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Why For … all the angry words & name calling?

In addition to answering your Disney-related questions, Jim Hill also shares his thoughts about some of the more colorful things that have been said about him at other websites over the past few weeks.



First up, Matthew P. writes in to say:

Love the site, enjoy all the minor tidbits about the Disney parks. At the WDW Magic Kingdom when Tomorrowland was re-themed 10 years or so ago, 6 metal palm trees were added half way between Space Mountain and Tomorrowland Transit Authority (I still think of it as the WEDWay people mover). Anyway, 5 of the 6 matel palm trees are designed in the same way, branches extended fully. But 1 of the 6 metal palm trees has its branches folded up in a different shape. This 1 tree has been different than the other 5 since they were installed. My question, do you know if there is some significance to the different tree? some imagineer inside joke? or is there no meaning at all?

Dear Matthew —

You’ve got a great eye for detail. The Imagineers deliberately placed that faulty mechanical palm tree in WDW’s new Tomorrowland. Why For? To subtly get across the idea that — here in the “Future That Never Was” — things don’t always go as smoothly as we hope they would. That — sometimes — some of these modern age wonders malfunction.

Photo by Jeff Lange
(Note: Malfunctioning Palm Tree on Left)

Of course, when WDW’s New Tomorrowland actually used to have an attraction that malfunctioned (I.E. “The ExTERRORestrial Alien Encounter”), this malfunctioning mechanical palm tree could be seen as clever foreshadowing. But now … It’s just a cool little detail that adds to the beautifully layered storytelling that you find in this part of the Magic Kingdom.

Next up, Ryan writes in to ask:

Dear Jim,

I’ve been recently thinking over all the things that Pixar has done, and then all of the sudden, it washed over me: On the Pixar site, “It’s Tough to be a Bug”, the 3D show presented at AK and DCA, is clearly not there. The question is: why? Are they ashamed of this 8-minute animated effort? Are the theater effects and audio-animatronics not enough to qualify. I mean, surely, it would be intresting to find out the makings about Pixar’s one and only 3D effects film, but are they ashamed of it? Sure seems like it, because no one in the Pixar league ever mentions it, yet it’s being shown to crowds on both coasts everyday. Did the movie just sprout from nothing, because there’s got to be a technical story about the film, is there?


Ryan —

There’s actually a simple explanation as to why you won’t see “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” mentioned over on the Pixar website. Pixar Animation Studios DIDN’T make this 3D movie for the Disney theme parks.

Strange but true, folks. But let’s remember that Disney’s Animal Kingdom (AKA the theme park where “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” originally debuted) opened in April of 1998. While “A Bug’s Life” didn’t actually roll into theaters ’til November of 1998. A full five months later.

You get where I’m going here yet, Ryan. The animators at Pixar were far too busy finishing up “A Bug’s Life” to churn out “It’s Tough to Be a Bug.” Which is why the Imagineers were forced to turn to Rhythm & Hues, an LA-based special effects house that specializes in CG, and ask them to make the 3D movie that was scheduled to be shown inside DAK’s Tree of Life.

Mind you, Pixar did provide the folks at Rhythm & Hues with plenty of “A Bug’s Life” reference material. So that they could then be sure to get the final look of Flik & Hopper just right. And WDI also caught a lucky break in that Chris Bailey (I.E. An old WDFA hand. A guy who’s probably best known for his work as the director of that 1995 Academy Award nominated short, “Runaway Brain”) was available to direct this new film for the theme parks.

The end result is that “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” looks so good that most WDW visitors (as well as a lot of animation fans) assume that this 3D movie was actually produced by Pixar. Though — truth be told — the only real tie that this film has to Pixar Animation Studios is that “Finding Nemo” director Andrew Stanton is actually the guy who provided the vocals for the Hopper Audio Animatronic figure in the show. Not Kevin Spacey.

So — beyond the initial reference material that the Emeryville-based animation studio gave to Rhythm & Hues as well as Stanton’s contribution — “It’s Tough to Be a Bug” was pretty much a Pixar-free affair. It’s still pretty darn entertaining, don’t you think?

Next up, Shane W. writes in to ask:

Dear Jim,

First, let me say that I am a long-time reader of your columns, at a number of websites. So thank you for your work. It has been very entertaining.

