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Why For?

Jim Hill’s back with even more long winded answers to your questions about the Walt Disney Company. This week, we learn all about Tim Burton’s dealings with the Mouse House, animated shorts that you didn’t get to see, a suspenseful sub-plot that was cut out of “Mulan” as well as an apology.

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Earlier this week, EdwrdScssrhnds wrote to say:

Jim –

Really loved your articles this week about forthcoming projects from Disney Theatrical as well as that new Clive Barker book. Your story about how Disney closes the deal with Clive – by offering him his very own “Abarat Land” at Disneyland – got me thinking: Didn’t Katzenberg make the same sort of offer to Tim Burton back in the early 1990s, back when Jeffrey was trying to get that director to sign a long term contract with Walt Disney Studios?

Dear EdwrdScssrhnads –

Wow, you’ll got a really good memory, guy. Back in the early 1990s – when former Disney animator Tim Burton had become one of Hollywood’s hottest directors – the Mouse really WAS desperate to get Tim to commit to some sort of long term contract with the company. Which is why they kept saying “Yes” to whatever projects that Burton would kick Disney’s way.

“A stop motion children’s film that features a morose skeleton who kidnaps Christmas? Sure, Tim! A sophomoric Chris Elliot comedy that’s stuffed with lots of expensive special effects? Absolutely, Tim. We’d love to make a movie like that! A black-and-white comic drama that dramatizes the life of infamous cross-dresser Ed Wood, the worst director in Hollywood history? Bring it on!”

And – each time that Burton would begin making a movie for the Mouse – then-Disney studio head Jeffrey Katzenberg would begin whispering in Tim’s ear. “Why do you want to make movies for all those other awful companies like Warners or Fox? We’ve got everything that you need right here in Burbank. Hell, we can even make your creatures come to life right off of the silver screen. Think about it, Tim. A ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ ride at Disneyland? Or – better yet – how about an entire Tim Burton-themed theme park? With a ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ land and a ‘James and the Giant Peach’ land?”

Burton was reportedly sorely tempted by Katzenberg’s constant cajoling. But – in the end – Tim opted to sign a long term contract with Warners instead. Disney execs were reportedly so furious when they learned of Burton’s defection to the enemy that they deliberately screwed up the release of “Ed Wood.” Throwing that picture straight out into wide release in late 1994, rather than starting the film out in a few smaller art houses and allowing audience interest to build in this odd little project.

Disney supposedly took the same sort of cavalier attitude with Burton’s “Nightmare” follow-up – Henry Selick’s “James and the Giant Peach.” Putting that film out in too many theaters without enough promotional support. Which is why that stop motion project supposedly did so poorly at the box office.

Which might explain why both Tim Burton and Henry Selick have been so reluctant to take part in the promotion of Disneyland’s “Haunted Mansion Holiday” attraction. After all, these guys remember all too well the shabby treatment that their films received when Mickey didn’t get his way. So why should these two talented film-makers go out of their way to help Disney now?

Still, given the continuing success of “Haunted Mansion Holiday” (which is now slated to be installed seasonally at both the Haunted Mansion at WDW’s Magic Kingdom as well as Tokyo Disneyland), perhaps Tim Burton might eventually have a change of heart someday. Particularly if Disney does a really good job with Clive Barker’s “Abarat” themed land. Maybe then Burton will agree to a long term deal with the Mouse House. Which – hopefully – could eventually lead to a full fledged “Nightmare Before Christmas” land.

Here’s hoping, anyway. Anyhow … Eric G. of Townsend, MA. writes to say:

Dear Mr. Hill:

You seem to know a lot about the early days at Disney-MGM. I recall that – back when I took the animation tour in the Fall of 1989 – I saw some storyboards for a movie called “Mickey’s Arabian Adventure.” These drawings showed Mickey in a Arabian marketplace clutching something that looked an awful lot like the genie’s lamp from “Aladdin.”

Did Disney’s animators ever actually get around to making “Mickey’s Arabian Adventure”? I mean, I’ve kept an eye for this film for over 13 years now. But I’ve never heard word one about a finished version of this toon. Could you please fill in the blanks for me, Jim?

