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Why For? : Enjoy a Kreuzfahrt down the Rhine on Epcot’s never-built Germany boat ride

Once again, it's JHM readers to the rescue. This time around, you folks provide additional information about that "Applecore, Baltimore" gag, those mysterious "Wuzzle" costumes as well as Epcot's Rhine River ride. Plus we announce Fab's next round of Disneyland tours, then pass the hat.

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Okay. Picking up where we left off last week (when JHM readers actually came forward with answers to earlier "Why For" questions), it would appear that veteran Disney animator Bill Justice actually *WAS* wrong about the origin of that "Applecore … Baltimore" gag that's featured so prominently in the studio's January 1952 animated short, "Donald Applecore."

During an interview I had with Mr. Justice back in the early 1990s, Bill claimed that this memorable bit of business was something that he and the other gagmen had invented specifically for "Donald Applecore." Well, if that was really the case, then please explain this e-mail from Jeff D.:

Hi Jim–

I don't know the exact origin of the whole "Applecore-Baltimore" thing, but–

The gag was used prior to "Donald Applecore" — back in "Melody Time" during the Johnny Appleseed sequence. It is incorporated into the song the pioneers are singing during the Apple Jubilee. This at least proves that the whole thing didn't originate with the Donald short.

Love your site–keep up the great work!

Jeff D.

And you know what? Jeff D.'s right. I pulled out my copy of "Melody Time" (which was originally released 'way back on May 27, 1948) and fast forwarded to the "Legend of Johny Appleseed" sequence. And — sure enough — here are all this animated settlers square dancing to a tune that prominently features the refrain "Applecore? Baltimore! Bite that apple to the core!"

So — if Disney didn't really invent this intriguing bit of business — then who did? To be honest, I'm not sure. But — a recent e-mail from Charles suggests that this gag may go back a whole lot further than the 1940s.

Thanks to Google, Charles was able to unearth a letter that had been written by a man who was born in 1892. In part of this letter, the man — as he reminisces with an old friend about what they used to do in the school yard back when they were kids — listed some of their favorite games:

When I began to recall the events that you and I shared, starting almost 60 years ago, it took some mental gymnastics to reach that far back–probably to the second grade in Miss Birdie Brock's room.

I remember the favorite time for the two of us in those days was recess. Besides tag football and softball, we added "One-and-over," "Keepers marbles," "Apple core, Baltimore" and a demolition derby we played with spinning tops in a circle.

According to Charles, the letter in question was written back in 1990. So — if you take into account that reference to "almost 60 years ago" (as well as assuming that the author of this letter was just 7 years old when he originally attended second grade) — that would suggest that this "Applecore Baltimore" game was still a fairly popular schoolyard game in the late 1920s / early 1930s.

Charles also (again, thanks to Google) came up with a fairly funny story about how this "Applecore! Baltimore!" actually ended up in both "Melody Time" as well as "Donald Applecore." According to the amusing anecdote that this loyal JHM reader recently unearthed:

… that classically cryptic "Apple core! Baltimore!" joke (the one you have seen in the old Chip and Dale shorts with Donald Duck). I once asked one of the old Disney animators what it meant, and he just shrugged and said, "I never understood it either — Walt told us to put it in."

Those of you who'd like to read the above Googled quotes in context, Charles was nice enough to provide the appropriate links. A full length version of that letter that looks back on childhood games circa 1930 can be found here. And those of you who'd like to read for that "Walt told us to put it in" story will want to visit here.

Before we continue here, let me offer up a special thanks to Charles. For really going above and beyond the call to uncover a definitive answer to this particular Disney-related trivia question.

Okay. Moving on now … let's deal with the somewhat more bizarre question. I.E. What's the deal with those "Wuzzle" costumes that keep popping up in movies and on the tube? Are they the real deal? The actual costumes that Disney cast members used to wear back in the mid-to-late 1980s, when they'd walk around the theme parks and portray Bumble-Lion and Eleroo?

And the answer is … apparently yes.

I've had a number of veteran Disneyland employees chime in over the past few weeks. And each of them told me pretty much the same tale. That — back in the mid-1990s — the Mouse sold off a large number of older, worn costumes that the Disney Company used to use in the theme park. Both to clear out some old inventory as well as create some room on the racks.