The reason I’m writing now is because I recently spent a few days at Walt Disney World, and as you well know, a trip like that brings to mind a whole bunch of questions like:

Why did park executives decide to close Wonders of Life on a periodic basis? (Namely, during my visit.) It seems like a ride like “Body Wars” is an awfully large attraction to take off the menu. And if attendance is a concern, I can think of a few pavilions in World Showcase that might be putting up “Come Back Later” signs.

I appreciate your columns and your website, and I look forward to future writings.


Shane W.

Dear Shane —

Epcot’s “Wonders of Life” pavilion remains a somewhat problematic Future World attraction for the Imagineers. And not just because of all the people who still get nauseous whenever they ride “Body Wars.”

No, the problem with this Future World pavilion is that it hasn’t aged all that well. Why For? Well, to be blunt: “Wonders of Life” ‘s shows & attractions feature far too many movie & sitcom stars from the late 1990s (Which isn’t all that surprising, given that this Epcot addition opened in October of 1989). But the problem is … These performers (which are featured in the film elements for WOL) really tend to date this Future World pavilion. Making the place seem dated & stale.

Photo by Jeff Lange

Mind you, the Mouse had hoped that — once MetLife exited as this Future World pavilion’s sponsor — that they’d then be able to persuade some other healthcare company to come in and underwrite the cost of redoing all of its rides, shows and attractions. But — as it turns out — most of the corporations that the Imagineers approached couldn’t see the benefit of having their name attached to an Epcot attraction.

Which is why — for a time — the Imagineers just junked the idea of trying to find a health-care related company to take over the sponsorship of the “Wonders of Life” show building. And — instead — WDI worked up a proposal where the physical plant of the building (I.E. The “Body Wars” simulators, the “Making of Me” & “Cranium Command” theaters) would be kept in place while this pavilion was given a whole new theme.

“What sort of theme would that have been?,” you ask. The “Wonders of Computer Animation,” as presented by Pixar Animation Studios.

Oh, I know. I can hear all of you theme park purists out there moaning. Complaining that — yet again — here’s the Imagineers looking for another way to cram some characters into Epcot. But the fact of the matter is … WDW’s science & discovery park has always had a problem with it comes to appealing to small children. That — over the past 23 years — kids had come to equate the name “Epcot” with “boring.”

Well, the folks at WDI thought that folding the characters from “Toy Story,” “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters, Inc.” and “Finding Nemo” into Future World would go an awfully long way toward making Epcot seem like more of a fun place from younger children to visit. More importantly, this pavilion’s new theme (I.E. Celebrating Pixar animation as well as the cutting-edge technology that makes it all possible) would obviously appeal to the teens in the family. So this seemed like a win-win to the Imagineers.

So among the show ideas that were considered for this “Wonders of Life” redo was taking “Body Wars” ‘s simulators and retheming them around “Finding Nemo.” With the new version of the show supposedly taking WDW visitors for a submarine voyage off of the Great Barrier Reef. And — in the process — meeting up with Marlin, Dory, Nemo, Bruce and the whole Tank Gang.

Meanwhile, over in the “Cranium Command” theater, an AA version of Mike Wazowski was supposed to serve as the host of a demonstration of some new “Monsters, Inc.” technology. But then — of course — Randall disrupts the demo. And — in that fine Disney theme park tradition — something goes horribly wrong! And it’s up to Mike to somehow save the day.

Over in the “Making of Me” theaters, guests would be able to watch an endless loop of Pixar shorts as well as previews for the studio’s upcoming feature. And — all around the interior of the pavilion — there were to have been these hands-on stations. Where guests could have tried their hand at animating their favorite Pixar character.

And — speaking of characters — this place would have been loaded with them. There would have meet-n-greet stations dedicated to each & every one of the Pixar films. So — if you wanted to see the characters from “Toy Story,” you got in one line. The characters from “A Bug’s Life,” another line, etc.

So this sounds like a pretty snazzy addition to Epcot, doesn’t it? So why wasn’t this proposed “Wonders of Life” pavilion change-out ever implemented?

Because … Well … For a number of reasons, actually. As you all already know, Disney & Pixar were kind of on the outs by this time (circa 2003). And — as time went by — it became increasing doubtful that the Emeryville-based animation studios would renew its co-production & distribution deal with the Walt Disney Company. Let alone agree to sponsor a pavilion at Future World.

