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Why For?

Jim Hill returns with even more answers to your Disney-related questions. This time around, he reveals why “Aladdin”‘s IMAX debut has been delayed, why “Home on the Range” is opening in April 2004, where to get a really snazzy t-shirt as well as finally announcing the winners of our “Epcot English Lesson” contest.



First of, Heather B. writes in to ask:

Jim –

I hate to ask this, since it’s been asked of you twice in one form or another, including once by me. But the natives over in the “Aladdin” fandom are getting restless…

You said previously that “Aladdin” was coming to IMAX January 2004 and the reason we hadn’t heard anything was because Disney was waiting so they wouldn’t spend so much on advertising. Well, it’s December 18th now, so either they’re waiting *really* late or the date’s been changed or cancelled. The IMAX website lists (this film) as coming out in 2004 (no more specific) and the Disney Giant Screen Movies page doesn’t mention “Al” at all, but says that Disney’s holiday Imax release is “The Young Black Stallion.” Did “Aladdin” get bumped to a later date (again?!) or just cancelled altogether?

Thanks a bunch,

Heather –

Jeese, I don’t know what to tell you. I mean, I know for a fact that — over the past two years — Disney Feature Animation has devoted hundreds of man hours (and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars) getting “Aladdin” ready for its IMAX debut. But then — when both “Beauty and the Beast: The Special Edition” and “The Lion King” both under-performed during their large format runs — the accountanteers who are currently running the Mouse Factory suddenly decided that perhaps they should keep Robin William’s Genie in his lamp for a little while longer.

What exactly is the problem here, Heather? Well, given all the money that the Mouse had spent on prepping “BATB” and “TLK” for their large screen debuts (Plus the millions more poured that the corporation had poured into the promotion of these two pictures), Mickey had really expected to get some sort of return on that investment. But when that didn’t happen in both 2001 or 2002, Disney then decided: “Well, maybe people really DON’T want to pay to see cartoons that they already own in the REALLY BIG screen. Maybe we should show them something new instead.”

Enter “The Young Black Stallion.” Or — as the folks at Walt Disney Studios prefer to refer to it — IMAX’s last hope.

To explain: The real reason that “The Young Black Stallion” is being released in what had been previously announced as “Aladdin” ‘s old slot is that the Walt Disney Company is giving large format theaters one final chance. If “The Young Black Stallion” actually manages to connect with audiences, Disney may opt to continue its flirtation with IMAX. Produce new films specifically to be shown for large format theaters. If — on the other hand — “The Young Black Stallion” comes up lame at the box office, the Mouse may opt to this whole IMAX idea out to pasture.

The real sad part of this story is that the IMAX versions of “Aladdin,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Pocahontas” are reportedly already prepped and sitting in the can, ready to unspool. But — if what I’m hearing is correct, Heather — the only way that we’re now ever going to see “Aladdin” on the REALLY BIG screen is if Buena Vista Home Entertainment opts to show the film in IMAX this fall as a special promotional event prior to the official kick-off of the sales of the “Platinum Edition” of “Aladdin.”

Which makes me sad, Heather. Why for? Because “Aladdin” really is one of my favorite Disney animated films. And I was so looking forward to seeing “Friend Like Me” and “Prince Ali” play out on the big screen. Here’s hoping that the folks at Disney Studios have a change of heart and at least allow this John Musker and Ron Clements classic to at least have a short run in large format theaters sometime in 2004.

If not … well, here’s the deal, Heather. When the “Platinum Edition” of “Aladdin” comes out in the Fall of 2004, you and I are finding the largest plasma screen television possible. And — as the “Aladdin” DVD plays — we are going to sit impossibly close to the screen, okay?

Is it a date?

Moving on to our next question, Steve writes in to ask:

Dear Jim:

Let me begin by thanking you for the wonderfully informative articles you have shared through the years. I have enjoyed them and the integrity of your reporting ver y much.

My question regarding “Home on the Range” concerns its April release date. I am surprised that it has not been scheduled as a tent-pole summer or Christmas picture as it is a general rule with Disney animated features. After all, this is not a small film from the TV animation division, but a big budget film that would normally go out in June or November when it enjoys a longer, more profitable run. This says to me that the studio lacks faith in its quality or public appeal. Do you know what their motivation is for this less prestigious slot?

Thank you very much!


Dear Steve –

Thanks for the kind words regarding the crud I churn out for As for “Home on the Range” ‘s release date … As hard as this may be for you to believe, Steve, the Mouse actually isn’t throwing this traditionally animated film away. But — rather — the marketing staff at Walt Disney Studios is doing its level best to position this Will Finn and John Sanford picture properly. With the hope that “HOTR” will be the only family friendly film in theaters on April 2, 2004. Which will hopefully translate into some significant dough for Disney.