Dear Eric G. –

Of course I’d be happy to fill in the blanks for you, Eric. The “Mickey’s Arabian Adventure” film that you mention was a short that the artists at Disney Feature Animation Florida were supposed to have made back in the early 1990s. Back when all these animators were supposed to was churn out a steady stream of new short subjects which were supposed to have been paired with Disney’s latest feature length animated releases.

“Mickey’s Arabian Adventure” was one of at least three different short subjects that the crew at WDFA were supposed to have churned out. Two other titles that these folks did development work on was an animated featurette based on the story of Christopher Columbus (starring – of course – Mickey Mouse as the noted explorer and Minnie Mouse as Queen Isabella of Spain) which supposed to have run in theaters in the Fall of 1992 (The 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the Americas), as well as “The Legend of Lord Goofstroke: Goofy of the Apes.” Which – of course – was supposed to have been a comic retelling of the legend of Tarzan (with Goofy wearing the loincloth in this go-round).

Of course, by the time the Disney-MGM Studio Theme Park threw open its gates in May of 1989, “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” had also opened and proven to be an enormous success. Which is why the animators at WDFAF suddenly found themselves abandoning their long-in-the-planning short subjects in favor of doing new Roger Rabbit Maroon Cartoons.

These Orlando-based animators worked on a number of “Roger Rabbit” (Including one called “Hare in My Soup” – which featured Roger as a harried waiter in a hoity-toity restaurant – that got shut down just as production was getting underway because Spielberg and Disney couldn’t agree on how the rabbit character was being used) … until they were recruited to start working on individual scenes and sequences for Disney’s newest feature length cartoons. Movies like 1991’s “Beauty and the Beast” and 1994’s “The Lion King.”

The superior work that these Florida animators did on these individual sequences lead to these artists being given a shot at making their very own feature length animated films, 1998’s “Mulan” (a film that I’ll reveal even more about with my next answer here at “Why For”) as well as 2002’s “Lilo & Stitch.”

As for what became of “Mickey’s Arabian Adventure” … I would imagine, Eric G., that – once Disney released a feature length animated version of the story of “Aladdin” in 1992 – execs at WDFA decided that it might be wise to table all plans for a animated short version of the same story. At least for a while. So I would guess that all those storyboards that you saw during your Orlando vacation ‘way back in 1989 have been safely tucked away in Disney’s Animation Research Library in Glendale, CA. Where they wait patiently for some enterprising animator to come uncover them someday and say “You know, these storyboards have the makings of a great animated short.”

Anywho … PsPorridgeHaut slung me an e-mail earlier this week, which said:

Dear Jim –

I love, love, LOVE your “Why For” column and all the way cool stuff that you reveal about Disney’s animated films. I particularly enjoyed last week’s story about that unfinished gag from “The Little Mermaid.” You know, the one about where the shark eats the dynamite? So I was wondering: Do you know any great stories about unfinished stuff from my own favorite Disney animated movie, “Mulan”?

Dear PsPorridgeHaut (Great name, by the way),

Actually, there are a lot of great things that ended up getting cut out of “Mulan.” Ballsy dramatic sequences, like the opening that Disney’s Florida story artists had originally envisioned for this film. Picture a scene where all of the incidents that lead up to the creation of the Great Wall of China are played out by shadow puppets performing by candle light behind a paper screen. This would have been a truly beautiful, evocative way to have started the movie … particularly given the shocking ending that WDFAF’s animators had originally wanted to tack onto this placid opening sequence.

And what sort of shocking ending was that? Well, picture this: Eventually, the camera would have pulled back away from the paper screen, revealing that there was an audience seated in a puppet theater that was watching this shadow play. The camera would then have drifted over to the theater’s window and revealed that – just as the off-screen puppeteer is explaining how the Great Wall prevented the Mongol horde from ever returning and attacking China – that Shan Yu and his army are (at that very same moment) swarming over the Wall. The sequence was supposed to have ended with the horde entering the theater in the middle of the puppet show. The audiences flees, screaming. Shan Yu kills the puppeteer and then sets fire to the shadow puppets and the paper screen.