Then there was the problem with the Pixar characters. Who were already so well intergrated into the other WDW theme parks. What with the “Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin” attraction being over at the Magic Kingdom and Flik & Hopper from “A Bug’s Life” appearing in the show inside DAK’s Tree of Life … What was the sense of trying to sell WDW visitors on the idea that “You have to go to Epcot in order to see your favorite Pixar characters” … When these characters were obviously already readily available for visits at Disney’s other Central Florida theme parks.

So the Pixar-themed redo of the “Wonders of Life” pavilion eventually got spiked. And — in the absense of any really viable ideas for overhauling this out-of-date Epcot addition — “WOL” went to an as-needed schedule. As in: This Future World pavilion only opens to the public when this theme park is so full that Disney desperately needs another place to stuff guests into. Which is why (lately) “Wonders of Life” has only been open during the Christmas crush as well as the busier weeks during Spring Break.

Mind you, it’s even been a while since that last happened. Nowadays, “WOL” ‘s huge interior is sometimes used for corporate events and/or private parties. But — for the most part — this Future World show building stands empty. Which is why it’s really only a matter of time now before this structure finally gets slated for demolition. To be replaced by … What else? A thrill ride.

I know, I know. I just made General Grizz’s week. And — speaking of people who seem to bitch & moan a lot — PewterPotter recently sent me this e-mail:

have you read what’s being written about you over on’s discussion boards? with people like l***** (aka the editor of “tales from the laughing place” magazine) saying that you’re “a bottom-feeder” and calling for disneyland to revoke your annual pass. and d******* (aka another columnist for that website) insisting that you’ve become some sort of publicity whore. likening you to ” … the homely girl at the party who stands in the middle of the room loudly saying, ‘I don’t want any of you boys annoying me. Just stay away. Leave me alone.’ “

doesn’t it bother when that other members of the disneyana community say such awful things about you?

Dear PewterPotter.

To answer your question: No, not really.

I mean, this sort of thing comes with being a webmaster. You put stories up on the Net, people are going to comment on them. And not everyone is going to agree with what you say and/or how you say it.

I mean, sure, it would be great if folks on the Internet could disagree with you without becoming disagreeable. To not automatically resort to name calling and/or personal attacks. But — when it comes to the Web — I find that common courtesy  isn’t really all that common.

So — in order to succeed in this field — you have to have pretty thick skin. To not take it personally when people attack you. Otherwise, you’ll wind up spending all of your time on other people’s websites, trying to defend your honor in some never-ending discussion board debate.

(Which brings to mind my favorite line from “Duck Soup.” When Groucho Marx — as he attempts to rally Freedonia’s troops before they march off into battle — points to Margaret Dumont and says: “Remember, you’re fighting for this woman’s honor. Which is probably more than she ever did.”

Anyway … Where was I? Ah, yes. Standing on my rickety soapbox … )

If you want to be even moderately successful in this field, you have to concentrate on what’s really important. Which is NOT listening to your detractors. But — rather — consistently churning out new content for your website

I made that mistake once. Of  actually getting steamed up because of what some bozo was saying about me on someone else’s discussion board. And — to be honest — it wasn’t what this guy was saying about me that got me so mad. But — rather — it was because this guy then felt that it was okay to take swipes at my daughter as he was going after me …

So I signed into that other site’s discussion board, totally prepared to stomp this idiot into the ground … And the end result wasn’t pretty. He and I both wound up looking like complete imbeciles.

Which is why I now deliberately give the whole discussion board side of the Web a very wide berth. By that I mean: I don’t even note on JHM’s discussion boards. I prefer to stay on my side of the fence & just write my stories. Leaving it to my readers to decide if the finished product is actually any good.

Anyway, to get back to your question, PewterPotter… Does it bother me when I find out that someone at LaughingPlace … or WDWMagic … or MiceAge … or wherever … is bad-mouthing me? Well, I have to admit that I’m not thrilled. But it’s not like I’m actually going to stop what I’m doing and rush on over to that website just to see what’s being said.

If you fall into that sort of behavior, my friend… That’s a one-way ticket to Make-Yourself-Crazy-ville.

I follow one very simple rule, PewterPotter. I don’t buy into what strangers have to say about me. And by that I mean: The curses AND the compliments.

Now, if Nancy or my Dad or Jeff Lange tells me that I’m behaving like an ass … Those folks, I listen to. Friends & family, I believe.