Don’t under-estimate that late winter / early spring time slot, Steve. Though it may not logically seem like as lucrative a time to release a film as — say — the depths of summer and/or the height of the holiday season, animated movies can still rake in plenty of moola in March and April. Take — for example — the $46 million that “Ice Age” made over its opening weekend — which was March 15 — 17, 2002. That CG Blue Sky / 20th Century Fox release then went on to gross $176 million during its initial domestic run, with most of those ticket sales occurring in late March and early April.

So “Home on the Range” may do more than “Bust a Moo on April 2.” It may actually go on to bust a few box office records. Provided — of course — that Walt Disney Pictures’ promotional department does its job right.

Which may be kind of difficult. Why for? Because — the way I hear it — Roseanne is still plenty pissed at Disney execs for allowing ABC to abruptly cancel her “Real Roseanne Show” back in August (which — in turn — derailed the “Domestic Goddess” cooking show that the comedienne was prepping for the ABC Family cable channel). Which means that Roseanne (who provides vocals for the lead character of “Home on the Range,” a humorous but heroic cow called Maggie) may opt not to take part in promoting the picture next April.

Or worse (given the comedienne’s outspoken reputation), Roseanne (in an effort to get back at those Disney exes) may decide to bad-mouth this Will Fill and John Sanford picture. Which would really be a shame. Why for? Because I keep hearing that “Home on the Range” may be one of the funniest films that Walt Disney Feature Animation has churned out in years. And I think that it would be terrible if a feud between Roseanne and the stupid studio execs who mishandled the cancellation of the comedienne’s latest TV show ended up tripping up “HOTR”‘s one real shot at box office success.

Next, Bob D. checks in to ask:

Hi Jim,

Could you let me know where I can purchase that “Disappointed” t shirt that was featured on your site recently?


Bob D.

Bob D.

Sure. Just follow this link and the gentleman who runs this extremely fun site will be happy to set you up with a “Disappointed” t-shirt (the OFFICIAL shirt of the “Oust Eisner” revolution).

And — finally — Bad Toupee drops by to ask:

Hey, Jim –

What happened to that contest you were running at a few weeks back? The one where people were competing for copies of Jason Surrell’s “Haunted Mansion” book? Who eventually ended up winning those two copies of the book you were giving away?

Just curious,
Bad Toupee

Dear Bad Toupee –

Omigod! You’re right. What with dealing with MouseFest 2003 and then all this Roy / Stanley / Michael stuff, I completely blanked that contest that I started back in November.

For those of you who don’t recall: Back on November 10th, I asked JHM readers to help me answer some questions that a WDW cast member (Who was a Japanese national working at one of the food stands at the Japanese pavilion at Epcot’s World Showcase) asked about some vague sounding English terms. That request — “The Epcot English Lesson” — resulted in a huge pile of e-mail. A total of 247 people sent in entries, with some readers actually sending several different versions on what they thought “few,” “some,” “many,” “a handful” et al meant. With the hope that that would help them score a copy of Jason’s wonderful “Haunted Mansion” book.

Given that so many of the entries that I received for the “Epcot English Lesson” contest last month were so witty and so well thought out, it was damned near impossible for me to decide which two JHM readers had done the best job of summing up what these truly vague English terms meant. But — after reading and re-reading all of these well written e-mails — two entries (like cream) rose to the top.

The first prize winner came from Margaret Weatherford. Who (I think) used a lot of common sense when it came to try and answering this nonsensical question:


I think your Japanese correspondent’s problem is that he is seeking to place objective labels on subjective terms, and restaurant patrons fully expect follow-up questions as to the exact amounts that will make them happy. (This problem arises because Disney portion sizes are so odd and variable that no one knows what size to ask for, especially with unfamiliar Japanese food.) But here is my contest entry anyway.

