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Why For does Disney think that “No Nudes is Good News”

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Earlier this week, Paul T. sent me an e-mail with an image
attached that — I'm sure — will titillate a certain segment of the Disney fan
community.

Jim,


Check out what I found on an animation art auction cite!!
It's a bare-ass Ariel!!


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Well, okay. This is how this particular cel from that 1989
Walt Disney Animation Studios production was inked & hand-painted back in
the day. But please note that the paint never actually makes it to the bottom of … Well, Ariel's bottom. That's because when it came time for the scene in which this cel was featured to
actually go in front of the camera,  this shot in
"The Little Mermaid" was framed in such a way that this Disney
Princess
' shapely caboose was always going to be kept safely out of sight. So don't expect that
when the Blu-ray
of this John Musker & Ron Clements film goes on sale later
this year (October 1st, to be exact) that — if you carefully go frame-by-frame during
this portion of that motion picture — you'll ever be able to spy Ariel's
behind as it's depicted in the above cel.

Mind you, if you talk with true Walt Disney Animation
Studios veterans, they'll look at this particular image from the Little Mermaid
and laugh. "That's the sort of stuff that titillates you?," these
guys would snort. "Let me show you some of the Freddy Moore girl drawings
that I've got squirreled away in a drawer here. Or — better yet — tell you
about those female nudes that used to be painted on the walls of the Studio's
old Penthouse Club
."

Now you have to keep in mind that was the pre-1980s version of Walt Disney Productions. A few
years into Michael Eisner's run as head of the Mouse House, Mickey developed
kind of a prudish streak which continues even today.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The inciting event of this "No Nudes is Good News"
policy seems to date back to the theatrical release of "Who Framed Roger
Rabbit
" in June of 1988. A few weeks into this Robert Zemeckis movie's run
in theaters, Disney executives learned that — when Eddie Valiant & Betty
Boop
have their brief meet-up in the Ink and Paint Club — there was an moment in
this scene where, just for a single frame (depicted above), the strapless dress that this classic cartoon character slipped off of her breasts and thus revealed Betty's bare nipples.

Mind you, the only reason that the animators who worked on
"Roger Rabbit" slipped a topless Betty into this Touchstone Pictures
/ Amblin Entertainment co-production was to pay tribute to those animation
pioneers like Grim Natwick who used to do the exact same thing when they were
animating the original Betty Boop shorts for Fleischer Studios back in the 1930s.
And the reason that they did this back then was … Well, most of the animators
who worked for Max & Dave Fleischer were young men in their 20s. And when
you're that age, the temptation to try & put one over on the boss is great.

More to the point, given that film whizzes through the projector at 16 frames per
second (which is actually faster than the human eye can actually process
individual images), that meant 99.99999% of the greater movie-going public
would have absolutely no idea that the animated cartoon that they had just been
watching had included a somewhat salacious image in a single frame. So the
chances that anyone outside of this animation studio would ever find out that
the folks at Fleischer had pulled a stunt like this were pretty slim.


Copyright Hearst Holdings, Inc. / Fleischer Studios, Inc. All rights reserved

Of course, given that the cel in question had pass through a
bunch of hands (i.e. from the animator to the inker to the cel painter to the
cameraman, etc.), there were dozens of folks at Fleischer who knew about this
slip-a-sexy-shot-of-Betty-into-each-short gag and then kept quiet about it. In
fact, if what Richard Fleischer (i.e. Max's son as well as the director of Disney's
1954 live-action classic, "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
") once told me
is true, Max and Dave knew about this stunt as well. But the Fleischer brothers
deliberately turned a blind eye to this practice because thinking that they
were secretly putting one over on their bosses made the animators at that
studio happy. And to Max & Dave's way of thinking, keeping morale high at
their studio was far more important than being the sorts of bosses who came
down hard on their employees for silly, sexy pranks.

That said, there were certain high-minded sorts among the
movie-going crowd who thought — right from the get-go — that Betty Boop with
her short skirts & garter belt was far too sexy. And if these
self-appointed censors had ever known that the animators at Fleischer Studios
were deliberately inserting images of a topless or bottomless Betty into each
of these animated shorts … Well, they'd have lost their minds.

But once Joseph Breen was installed as head of the Studio Relations Committee in 1934 and then began enforcing Hollywood's restrictive Production Code, pressure was brought
to bear on Fleischer Studios. And as a direct result, Betty Boop's skirts got
longer and the animators there were actively discouraged to stop with all that
sexy stuff. Including slipping a single salacious cel into each short.


Joseph Breen

Even so, those pre-code Betty Boop shorts were still out
there. And kids who were just starting out at film school in the 1970s would
occasionally throw one of these old Fleischer animated shorts on a moviola. And
then — by going frame-by-frame through these films — they'd then eventually
find that single frame where Ms. Boop was doing something a bit naughty. And they
then gleefully share this information with their fellow film students. And these
future movie moguls would then all marvel at what production people used to get
away with back in the old days of Hollywood.