But a l***** (who I’ve never met) or a d******* (who I’ve only met a couple of times at N.F.F.C. things & Disney press events)? Please. That sort of stuff just rolls right off my back.

Beyond that … It’s a free country. And l***** & d******* are entitled to their own opinions & can say whatever the hell they want. So if they want to call me a “bottom feeder” and/or insist that I’ve become a publicity hound … Well, that’s their right.

Me personally? I can’t help but notice that this sort of thing (I.E. The personal attacks on other discussion boards) tends to flare up whenever I’m in the paper and/or wind up on the news. So could this be just plain old fashioned jealousy? Or is there something about my big, ol’, fat face that somehow enrages some Disneyana fans whenever they see it?

I don’t know what to tell you, folks … Other than I don’t really plan to dwell on any of this negative stuff.

I mean, come on. So a few people on other websites have said some fairly catty things about me lately. Big deal.

When you consider all of the publicity that JHM has received over the past four weeks (Not to mention the positive impact this additional exposure has had on the site’s traffic levels) … The positives of this whole experience clearly outweigh the negatives.

So let l***** & d******* say whatever they want about my stories and/or how I behave. Likewise the folks at MiceAge and WDWMagic. Their comments don’t really concern me. Just so long as they spell my name right.

“What do I mean by that?,” you ask. Well, this is 2005 after all. The age where it really does seem like there is no such thing as bad publicity.

So I say: Let these other Disneyana websites keep talking about me. It just makes their readers (some of who aren’t even aware of what a JHM is) all the more curious about who this Jim Hill person might be.

So they then go looking for  And — once these folks get here — maybe they read a few of the articles that we’ve got archived here. And then — if these people like what they see —  this site might pick up a new reader or two. 

Speaking of two … Man, I wish that I could be in two places at the same time.

Why For? Well, due to a family emergency, I had to cancel this week’s trip to Los Angeles. Which means that I’m missing out on this great once-in-a-lifetime event that ASIFA Hollywood is holding tonight at 7 p.m. at the Glendale Central Library : A re-union of the directors & animators who worked on Disney’s 1992 traditionally animated hit, “Aladdin.”

It’s going to be a night of animation all-stars, folks. Among the renown artists who are scheduled to take part in tonight’s panel are WDFA vets Ron Clements, John Musker, Andrea Deja, Eric Goldberg & Will Finn.

Moderated by ASIFA’s president emeritus Tom Sito (Who’s also an “Aladdin” alum), this evening promises to be one that Disney animation fans won’t soon forget. Full of great behind-the-scenes stories about this Academy Award winning film … And — DAMN IT ! — I’m stuck back here in the woods of New Hampshire.

*Sigh* How come you can never find a flying carpet when you really need one?

Another great event that I’m missing out on this weekend is the West Coast premiere of “Dream On Silly Dreamer.” Which is being held tomorrow at 4 p.m. at the Orange County Museum of Art as part of the Newport Beach Film Festival. So — if you love Disney traditional animation — you really owe it to yourself to go check out this beautiful little film by Tony West & Dan Lund.

And — with that — another fun week here at JHM draws to a close. Here’s hoping that you folks have a much more entertaining weekend planned that I do. I’m stuck here at home taking care of Nancy’s four obnoxious cats as well as working on the script for that JHM Disneyland history CD.

Speaking of which: Jeff Lange wants me to remind you that we’re still taking names for the official notification list. So — if you want to be among the first to hear the stories that Disneyland Security thought were too negative to be told inside their theme park — please drop me a line at

Okay. Enough with the annoying plugs already. See you folks on Monday, 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 prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Tuesday, July 4, 2017

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Brattleboro’s Strolling of the Heifers is a sincere if somewhat surreal way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont



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Some people travel halfway ‘around the planet so that they can then experience the excitement of the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. If you’re more of a Slow Living enthusiast (as I am), then perhaps you should amble to Brattleboro, VT. Where – over the first weekend in June – you can then join a herd of cow enthusiasts at the annual Strolling of the Heifers.

Now in its 16th year, this three-day long event typically gets underway on Friday night in June with a combination block party / gallery walk. But then – come Saturday morning – Main Street in Brattleboro is lined with thousands of bovine fans.

Photo by Jim Hill

They’ve staked out primo viewing spots and set up camp chairs hours ahead of time. Just so these folks can then have a front row seat as this year’s crop of calves (which all come from local farms & 4-H clubs) are paraded through the streets.