Few = Three to five. Disney guests probably want as many as there are people in their party.
Some = The standard amount of whatever is mentioned for the number of people in the party.
Couple = Officially two, but people often use it to make their request sound smaller, and hope to be offered three or four.
Handful = Literally means a handful, or a handful-sized scoop.
More = A second standard amount of whatever is mentioned.
A Ton = The largest size available of whatever is mentioned.
Much = Much is only used in the phrase “too much,” and has no size equivalent.
Too much = A subjective term. It’s more than the diner wants, and a restaurant server should offer a smaller size.
Plenty = In “that’s plenty,” the amount given is at least as much as the diner wants, and no more should be offered. In “plenty of,” the diner wants a larger amount than is usually served.
Many = Rarely used except in “too many,” but it could be used to mean a majority — “many of us like sushi.”
Too Many = The same as “that’s plenty,” but used for countable objects.
Bunch = For people, a group of at least five but less than twelve. For food/utensils/etc., the patron expects a larger amount than is usually offered, but may need more or less than the server subsequently gives.
Group = Always applies to people, and at Disney means a group of people visiting the park together, likely larger than the typical family. Just ask “how many in your group?”
Several = Between five and ten countable objects.
A Pile of = A large handful, usually of napkins.
Enough = In “that’s enough,” the same as “that’s plenty.” Sometimes people may use it when they really don’t know how much they need (of soy sauce or wasabi, for example) and expect the server to know.
A Lot of = Like “a bunch,” means that the diner wants more than is usually offered.
Smattering = Rarely used. I would say that it means a small amount, generally sprinkled on or mixed in other food.

Our second JHM prize winner — Mark Bagby — took a much more humorous approach to the problem:

Okay, this is challenging. Now I know why those who learn English as a
second language struggle so.

First, it depends on what you’re asking for…and these are all
personal. If you’re asking for packets of sweetener, no problem. If it’s
steaks, that’s another story! The problem with these phrases is they are
undetermined, indefinite terms of imprecision…which is the point. We
use these terms because we don’t know the specifics of the situation, or
exactly what we want or need. If I need two, I’ll ask for two. If I’m
not certain how much I’ll need, I’ll ask for a couple, or a few.

But, that said…Here are my definitions:

“Few” means three or four; my dictionary says “some but not many; a
small number.” Of course, that’s relative, but if you asked me for a
few, I would give you three or four.

“Some” is an unknown, or unspecified number, according to the
dictionary, but I would say four, five or six.

“Couple” is definitely two. As in a handsome couple…or the verb,
coupling, which means two. Unless it’s a threesome. So that would be
few…and far between, too.

“Handful” implies small objects that you can hold in your hand. So,
whatever you can scoop up in one hand. A handful of water, for instance,
would be quite different than a handful of M and Ms.

“More” means a greater amount than what you’ve got, whether it’s one

“A Ton” literally would be 2,000 pounds (unless it’s a metric tonne),
but I’d say it’s a weight heavier than you expected it to weigh. You
pick something up and you can sling it on your back–a backpack,
say–and it’s more weight than you thought…at which point, we groan,
“That weighs a ton!”

“Much” means sufficient quantity, usually meaning more than one, I
think. ‘Nuff said?

“Too Much” is more than ’nuff…usually in a case when the cup isn’t big
enough, the bowl isn’t big enough, or the price is too high. Those are
separate definitions, I suppose. “You gave me too much” is quite
different from “You charged me too much!”

“Plenty” means sufficient quantity to meet the need. Specific number?
Well, it could be zero…”I got plenty o’nuthin'” still means zero.

“Many” is a large yet indefinite number. I’d say, ten or more.

“Too Many” is Disneyland on a day between Christmas and New Year’s.
Otherwise, see “Too Much”.

“Bunch” is six to seven, I think. As in the “Wild Bunch,” or
“Magnificent Seven.”

“Group” to me is six or more people. You can’t use it for anything else.
People only…unless you use it as a verb.

“Several” according to my dictionary is more than two but fewer than
many. So, by my definition, three to nine.

“A Pile Of” has to have some kind of conical shape, like a pyramid.
Otherwise it’s stacked. So, size doesn’t matter, just the shape.

“Enough” is about where I am with definitions. Sufficient to meet the
need, with no excess, waste or reserve.

“A Lot Of” is a synonym for much. It means a great quantity…which is
again relative.

“Smattering” is a small quantity of something, usually referred to in
cooking or painting. Therefore it’s imprecise. One garlic clove in two
pounds of pork sausage is a smattering…but in a teaspoon, it would be
a lot. Too much for some. If you eat too many pounds, you’ll grow a
bunch…maybe as big a couple. A few pounds isn’t so much…enough. This
is just a pile of…

You get the idea.


Mark Bagby

So if Mark and Margaret could please sling an e-mail to me at my address, I’d be happy to put your copies of “The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies” in the mail to you. Thanks to all of you who entered (And — yes — we will be holding more contests here at starting in 2004).

That’s it for this week, folks. Sorry that it’s be so long between “Why Fors.” But — what with all the traveling that I’ve been doing lately plus all the really-for-real Disney-related news that’s been popping up all over the Web lately — I had to put this column on hold for a while.

But — given how popular this particular feature is with JHM readers — I promise that we’ll get “Why For?” back up to regular feature status just as soon as we all get through the holidays, okay?

Talk to you again on Monday,


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 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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