Now somehow (and no one seems to know exactly how this happened ) the "Wuzzle" costumes ended up in the middle of that pile of old theme park outfits that Mickey sold off. When this error was brought to Disneyland execs' attention, they supposedly shrugged it off. After all, what's the worst thing that could happen in this situation?

What these Disney executives hadn't counted on was that these "Wuzzle" walk-around character costumes would eventually end up in the hands of one of Hollywood's top costume houses. Supposedly Western Costume of North Hollywood, CA. So — for the past two or three years — Western Costume has reportedly been renting these "Wuzzle" outfits out to any production that's looking for Disney-esque costumes to use in their film, video or TV shoot.

And — based on the e-mails that I've been getting over the past two or three weeks — these "Wuzzle" costumes have really been getting around. Witness this note from Sketch105:

The movie "Old School" with Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, and Luke Wilson features a cameo appearance by the infamous Eleroo costume…Theres a birthday party sequence where the boys are hosting a party for Vince Vaughn's character's son, and on of them is dressed in the costume. It also appears in a deleted scene on the dvd, and they refer to it as "the elephant" costume.

As well as this note from Dan Alexander:

Hey Jim,

I've been wondering about the Wuzzle costumes also—–because they also appeared in an episode of the sitcom "Grounded for Life" a while back in an episode that was a take-off of "Gay Days" at Disney parks. The characters on the show were at a theme park (not a Disney park) with the Wuzzles in the background.

I think they may have been on an episode of "Malcolm in the Middle" as well.

Yes, Disney did have costumes for the Wuzzles—-they made an appearance in the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on a Disney Float. I'm thinking Disney must have sold off these costumes to make money, since they wouldn't be used to promote the show in the parks (maybe like what they are doing with the stuff on Ebay).

As far as Disney not getting mad about their usage—–maybe today's Disney executives don't know who the Wuzzles are.

One wonders what the folks back in Burbank are going to do now. Once word gets back to them about how these "Wuzzle" walk-around costumes were supposedly accidentally sold off. More importantly, how these outfits are now being used to make fun of the Walt Disney Company. Do you suppose that the Mouse will then attempt to do a little damage control? Maybe contact Western Costume and see if they can buy back these "Wuzzle" costumes?

Continuing with expanding on earlier "Why For" questions … in response to that photo that we ran back on August 29th (as part as Rob S.'s explanation about the precise location of the entrance of Epcot's long-postponed "Rhine River Ride"), JHM columnist Andrea Monti (AKA Mickeyfantasmic) recently sent along a note that offered up quite a bit more information about this cancelled World Showcase attraction.

At the resort where I was staying this summer, I encountered a Chef de range who used to work at Alfredo's over in EPCOT from 1983 to 1987. This gentleman and I had a number of conversations about that theme park. I really gave him the third degree. Pumping him for information for anything and everything he knew about Epcot. And this guy had some really interesting things to say about the park's proposed Rhine River Ride.

He did confirm that Epcot's Germany pavilion had a huge empty space inside of it and that this area was often used for storage and/or rehearsals. (How'd he know this? Because Alfredo's backside is actually face to face with this area in the German pavilion.)

When I asked this guy for specifics on the Rhine River Ride, he said he didn't have any. Other than to say — during the time when he worked at Epcot — every World Showcase pavilion was supposed to get its very own ride or show. Italy was supposed to have gotten a gondola ride (probably something similar to the one featured in TDS's Mediterranean Harbor area), Japan was supposed to have gotten its infamous "Meet the World" Carousel-of-Progress type show, while Germany was supposed to have gotten something that was modeled after "Pirates of the Caribbean."

Since I didn't really get of new info out of this guy (But what did I expect? After all, this Chef de range worked in a restaurant. Not as an Imagineer), I was kind of frustrated. But — after reading today's "Why For" article — I had a brainstorm.

You see, Jim, I know ******** ********. Who's the *** ******** at Gardaland, Italy's leading theme park. And (20 years or so ago) this guy used to be an Imagineer who worked on both EPCOT and TDL.

So I called him just before I started writing this email to you and asked him what he knew about the Rhine River Ride. ******** said — according to the original plans for this proposed World Showcase attraction — Epcot guests would have boarded "Maelstrom"-like boats for a simulated night-time river cruise. The ride's first scene would have taken WDW visitors through a faux Black Forest. And then — from there — things would have gotten downright operatic.