Photo by Jim Hill

Viewed from curbside, Strolling of the Heifers is kind of this weird melding of a sincere small town celebration and Pasadena’s Doo Dah Parade. Meaning that – for every entry that actually acknowledged this year’s theme (i.e. “Dance to the Moosic”) — …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something completely random, like this parade’s synchronized shopping cart unit.

Photo by Jim Hill

And for every piece of authentic Americana (EX: That collection of antique John Deere tractors that came chugging through the city) …

Photo by Jim Hill

… there was something silly. Like – say – a woman dressed as a Holstein pushing a baby stroller through the streets. And riding in that stroller was a pig dressed in a tutu.

Photo by Jim Hill

And given that this event was being staged in the Green Mountain State & all … Well, does it really surprise you to learn that — among the groups that marched in this year’s Strolling of the Heifers – was a group of eco-friendly folks who, with their  chants of “We’re Number One !,” tried to persuade people along the parade route not to flush the toilet after they pee. Because – as it turns out – urine can be turned into fertilizer.

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of fertilizer … At the tail end of the parade, there was a group of dedicated volunteers who were dealing with what came out of the tail end of all those cows.

Photo by Jim Hill

This year’s Strolling of the Heifers concluded at the Brattleboro town common. Where event attendees could then get a closer look at some of the featured units in this year’s parade…

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

But as for the 90+ calves who took part in the 2017 edition of Strolling of the Heifers, once they reached the town common, it was now time for a nosh or a nap.

Photo by Jim Hill

Elsewhere on the common, keeping with this year’s “Dance to the Moosic” theme, various musical groups performed in & around the gazebo throughout the afternoon.

Photo by Jim Hill

While just across the way – keeping with Brattleboro’s tradition of showcasing the various artisans who live & work in the local community – some pretty funky pieces were on display at the Slow Living Exposition.

Photo by Jim Hill

All in all, attending Strolling of the Heifers is a somewhat surreal but still very pleasant way to spend a summer’s day in Vermont. And that’s no bull.

Photo by Jim Hill

Well, that could be a bull. To be honest, what with the wig & all, it’s kind of hard to tell. 

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Sunday, June 4, 2017

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Looking to make an authentic Irish meal for Saint Patrick’s Day? If so, then chef Kevin Dundon says not to cook corned beef & cabbage



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Let’s at least start on a positive note: Celebrated chef, author & TV personality Kevin Dundon – the man that Tourism Ireland has repeatedly chosen as the Face of Irish Food – loves a lot of what happens in the United States on March 17th.

“I mean, look at what they do in Chicago on Saint Patrick’s Day. They toss all of this vegetable-based dye into the Chicago River and then paint it green for a day. That’s terrific,” Kevin said.

But then when it comes to what many Americans eat & drink on St. Paddy’s Day (i.e., a big plate of corned beef and cabbage. Which is then washed down with a mug of green beer) … Well, that’s where Dundon has to draw the line.

Irish celebrity chef Kevin Dundon displays a traditional Irish loin of bacon with Colcannon potatoes and a Dunbrody Kiss chocolate dessert. Photo by Tom Burton. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Green beer? No real Irishman would be caught dead drinking that stuff,” Kevin insists. “And as for eating corned beef & cabbage … That’s not actually authentic Irish fare either. Bacon and cabbage? Sure. But corned beef & cabbage was something that the Irish only began eating after they’d come to the States to escape the Famine. And even then these Irish-Americans only began serving corned beef & cabbage to their friends & family because they had to make do with the ingredients that were available to them at that time.”

And thus begins the strange tale of how corned beef & cabbage came to be associated with the North American celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day celebration. Because – according to Dundon – beef just wasn’t all that big a part of the Irish diet back in the 19th century.

To explain: Back in the Old Country, cattle – while they were obviously highly prized for the milk & cheese that they produced – were also beasts of burden. Meaning that they were often used for ploughing the fields or for hauling heavy loads. Which is why – back then — these animals were rarely slaughtered when they were still young & healthy. If anything, land owners liked to put a herd of cattle on display out in one of their pastures because that was then a sign to their neighbors that this farm was prosperous.

“Whereas pork … Well, everybody raised pigs back then. Which is why pork was a staple of the Irish diet rather than beef,” Dundon continued.

