit for “Disneyland After Dark” by standing up in front of a process screen may seem like a bit of a cheat now. At least to you and me. But to an executive who was as busy as Walt was back then, doing it that way just must have seemed like the most sensible thing to do.

Now — as for those hats that Walt autographed, DJ — I’m betting that the crew that was on the set that day got them. Probably took them home to the wife and kids as souvenirs of an interesting day at the studio. Otherwise … well, maybe they went back to Wardrobe.

If that’s the case … well, I’m betting that some enterprising Disney employee who works with the folks who do the “Disney Treasures” auctions over at eBay is — as they read this — now making plans to scour the studio’s wardrobe department. To find out what actually did become of those ridiculous but (since Walt actually evidently autographed these things as part of the show) now highly valuable hats.

So — if I were you, DJ — I’d keep an eye on eBay over the next couple of months. It could be that something pretty intriguing could pop up over there over the next few months.

And finally, Maureen E. of Manchester, NH checks in to ask:

Jim:

Did you ever have any luck finding “The Love Bug” on DVD? The reason I’m asking is that — on a recent trip to WalMart — I noticed that they seemed to have literally dozens of copies of that title. Along with tons of the collectors edition of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

So — if you’re still not able to find a copy of “The Love Bug” — I’d be happy to pick up one for you, Jim, and send it along. Sort of as a “Thank You” present for all the great stories you’ve shared with me over the past few years.

I’m serious, Jim. Just say the word and I’ll go pick up that DVD for you today.

Let me know, okay?

Maureen

Dear Maureen:

Thanks for your most generous offer. Thanks also to the dozens of other loyal JimHillMedia.com readers who also wrote to me, offering to help me out in my somewhat desperate search for the two disc edition of “The Love Bug” DVD. I am pleased to announce that my search is over. A few weeks back, I was finally able to acquire a copy of “The Love Bug” on DVD.

And you know what? This two disc Collector’s Edition of the movie ain’t half bad. By that I mean: it’s got a lot of intriguing extra features — like a brief film on “Love Bug” Day at Disneyland (where hundreds of VW owners drove out to Anaheim with their elaborately decorated cars to take part in a parade that rolled straight through the park!) as well as a great making-of documentary. But you know what my favorite feature on this two disc DVD is? The audio commentary that goes with the “Love Bug” movie.

Mind you, this is probably the least organized/professional audio commentary in the history of Buena Vista Home Entertainment. Poor Dean Jones desperately tries to keep the thing on track. But then the late, great Buddy Hackett starts telling these stories that have absolutely nothing to do with “The Love Bug.” How — back in the late 1940s — Columbia Pictures tried to hire him to replace Curly Howard as a member of the Three Stooges. Who Buddy performed with back in Las Vegas in the day. All these great schmoozy show business anecdotes that really have nothing to do with the movie.

But then Dean Jones (being the good, loyal Disney vet that he is) tries to get Buddy back on track. Talking about the movie that the two of them (and us) are actually watching … only to have Hackett matter-of-factly say something like “You know, I thought that I did such a bad job as Tennessee Steinmetz that — after that first test screening in Encino — I actually went out behind the theater and threw up.” Very funny and very real stuff.

And Michelle Lee’s comments are a hoot too. Just her story about how she screwed up the film’s continuity by forgetting to put her earrings back on for one shot (and more importantly, how mad the Disney Studio execs got at her when they heard about this error) makes the disc worth owning. Not to mention her tales about how David Tomlinson kept cracking everyone else up when his face got stuck in the glove compartment. (Don’t ask. It’s hard to explain. Just go pick up a copy of the “Love Bug” DVD, watch it … all will become clear.)

Mind you, if you’re a hardcore film historian and really want an audio commentary that tells — in excruciating detail — how Disney’s “The Love Bug” was actually made, then maybe you won’t enjoy this DVD. If — on the other hand — you like off-the-cuff sounding show business anecdotes (or have any sort of fondness for Mr. Hackett, who sadly passed away earlier this month), then do yourself a favor and go pick up a copy of the “Love Bug” DVD.

And speaking of serious information … I almost forgot. This weekend — Saturday, July 12th and Sunday, July 13th — there is this amazing “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” event being held at the Anaheim Marriot Suites in Garden Grove, CA. Some truly notable former and current Disney Company employees — people like Tony Baxter, Tim Kirk, Kevin Kidney and Peter Renaday — will be turning out to talk about this landmark film as well as the amazing impact it’s had on the Disney theme parks.

Here’s just a sampling of the various events and seminars that will be presented as part of this two day exhibition:

“Nautilus Berths at the Disney Theme Parks and the Discovery Bay Project” hosted by Tony Baxter.
A “Tokyo DisneySea Overview” presentation as well as a “TDS Mysterious Island” presentation hosted by WDI vet and theme park designer Tim Kirk
A “Sneak Peek at 50th Anniversary 20K Merchandise” with Disney designer Kevin Kidney

All this, plus a tribute to perhaps one of the most colorful characters who ever worked for Walt Disney Imagineering, Tom Scherman.

It promises to be a most memorable weekend. Tickets are $45 for both days of the event. And seats are limited. As I type this, there are only eight seats left open for the “20,000 Leagues Exposition: Imagineering the Secrets of the Nautilus.”

So if you want to get in to on the fun, I suggest you get in your car now and drive down to the Anaheim Marriot Suites (which is located at 12015 Harbor Boulevard in Garden Grove, CA). The doors open at 9 a.m. on both days, with the festivities continuing ’til at least 5 p.m.

Would that I could be there myself. I’d love to hear what Tony Baxter has to say about Discovery Bay, not to mention Tim Kirk’s take on how TDS’s “Mysterious Island” section came to be.

Ah well … there’s always next year.

Anyway … that’s it for this extra special bonus weekend edition of “Why For.” If you have any addition questions about this weekend’s “20K” event, be sure to check out the Chandler’s Cove Historical Society’s official website.

Beyond that … you folks have a great weekend, okay?

jrh

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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