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Why For?

Jim Hill — the man who just doesn’t understand how “to make a long story short” — returns with even more long-winded answers to your Disney related questions. This week, Jim jabbers on and on about Sean Connery and Chris Farley, shares some disturbing news about the 2-disc deluxe edition of the “Lilo & Stitch” DVD as well as some happy info about Disney’s “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” movie … then makes a blatant bid for your bucks!

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First, Alikzam from aol.com writes to ask:

Dear Jim:

I thought I read in an article of yours (or perhaps another’s) that Anthony Quinn was the voice of Long John Silver in this year’s “Treasure Planet.” After reading the current review on the film by your guest reporter (which was very good, by the way), I discover that it is not Anthony Quinn who did the voice. Was I wrong? Was it because he passed away and maybe they didn’t have enough footage of his voice?

See, I’d noticed an interesting coincidence, with a lot of help from your articles. A lot of actors’ last films are Disney films — or are almost Disney films. The more I talk about it, the less sense it makes to me, but I still stand by it. See, I was saying Anthony Quinn’s last film was “Treasure Planet” (that’s obviously wrong), Madeline Khan’s last film was “A Bug’s Life”, Jim Varney’s last film was “Atlantis”, James Coburn’s last film was “Monsters Inc.”, and there’s probably some I’m forgetting or just don’t know. Then there’s the “almost” actors you’ve mentioned in past stories: John Candy doing voicework for a turkey in “Pocahontas” who never made it in the film, and Chris Farley, who had signed up to be in “Dinosaur”.

So I guess this is a two-in-one, and the second one is kind of morbid, but are there any other interesting “they almost made it” or “it was their last” stories?

AliKzam Los Angeles, CA

AliKzam –

Thanks for your kind note. Regarding whether or not the late Anthony Quinn was originally supposed to provide the voice of Long John Silver in “Treasure Planet” … to be honest, Alikzam, I’ve never heard that. Based on various conversations that I’ve had over the years with people who work at Disney Feature Animation, I was under the impression that TP directors John Musker and Ron Clements had wanted to land Sean Connery for that role. But when Disney wouldn’t agree to pay Connery the price he was asking, Sean took a pass on the pirate project.

Of course, Connery is always at the top of a lot of people’s casting lists. I’ve heard tell that Sean was Chris Columbus’ first choice to play Hogwarts Headmaster Albus Dumbledore in the “Harry Potter” film series. I’ve also heard that Peter Jackson made several attempts to try and recruit Connery to come play Gandalf in his epic scale “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy. But — just as with “Treasure Planet” — the negotiations for both of these primo roles supposedly broke down over monetary matters.

As to whether Connery (or Anthony Quinn, for that matter) might have done a better job with the Long John Silver role than Broadway veteran Brian Murray (and – more importantly – whether or not having some extra star power on board the film might have made it easier to sell “Treasure Planet” to a mass audiences) … who can say?

Anywho … in your question, you also mentioned “Saturday Night Live” vet Chris Farley. Farley’s untimely death in December 1997 is considered (by many of the folks at Dreamworks, anyway) to be a real tragedy. Why for? Because Chris was the comic actor that that studio had initially hired to provide the voice for the title character of “Shrek.” And according to animators who worked on that version of the project, the vocal performance that Chris was giving as the ogre was nothing short of extraordinary.

Of course, this was all for the earlier version of “Shrek.” Back when the film’s story followed the adventures of a teenage ogre who just didn’t want to lurk around the swamp and frighten people. Shrek (who – in this version of the picture – was basically a sweet, well intentioned soul) wanted to do good. His ultimate dream was to become a knight and rescue fair damsels in distress.

Which is how the ogre — in this version of the picture as well as the one that eventually showed in theaters last year — found himself on a seemingly hopeless quest (To rescue a sleeping princess that was trapped in a remote castle which was guarded by a fierce, fire-breathing dragon). Only in this version of the film, Princess Fiona wasn’t voiced by sweet, good natured Cameron Diaz. But rather gruff, sarcastic female comic Janeane Garofalo.