What do I mean by that, Jim? Well, the storyline of this proposed German attraction would have been loosely based on characters and situations featured in Wagner's epic opera, "Der Ring des Nibelungen." So among the set pieces you were supposed to have floated past was a large statue of Odin, the northern god of ice and cold winds. (Cue the wind effects here.) You would also allegedly have seen a scene of the mighty Siegfried receiving the Ring from the elves as well as the Valkyries (complete with Wagner music if ******* was telling me the truth). The attraction's conclusion? A final plunge through the elves' caves of gold.

This concept admittedly was quite different from the one that you'd described in your original article about Epcot's Rhine River Ride. The one that would have taken Epcot guests on a scenic cruise past miniature recreations of various tourist spots in Germany. But maybe this version of the ride was created after Epcot Center opened, when Disney officials realized that they seriously needed to up the thrill & fun quotient at WDW's newest theme park.

What I really find intriguing is that — even though Disney opted not to go forward with construction of Epcot's Rhine River Ride — that this concept still survived long enough to serve as the inspiration for Norway's "The Maelstrom" ride. It looks like — in this case, anyway — all the Imagineers did was replace the elves with trolls and … Presto Changeo! Epcot's World Showcase had its first not-so-thrilling thrill ride.

Anyway … I just thought that I'd share what I'd heard with JHM readers. Look for another full-sized story from me sometime later this month, okay?

Speaking of JimHillMedia.com's old stalwarts: Some of you may have heard that it was my ex-wife, Michelle Smith (AKA the Fabulous Disney Babe), who (along with Jon Nadelberg) actually started up JimHillMedia.com back in August of last year. Well, starting next week, Michelle will go from being defacto publisher of JHM to contributing a regular column to the site. Her first article will supposedly be an in-depth report about the ABC Preview event that was held last weekend at DCA.

And — in addition to contributing a new column to JimHillMedia.com — among the other projects that Michelle will soon be starting up at JHM will be her very own line of Disneyland tours. In fact, next Sunday afternoon, Fab will be holding the beta test of her new set of DL tours. So — if you'd like to be among the first to get in on the fun (Michelle's Disneyland tours used to be incredibly popular with her LaughingPlace.com readers) — drop me a line here and I'll pass along the particulars.

On the other hand, if you're just not able to make it out to Anaheim this coming weekend … Well, starting this coming Monday, the Learning Tree University is offering an on-line version of my ex's extremely well received Disney history class, "Manufacturing the Magic: History of the American Theme Park." If you'd like a little more information about Michelle's class, follow this link and then scroll down to the on-line classes offered under the "Recreation" heading.

Beyond that … Michelle now tells me that (unfortunately) it's that time again. Time to pass the hat, that is.

Look, I won't lie to you, folks. I don't like asking for contributions. I honestly wish that JimHillMedia.com were in a position to start paying for itself. But it's not … yet. Maybe in a few months that will change. But — for now — JHM has to rely on the generosity of nice people like you in order to keep our doors open.

So do me a favor, okay? If you like the stuff that you've been reading at this website over the past few months, please kick in a couple of bucks. That way, my ex-wife will get off my back. And I can then get back to what I'm supposed to be doing … which is churning out even more long winded stories about the Walt Disney Company and the entertainment industry for all of you nice people.

Okay. That's it for this week, kids. Be sure to drop by the site this weekend for another intriguing two-part column by Jim Korkis (about Ub Iwerks, no less) that you won't want to miss out on.

See you on Monday, okay?

jrh

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Jens Dahlmann of LongHorn Steakhouse has lots of great tips when it comes to grilling

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Sure, for some folks, the Fourth of July is all about fireworks. But for the 75% of all Americans who own a grill or a smoker, the Fourth is our Nation’s No. 1 holiday when it comes to grilling. Which is why 3 out of 4 of those folks will spend some time outside today working over a fire.

But here’s the thing: Though 14 million Americans can cook a steak with confidence because they actually grill something every week, the rest of us – because we use our grill or smoker so infrequently … Well, let’s just say that we have no chops when it comes to dealing with chops (pork, veal or otherwise).

So what’s a backyard chef supposed to in a situation like this when there’s so much at steak … er … stake? Turn to someone who really knows their way around a grill for advice. People like Jens Dahlmann, the Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef for Darden Restaurant’s LongHorn Steakhouse brand.