Not exactly what you’d expect from a Disney animated film, is it? Well, the idea behind this version of “Mulan”‘s opening sequence was to give moviegoers as much info as possible about the world that they were about to enter as well as establish that Shan Yu and his horde really are very bad guys. The worst villains that we’ve ever encountered in a Disney feature length cartoon. Which would (hopefully) make the audience realize that the stacks are extremely high in this film. That if Fa Zhou actually does go off to war to fight against a ruthless army like this, there’s just no way that he’ll ever return alive. Which is why Fa Mulan (because she loves her father so) really has no choice but to go off to fight against the Mongols in his place.

But perhaps my favorite little dramatic plot twist that was originally proposed for “Mulan” that didn’t make it into the finished version of the film was the Chinese Dragons sequence. What sequence was this? Well, do you remember how Shan Yu and his gang of assassins made their way into the Imperial Palace by posing as a Chinese dragon in the victory parade? Well, originally Mulan was supposed to have learned of this treachery just before the celebration sequence in the palace’s courtyard was supposed to gotten underway.

Mulan then tells Shang, Yao, Chien-Po and Ling. The soldiers all then agree to set aside their differences and help their old friend unmask the invaders. So the five of them – with Crikee, Mushu, and Khan’s help – race into the palace’s courtyard to find … that there are no less than 15 different Chinese dragons dancing among the thousands of people who have crowded into the vast courtyard!

What was to have followed was a tense, but funny scene, as Mulan and her friends raced through the crowd – ripping the Chinese dragon costumes off of the backs of dozens of happy dancers. All the while realizing that – at the very moment – the assassins must be making their way ever closer to the Emperor.

Were you to watch this general section of “Mulan” again today, you would actually be able to pick out the shot that was originally supposed to have set up this suspenseful sequence. The “crane shot” of the entire palace courtyard, which showed that there are at least a dozen Chinese dragons dancing round in the crowd.

So why didn’t the folks at WDFAF opt to go forward with this exciting version of the palace courtyard sequence? To be honest, at this point in the picture, “Mulan”‘s two directors – animation vets Tony Bancroft and Barry Cook – were just running for the goal posts. Trying to wrap up the plot line in their picture just as quickly and neatly as possible, while still giving moviegoers all the tears, thrills and laughs that they have come to expect from Disney’s animated films. The whole idea behind the “Let’s go find the assassins in their Chinese dragon costume” was fun and exciting. But not exactly necessary for the successful completion of the film. Which is why this intriguing plot point eventually hit the cutting room floor.

Does that answer your question, PsPorridgeHaut?

And – finally – Polly Purebread wrote to say:

Jim –

What’s going on with your web site this week? First you fall for that obviously fake “Tom Schumacher was fired” story. Then you do an article about the new Clive Barker book where you actually mis-spell the name of the series throughout the entire article. (It’s “Abarat,” Jim. NOT “Arabat”). Then no new story today. This is amateur night stuff, guy. Totally bush league. And I honestly expected better of a web site with your name on it, Jim.

As did I, Polly. As did I.

Look, I won’t lie to you folks. We’ve had a rough couple of days here at JimHillMedia.com.

First up: Okay. I’ll admit it. We totally screwed up with that Tom Schumacher story. To give you a little background on how this exactly happened: This alleged news item was sent out to a number of Disneyana web sites late Monday night. Since I live ‘way out here in New Hampshire, I was already in bed by the time that e-mail came in rolling in at 11:23 p.m. EST. So I didn’t know about Tom Schumacher supposedly being fired until early Tuesday morning, when I was awaken by phone calls from various LA newspapers & TV stations, seeking conformation of the story.

But Michelle – our editor here at JimHillMedia.com (who works out of San Diego, CA.) – was still up when that e-mail came in. More importantly, she saw that the piece had also been sent to David Koenig & Al Lutz at MousePlanet, Jerry Beck of Cartoon Research and Lon Davis of Mouse Hole.

Which put Michelle in an awful predicament. You see, if she took the time to do a proper check on the story’s authenticity, she ran the risk of JimHillMedia.com getting scooped on this tasty little news item by our competition. But – if Michelle ran the story as it was and it turned out to be totally bogus – she then ran the risk of doing irreparable harm to the website’s reputation and credibility.