You see — in this version of the script for “Shrek,” folks — it was the princess who was guarded and remote. The one who didn’t trust people. And it was Shrek’s sweetness, kind heart and good nature that eventually drew Fiona out. Caused the princess to open her eyes. To learn that it was wrong to judge a person just based on how they looked.

Were you to ask the folks at Dreamworks, they’d probably still tell you that the Chris Farley version of “Shrek” would have been infinitely better than the Michael Myers / Cameron Diaz version that the studio eventually released in May of 2001. But Farley’s tragic death in December 1997 caused a ripple effect. Since Chris was no longer available to record the rest of his dialogue for “Shrek”‘s title character, Dreamworks had no choice but to chuck everything that they’d done up until that point and start the movie from scratch.

This mean recasting the role. And since Mike Myers (the new voice of Shrek) seemed incapable of playing a sweet, sincere character … well, that meant that the ogre’s part in the picture was going to have to be radically rewritten to play to Myer’s strengths. Which is how the gruff, emotionally remote version of the film’s title character came in being.

Of course, given that the title character of “Shrek” was now going to be sarcastic and nasty, that meant that the role of Princess Fiona would have to be rewritten as well. To provide some contrast to the new slant on the ogre’s character (As well as set up that whole “Opposites attract” angle that helps drives the movie’s love story). Which is why Janeane Garfofalo suddenly found herself out on the street while Cameron Diaz was brought in to play the kinder, gentler version of Fiona.

I had hoped that this year’s DVD release of “Shrek” might attempt to shed some light on the ill-fated Chris Farley version of this movie. But no such luck, kids. Dreamworks — supposedly out of concern of upsetting the notoriously finicky Mike Myers — deliberately steers clear of ever mentioning that there had been an earlier version of “Shrek” in the works that was to have featured Chris Farley’s voice.

The closest that the “Shrek” DVD ever came to acknowledging that there might have been an earlier version of this CG film in production was when it showed some concept sketches (as well as a maquette or two) from the Farley and Garofalo’s version of “Shrek.” (Sadly, none of the pieces of art that I’m mentioning here are ever acknowledged — on the DVD, anyway — as being from a non-Mike-Myers version of that film.)

Getting back to Anthony Quinn … would it interested you to know, Alikzam, to know that this actor actually did once star as Long John Silver in an earlier live action version of this Robert Louis Stevenson classic that was also set in space? This 1987 film had a somewhat awkward title — “Treasure Island in Space” – and featured Academy Award winner Ernest Borgnine in the role of Billy Bones. For more information of this bizarre “Treasure Planet” predecessor, check out this detailed description of the movie over at the Kult Movie Maximus website.

Next, Spot writes to ask:

Jim,

So I get home last night, sit down on the couch to relax and watch some TiVo, when my kids ask if they can watch “The Wiggles” that we recorded that morning. Being the nice guy I am (Well, really. “The Wiggles” puts me to sleep faster than drinking a bottle of Nyquil), I put it on for them. I’m a half hour into my late afternoon nap when they wake me to restart the recording. Well before I do that I happen to tune into 5 min commercial after all the Playhouse Disney shows. You know the one where they have the little boy and girl pimping out the newest Disney merchandise. Well, last night they were talking about the new “Lilo & Stitch” DVD that will be available Dec 3. Well, this is the first time I heard about it. So I go online to see what nifty special features are going to be included. Well, from what I can tell it’s just going to be a standard DVD (No Special Edition 2 disk set), with some minimal features. So hears where it gets tricky. I have been burned by Disney and other company before buy buying the regular DVD, and then a couple months later a new and improved Special Edition 2 disk set with all sorts of features to make a Disney Dweeb drool at the mouth. So — Finally — here is my question … Is this the only Lilo & Stitch DVD on the drawing boards right now, or is there a Special Edition just around the corner with all sorts of great goodies included? And if you know what the goodies are please bring us into the Loop!