So if that’s what people actually ate back in the Old Country, how then did corned beef & cabbage come to be so strongly associated with Saint Patrick’s Day in the States.? That largely had to do with where the Irish wound up living after they arrived in the New World.

“When the Irish first arrived in America following the Great Famine, a lot of them wound up living in the inner city right alongside the Germans & the Jews, who were also recent immigrants to the States. And while that farm-fresh pork that the Irish loved wasn’t readily available, there was brisket. Which the Irish could then cure by first covering this piece of meat with corn kernel-sized pieces of rock salt – that’s how it came to be called corned beef. Because of the sizes of the pieces of rock salt that were used in the curing process – and then placing all that in a pot of water with other spices to soak for a few days.”

And as for the cabbage portion of corned beef & cabbage … Well, according to Kevin, in addition to buying their meat from the kosher delis in their neighborhood, the Irish would also frequent the stores that the German community shopped in. Where – thanks to their love of sauerkraut (i.e., pickled cabbage) – there was always a ready supply of cabbage to be had.

“So when you get right down to it, it was the American melting pot that led to corned beef & cabbage being found in the Irish-American cooking pot,” Dundon continued. “Since they couldn’t find or didn’t have easy access to the exact same ingredients that they had back in Ireland, Irish-Americans made do with what they could find in the immediate vicinity. And what they made was admittedly tasty. But it’s not actually authentic Irish fare.”

Mind you, what Kevin serves at Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant at Disney Springs (which – FYI – Orlando Magazine voted as the area’s best restaurant back in 2014) is nothing if not authentic. Dundon and his team at this acclaimed gastropub pride themselves on making traditional Irish fare and then contemporized it.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“Take – for example – what we serve here instead of corned beef & cabbage. Again, because it was pork – rather than beef – that was the true staple of the Irish diet back then, what we offer instead is a loin of bacon that has been glazed with Irish Mist. That then comes with colcannon potatoes. Which is this traditional Irish dish that’s made up of mashed potato that have had some cabbage & bacon mixed through it,” Kevin enthused. “This heavenly ham – that’s what we actually call this traditional Irish dish at Raglan Road, Kevin’s Heavenly Ham – also includes some savory cabbage with a parsley cream sauce as well as a raisin cider jus. It’s simple food. But because of the basic ingredients – and that’s the real secret of Irish cuisine. That our ingredients are so strong – the flavors just pop off the plate.”

Which brings us to the real challenge that Dundon and the Raglan Road team face every day. Making sure that they actually have all of the ingredients necessary to make this traditional-yet-contemporized Irish fare to those folks who frequent this Walt Disney World favorite.

“Take – for example – the fish we serve here. We only used cold water fish. Salmon, mussels and haddock that have been hauled out of the Atlantic, the ocean that America and Ireland share,” Kevin stated. “Not that there’s anything wrong with warm water fish. It’s just that … Well, it doesn’t have the same structure. It’s a softer fish, which doesn’t really fit the parameters of Irish cuisine. And if you’re going to serve authentic food, you have to be this dedicated when it comes to sourcing your ingredients.

Copyright Mitchell Beazley. All rights reserved

And if you’re thinking of perhaps trying to serve an authentic Irish meal this year, rather than once again serving corned beef & cabbage at your Saint Patrick’s Day Feast … Well, back in September of last year, Mitchell Beazley published “The Raglan Road Cookbook: Inside America’s Favorite Irish Pub.” This 296-page hardcover not only includes the recipe for Kevin’s Heavenly Ham but also it tells the tale of how this now-world-renown restaurant wound up being built in Orlando.

On the other hand, if you happen to have to the luck of the Irish and are actually down at The Walt Disney World Resort right now, it’s worth noting that Raglan Road is right in the middle of its Mighty St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This four day-long event – which includes Irish bands and professional dancers – stretches through Sunday night. And in addition to all that authentic Irish fare that Dundon and his team are cooking up, you also sample the fine selection of beers & cocktails that this establishment’s four distinct antique bars (each of which are more than 130 years old and were imported directly from Ireland) will be serving. Just – As ucht Dé (That’s “For God’s Sake” in Gaelic) – don’t make the mistake of asking the bartender there for a mug of green beer.

“Why would anyone willingly drink something like that?,” Dundon laughed. “I mean, just imagine what their washroom will look like the morning after.”

This article was originally published by the Huffington Post on Friday, March 17, 2017

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