Anyway … That is why that topless image of Betty was
deliberately placed in "Roger Rabbit." As a loving tribute to what Hollywood's
animation pioneers used to do back in the old days. So — to Richard Williams'
way of thinking (And — yes — from what I've been told, the director of
animation on this Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Entertainment co-production knew
that a single cel featuring Betty Boop's nipples had been inserted in this movie and condoned
it. And depending on who you talk to, Robert Zemeckis was also supposed to have
been in on this gag as well) — this was just the next generation of animators
honoring the traditions of its pioneers.

Well, that's certainly not how the executives at The Walt Disney Company saw
this situation. As soon as they learned that there was a topless Betty Boop
hidden in plain sight in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," they immediately
leaped into action. Even though this information was only brought to these
execs' attention during the final few weeks of this live-action / animated
hybrid's domestic run, they still sent Disney employees out to theaters around
the country. Where these studio representatives were then under orders to enter
each projection booth and take physical possession of that movie theater's
print of "Roger Rabbit." Only after these Disney employees had
unspooled the second reel of this movie, find the offending frame and snipped
it out of the movie were they then allowed to return control of this print to that
theater's projectionist.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

These Disney employees then had to collect all of these
individual single frames of film (each of which depicted Betty Boop with her
top off) and return them to the Studio. Where Disney's attorneys then
determined which frames had come from which specific print at what theater
(making sure that all of them could be accounted before) before Studio
officials then ordered  that all of these
frames be destroyed.

So you can imagine how Disney Studios officials felt, after having
already dealt with the Betty Boob  issue,
when they learned that there yet another single sexy frame that had been hidden
away in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." A moment late in this Robert
Zemeckis movie  where — right after
Jessica Rabbit had been involved in a traffic accident — this cartoon siren
had thrown into the air. As Roger's wife flew by the camera, for just an
instant, Jessica's skirt flew up & her legs briefly parted. Which was when
it was revealed that this toon temptress was sans panties.

Now what made Mouse House managers particularly crazy about
the Jessica Rabbit  / no panties
situation is that they only learned about it months after the VHS version of
"Who Framed Roger Rabbit" had originally gone on sale in stores back in October of 1989. So
while they couldn't do anything about the millions of copies of this Academy
Award-winning film that had already been purchased by animation fans, they
could at least contact retailers and then asked them to return all of their
unsold "Roger Rabbit" videos so that the offending tapes could then
be destroyed.


Jessica Rabbit as she appeared in the sequence in question for
the 1989 VHS release of "How Framed Roger Rabbit" …


… and this same scene in this Robert Zemeckis film when it was released on DVD
on 2003. After Disney artists had gone in and digitally extended Jessica's dress.
Effectively ending any questions about whether this cartoon siren had or had
not been wearing any panties during this sequence of that live-action /
animated hybrid. Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, given that the VHS &laser disc players that most people owned
back in the late 1980s weren't really capable of going frame-by-frame through a
film (I mean, even when you did pause a movie using your VHS or laser disc player, what you
typically wound up with was an on-screen image that was either very blurry or had an awful lot of grain to it),
it became next to impossible for animation fans to verify whether the
Jessica-Rabbit-wasn't-wearing-panties stories that had begun leaking out of Disney
Studios were true. Even those who knew exactly where to look in this
live-action / animated hybrid still struggled to find just the right frame. And
because they weren't looking at the sort of crystal-clear image of this
sexy cartoon character that one might be able to procure in a professional
editing bay back then (or from one of today's DVD or Blu-ray players), this Jessica-without-panties story just didn't get the traction back
then that it would have surely gotten today thanks to the presence of websites
like Gawker, Deadline or TMZ.  

So Disney kind of dodged a bullet with "Roger
Rabbit" 's original VHS release (And trust me, folks. The 25th anniversary
of this Touchstone Pictures / Amblin Entertainment co-production which Walt
Disney Studios Home Entertainment released last month has long since been
scrubbed clean). But on the heel of having to recall six million copies of the
VHS of "The Rescuers" in  January
of 1999
, all because Mouse House managers learned — well after the fact —
that there was a single frame in this 1977 Walt Disney Productions release
where a nude Playboy playmate could be spied in one of the apartment windows
that Bernard, Bianca and Orville flew by in New York City … Well, it was
finally time that something formally had to be done about this issue.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Truth be told, Disney executives did start getting more
hands-on about the animated features that WDAS had in production prior to the
"Rescuers" recall in 1999. The first film to receive the
go-through-frame-by-frame-to-seek-out-the-sex process was "The Hunchback
of Notre Dame

." Paul & Gaetan Brizzi had done a masterful job with
their animation of the "Hellfire" sequence in this Kirk Wise &
Gary Trousdale movie. But as studio officials began reviewing Paul &
Gaetan's pencil tests, they became very concerned about that fiery version of
Esmeralda which Judge Claude Frollo envisioned dancing in his fireplace. The
concern — at least at the executive level — was this hallucinatory version of
"Hunchback" 's gypsy just looked too naked. Which is why the Brizzis
were then ordered to go back in and reanimate a specific portion of
"Hellfire." So that it would then appear that Esmerelda, even as she
was supposedly made entirely out of fire in this scene, still had some clothes on.