Thanks a lot Jim,

Spot

Well, like a lot of you folks out there, I was under the impression that the release of the extra special collector’s edition of “Lilo & Stitch” (the one with the directors’ commentaries along with the infamous “Jet flying through downtown Honolulu” sequence that was cut from the picture after 9/11) would be released to stores sometime late next month. A couple of times, I’ve even heard a specific release date being mentioned for the deluxe “Lilo & Stitch” DVD … which was Tuesday, January 28th.

So imagine my surprise earlier this week when I received an e-mail from someone who works deep inside the Mouse House who insists that Michael Eisner himself earlier this year pulled the plug on the 2-disc deluxe collector’s edition of “Lilo & Stitch.” And worse than that, the Walt Disney Company is supposedly toying with completely abandoning the 2-disc collector’s edition format for all of its future animated titles.

Why for? Well, here’s a real surprise: These proposed cutbacks of any additional features to be included in future animated releases from Buena Vista Home Entertainment are coming because the Mouse is trying once again to economize. According to Disney’s own market research, only 8% of the DVD buyers out there are interested in adult-aimed features (I.E. Extras such as directors’ commentaries, character design galleries, deleted scenes, etc. ) on their discs. The other 92% of DVD buyers are kids and parents who just want the movie. Who are perfectly happy with a DVD that just shows the film and nothing more.

Disney’s cost savings — should Buena Vista Home Entertainment actually opt to go forward with adopting just the single disc format for all the future DVD releases of the company’s animated classics — could be considerable. Reportedly saving the company as much as $7 million in worldwide production costs per title.

But what about the cost to all us animation fans? My heart actually aches when I think about all the great stuff that was supposedly deliberately left off of the plain Jane version of the “Lilo & Stitch” DVD that hit store shelves earlier this week. Almost 75% of the additional features that had been created specifically for “Lilo”‘s DVD release ended up on the cutting room floor. Cool extras like:

– a 20 minute tour of the Florida animation studio (led by “Lilo & Stitch” directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois)

– 7 long deleted scenes from the film, including one with Stitch’s gang (from an abandoned plotline of the film) as well as the infamous 747 rescue scene that was cut after 9/11

– full galleries with watercolor backgrounds, storyboards, art layouts, etc.

– a 45 minute long “On Location with the Directors” featurette.

Plus the now obligatory director’s commentary. From all accounts, the deluxe collector’s edition 2-disc DVD of “Lilo & Stitch” would have been absolutely killer. But — in spite of the fact that Buena Vista Home Entertainment has had the master tapes for all these extras in hand since May 2002, a full month before “Lilo & Stitch” actually rolled into theaters — it now seems unlikely that much of this great archival material (which had deliberately been created for the deluxe “Stitch” DVD) will ever see the light of day.

Which begs the question: What’s the deal with the limited number of extras that actually DID end up on the single disc version of “Lilo & Stitch”? Well, as it turns out, those features were actually culled from the master tapes for the 2-disc set. And these extras were deliberately picked for their kid-friendly-ness. (Which explains that A*Teens “I Can’t Help Falling in Love” music video as well as the hula lesson.)

Would a public outcry on this subject ultimately help get the deluxe 2-disc collector’s edition of “Lilo & Stitch” released? To be honest, I’m not sure. Over the past few years, the Walt Disney Company has obviously made making a profit a higher corporate priority than pleasing its customers. Besides, if 92% of all potential Disney DVD buyers seem perfectly happy with buying a single disc version of one of the company’s classic animated films that has limited additional features, then what’s the point of busting your butt to try and please that whiny, bitchy, hard-to-please other 8%?

Still, once this news gets out about this, I would imagine that the Walt Disney Company is going to be looking for some sort of graceful way out of this extremely awkward situation. Some way that they can appease all of those angry Disney DVD buyers who only collect the deluxe 2-disc DVD version of the corporation’s animated films. Who are now furious that Disney deliberately turned their back on them (and the 2-disc format).