In the end, our fearless editor decided to run the article just as she’d received it. But with the following header attached to the top of this alleged news story:

Note: this information is unconfirmed, and should be treated as rumor until officially confirmed by the Walt Disney Company.

I received this interesting email this evening, as did several other webmasters and Internet columnists. There’s enough right in here to make me suspect it’s true, but not enough for me to confirm it at this hour of the evening. If anyone can confirm or disprove this, I’d appreciate an e-mail.

Which should have been enough to cover Michelle’s ass. Except that – due to the way that pages are formatted here at JimHillMedia.com – that disclaimer wasn’t actually attached to the top of the “Thomas Schumacher Fired?” story. It appeared in a separate box on top of that article. Which is why a lot of you folks never read (or even saw) that disclaimer. Which is why you assumed Michelle’s story was an actual news story, rather than just an interesting rumor that we were posting … with the hope that JimHillMedia.com readers could then be able to help us confirm or deny this particular story.

As you might imagine … that story caused a sensation. Particularly since all of the other Disneyana web sites opted not to run the item. We were the only web site who had decided to go out on a limb and run that piece. Which is why – since it’s my name that’s all over this web site – I’m the one who took all the heat when it turned out that this story was wrong. That Thomas Schumacher hadn’t actually been fired. That the reason that Schumacher hadn’t been sighted around WFDA for the past couple of days was that he was overseas, helping to promote the upcoming European release of “Lilo & Stitch.”

My apologies to all you folks out there – Mr. Schumacher, as well as our faithful JimHillMedia.com readers – who got tripped up or tricked by this bogus piece. Let me assure you that something like this will never happen again at this site. That we now have several new policies in place – particularly in regard to where disclaimers should be located and how prominently they should be featured in all future JimHillMedia.com articles – which should prevent you (and us) from getting hoaxed like that again. Again, my sincerest apologies for any of the confusion and consternation that this alleged article may have caused.

And – while I’m apologizing – let me sling a “Mea Culpa” at Clive Barker and all you “Abarat” fans out there. When I was writing Wednesday’s story, I was being so careful about double-checking the spelling of names like Kaspar Wolfswinkel, Christopher Carrion, Rojo Pixler and Candy Quackenbush that it never occurred to me to double-check the spelling of the book itself. Which is “Abarat,” NOT “Arabat” (damn it!!). Again, my apologies for screwing that up. I promise that we’ll make the appropriate changes to the text of that story shortly.

That is – of course – providing that our tech guy, Jon Nadelberg, is actually available to make some changes to that particular story sometime soon. Now please don’t mis-interpret this and think that I’m criticizing poor Mr. Nadelberg. Truth be told, Jon’s this extremely busy guy who has a very demanding career in addition to having to play doting dad to his brand new baby boy. Which is why, due to his crushing schedule (as well as a few meetings that he was forced to attend at the last minute), Nadelberg wasn’t really available to update JimHillMedia.com during the latter part of this week. Which is why those “Arabat” / “Abarat” typos remains in place in Wednesday’s story and why there was no update at all on Thursday.

Given that Jon donates all of his time and efforts to JimHillMedia.com, those of us who work here at the site are sincerely grateful for any time that Nadelberg can find to work on the site and update its content. Hopefully, over the next week or so, things will once again begin to calm down in Jon’s life. Which (hopefully) will mean that we’ll be getting back our old schedule – where there’s a new article and/or a story from the archives going up on the website every weekday, Monday through Friday.

So – again – my heartfelt apologies for any of the glitches that you may have stumbled upon while visiting JimHillMedia.com this week, folks. Keep in mind that we’re still a fairly young web site. Not even four months old yet. So we’re still working out some of our kinks.

I promise that we’ll try to do better in the future at avoiding these sorts of flubs. In the meantime, should you have any additional complaints and comments about JimHillMedia.com, be sure to lob them straight at the guy whose name is all over this website – Jim Hill – at jim@jimhillmedia.com.

That’s it for now, kids. See you next week, okay?

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.

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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