Please note the scoop neck dress line that the Brizzi brothers added after the
fact to their original animation of Esmerelda in "Hunchback" 's "Hellfire"
number. Which then suggested that this fiery version of the sexy
gypsy was still wearing clothes. Copyright Disney
Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Things got even sillier / stranger when "Mulan"
was in production at Walt Disney Feature Animation – Florida.
The executives back in California
were so concerned about the skinny-dipping scene in this Tony Bancroft / Barry
Cook
movie that word came down that only the supervising animators for each of
the characters featuring in this scene (i.e. Mark Henn for Mulan, Aaron Blaise
for Yao and Broose Johnson for Chien-Po & Ling) were to be allowed to
animate these characters in "Mulan" 's skinny-dipping scene. With the
message from Mouse House Management clearly being that — if anything even
remotely risque were to pop up in this portion of that motion picture — Disney
officials  would then know who exactly to
fire.

The irony is that — because Blaise and Johnson wound up
being so careful & cautious with their animation of Yao,
Chien-P & Ling in this film's skinny-dipping scene — people who watched
test screenings of "Mulan" intially didn't realize that the Gang of
Three had actually removed their clothes prior to jumping into the water to
join Mulan. Which is why — prior to "Mulan" 's June 1998 theatrical
release — Disney animators had to create a brand-new scene that (in
silhouette, mind you) clearly showed Yao, Chien-Po & Ling peeling off their
Chinese army uniforms before they then raced downhill to join Mulan for a late
night swim.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But if you watch "Mulan" 's skinny-dipping scene
today, you can see how carefully choreographed it is to make sure that any naughty
bits are kept below the surface of the water and/or just out of frame. In fact,
to hear some of the animators who worked on this Disney Feature Animation
-Florida film talk, a lot of potential for comic tension in this scenes got lost
because the execs out in California were so paranoid about Mulan, Yao, Chien-Po
and Ling getting too close to one another and then possibly touching while they
were all together in that water skinny-dipping. So the notes that Bancroft
& Cook kept getting back from Burbank
was " … make sure that those characters stay far apart while they're together
in the water."

The same sort of caution supposedly carried over to the production of Pixar's
"Brave" last year. That — while the folks back in Burbank
didn't dare tell Mark Andrew, Brenda Chapman & Steve Purcell what sort of
story they should be telling in their tale of the Scottish Highland — they did
reportedly send along a note or two about Queen Elinor's (SLIGHT SPOILERS
AHEAD)
transformations. That — when Merida's mother changed her form in this
film — Andrew, Chapman & Purcell please make an effort to make sure that
the Queen's naked body was always kept just out of sight. That it was okay to
suggest this character's nudity just as long as no real body parts were ever shown.


Merida's bare-bottomed brothers — Hamish, Harris & Hubert — scramble into
Queen Elinor & King Fergus' arms at the end of Pixar's "Brave."

Copyright Disney Pixar. All rights reserved

Likewise those brief moments in Pixar's "Brave"
where Hamish, Harris and Hubert appeared naked and/or the members of the clans Macintosh,
MacGuffin, Dingwall and DunBroch all march back into the castle without their
kilts … Well, that was okay as long as these male characters faced away from
the camera and all the audience ever saw was bare butts. But even so, as a
direct result of these two brief bits of male nudity, "Brave" still
wound up being only the third film in Pixar history to be receive a PG rating
(with 2004's "The Incredibles
" and 2009's "Up
" being the
other two).

And to make sure that no other sexual content and/or untoward images ever pop
up in Pixar & Walt Disney Animation Studios productions, Disney Legal now
reportedly has several people on staff whose specific assignment it is to go
through each new film (once it completes production, mind you) frame-by-frame
and then search for questionable content that the filmmakers may have
deliberately and/or unintentionally placed there. And when you consider that a
CG film like Pixar's "Toy Story
" had 114,240 highly detailed frames
in it … Well, it could take weeks at a time to go through each of Disney
& Pixar's latest productions and then carefully search for questionable
content.

But to Disney Legal's way of thinking, this additional
effort & expense prior to a new animated feature's release to theaters will
ultimately pay off. If only because the Company will now be dealing with far
fewer embarrassing PR problems after production has officially wrapped &
these movies are out in theaters and/or have been released to various retail
outlets through Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

After all, in this age of Blu-rays & digital downloads,
it's now possible for virtually anyone out there to go frame-by-frame through
an animated feature and then discover that single salacious cel that the
filmmakers thought that they had cleverly hidden out in plain sight. Which is
why — in an effort to save the Company from some future embarrassment —
Disney has adopted this "No Nudes is Good News" policy.

So how do you folks feel about this bit of news? Are you
happy that Disney Legal has gotten so hands-on about making sure that each of
the animated features that Disney & Pixar produces are genuinely
family-friendly? Or does this practice of going through a film frame-by-frame to
make sure that no questionable content ever makes it out in front of an
audience these days smack of censorship? A way of stifling the creativity of
the people who actually make these motion pictures?

Your thoughts?

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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