May I suggest (as a face saving gesture for the Mouse): In mid-2003, Buena Vista Home Entertainment will be rolling out a direct-to-video follow-up to “Lilo & Stitch” called “Stitch! The Movie.” This video and DVD release is – of course – really just a tease for the REAL money maker, which is: “Stitch! The Animated Series, ” the daily cartoon show that Walt Disney Television Animation will debuting in the Fall of 2003.

So rather than admit that they screwed up and that they never intended to release a 2-disc version of “Lilo & Stitch,” wouldn’t it be smart of the folks from Buena Vista Home Entertainment to now say that they were holding the deluxe collectors edition of this film back ’til the late Summer / early Fall of 2003? So they’d have another title that they could use to help promote “Stitch! The Animated Series”?

But to deliberately NOT go forward with releasing the deluxe 2-disc set of “Lilo & Stitch” — particularly after all the hours and artistry that Disney staffers have already poured into this project — just to save a couple of bucks. That would be (there’s just no other way to describe this, folks) a stupid waste.

And isn’t it high time that the Walt Disney Company stopped being so wasteful and/or stupid in the way it manages its assets?

Finally, Sketch105 writes to ask:

Jim, I understand you receive thousands of questions a day. You have become my Disney bible man. I was re-reading your article on Discoveryland and noticed your Douglas Adams reference. I’m fan of the late Mr. Adams’ work, and I was wondering if you knew anything about the film adaptation of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” that is currently in “development” (or was it development hell?)

Sketch105

Thanks for the healthy bit of hype, Sketch105. But there’s no need to artificially inflate my alleged importance on the Web. At best, I only get a couple of dozen inquiries each day here at JimHillMedia.com. All from nice people like yourself who are ooking for answers to their rather obscure Disney-related questions.

Anyway … as for the long awaited movie version of Douglas Adams’ much beloved “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy,” the one that “Austin Powers” director Jay Roach has been trying to get Disney to make for a couple of years now … well — in spite of Adams’ untimely passing back in May 2001 — Roach still insists that it’s “all systems go” on this comic sci-fi adventure. And that Jay is doing everything within his power to see to it that this now-decades-in-development film finally makes it to the big screen.

Toward this end, back in September of this year, Roach had Disney hire screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick (best known for her work on “James and the Giant Peach,” “Chicken Run” and “The Road to El Dorado”) to pick up where Adams left off with his unfinished “Hitchhikers” script. Provided that Kirkpatrick’s rewrite meets with studio approval, production of “Hitchhikers” could begin as early as 2004, with a worldwide release to theaters sometime in 2005.

So don’t be like Marvin the Paranoid Android, Sketch105. Try to be optimistic. It may not be too much longer before the infinite probability drive kicks in and we finally all get a chance to see the long awaited movie version of “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.”

So just to play it safe, try and keep a towel handy.

 

Okay. That takes care of my answers to this week’s “Why For” questions. But NOW I have a question for you folks. As in: Do you really like JimHillMedia.com? Are you actually enjoying having a spot like this to regularly visit on the Web?

Well, if so, then what I really need is for you folks to start supporting the site. And that means — I’m sorry, but there’s just no subtle way to say this — donations.

According to Michelle, JimHillMedia.com (the site) is currently running at a deficit. Not a huge deficit, mind you. Just your average, medium sized $100 or so deficit. But — if a number of you nice folks were to toss a couple of bucks into that Amazon honor box on the JimHillMedia.com home page on a regular basis — we’d quickly be out of the hole and back in the black at the site.

I know, I know. It’s a really tough time of year to be asking people for money. And I’m honestly embarrassed that I have to ask. But writing for the Web is lot like working in television in 1948. I mean, everyone’s very exciting about the financial possibilities inherent with this medium. But to date, very few people have actually figured out how to make a buck off of this thing.

Look, Michelle and I honestly aren’t expecting to make a fortune off of JimHillMedia.com. But it would be nice if the site were actually self supporting. So, please (I’m asking nice here) … throw in a few bucks in the honor box and I promise that I’ll hold up my end of the deal. Which is keep churning out those long winded stories and/or answering your Disney related questions.

Whaddaya say? Is it a deal?

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.

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“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.

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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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