Given that Jens’ father & grandfather were chefs, this is a guy who literally grew up in a kitchen. In his teens & twenties, Dahlmann worked in hotels & restaurants all over Switzerland & Germany. Once he was classically trained in the culinary arts, Jens then  jumped ship. Well, started working on cruise ships, I mean.

Anyway … While working on Cunard’s Sea Goddess, Dahlmann met Sirio Maccioni, the founder of Le Cirque 2000. Sirio was so impressed with Jens’ skills in the kitchen that he offered him the opportunity to become sous-chef at this New York landmark. After four years of working in Manhattan, Dahlmann then headed south to become executive chef at Palm Beach’s prestigious Café L’Europe.

Jens Dahlmann back during his Disney World days

And once Jens began wowing foodies in Florida, it wasn’t all that long ’til the Mouse came a-calling. Mickey wanted Dahlmann to shake things up in the kitchen over at WDW’s Flying Fish Café. And he did such a good job with that Disney’s Boardwalk eatery the next thing Jens knew, he was then being asked to work his magic with the menu at the Contemporary Resort’s California Grill.

From there, Dahlmann had a relatively meteoric rise at the Mouse House. Once he became Epcot’s Food & Beverage general manager, it was only a matter of time before he wound up as the executive chef in charge of this theme park’s annual International Food & Wine Festival. Which – under Jens’ guidance – experienced some truly explosive growth.

“When I took on Food & Wine, that festival was only 35 days long and had gross revenues of just $5.5 million. When I left Disney in 2016, Food & Wine was now over 50 days long and that festival had gross revenues of $22 million,” Dahlmann admitted during a recent sit-down. “I honestly loved those 13 years I spent at Disney. When I was working there, I learned so much because I was really cooking for America.”

And it was exactly that sort of experience & expertise that Darden wanted to tap into when they lured Jens away from Mickey last year to become LongHorn Steakhouse’s new Vice President and Corporate Executive Chef. But today … Well, Dahlmann is offering tips to those of us who are thinking about cooking steak tips for the Fourth.

Photo by Jim Hill

“When you’re planning on grilling this holiday, if you’re looking for a successful result, the obvious place to start is with the quality of the meat you plan on cooking for your friends & family. If you want the best results here, don’t be cheap when you go shopping. Spend the money necessary for a fresh filet or a New York strip. Better yet a Ribeye, a nice thick one with good marbling. Because when you look at the marbling on a steak, that’s where all the flavor happens,” Jens explained. “That said, you always have to remember that — the higher you go with the quality of your meat — the less time you’re going to want that piece of meat to spend on the grill.”

And speaking of cooking … Before you even get started here, Jens suggests that you first take the time to check over all of your grilling equipment. Making sure that the grill itself is first scraped clean & then properly oiled before you then turn up the heat.

“If you’re working with a dirty grill, when you go to turn your meat, it may wind up sticking to the grill. Or maybe those spices that you’ve just so carefully coated your steak with will wind up sticking to the grill, rather than your meat,” Dahlmann continued. “Which is why it’s always worth it to spend a few minutes prior to firing up your grill properly cleaning & oiling it.”

Photo by Jim Hill

And speaking of heat … Again, before you officially get started grilling here, Jens says that it’s crucial to check your temperature gauges. Make sure that your char grill is set at 550 (so that it can then properly handle the thicker cuts of meat) and your flattop is set at 425 (so it can properly sear thinner pieces of meat).

Okay. Once you’ve bought the right cuts of quality meat, properly cleaned & oiled your grill, and then made sure that everything’s set at the right temperature (“If you can only stand to hold your hand directly over the grill for two or three seconds, that’s the right amount of heat,” Dahlmann said), it’s now time to season your steaks.

“Don’t be afraid to be bold here. You can’t be shy when it comes to seasoning your meat. You want to give it a nice coating. Largely because — if you’re using a char grill — a lot of that seasoning is just going to fall off anyway,” Jens stated. “It’s up to you to decide what sort of seasoning you want to use here. Even just some salt & pepper will enhance a steak’s flavor.”

Then – according to Dahlmann – comes the really tough part. Which is placing your meat on the grill and then fighting the urge to flip it too early or too often.

“The biggest mistake that a lot of amateur cooks make is that they flip the steak too many times. The real key to a well-cooked piece of meat is just let it be, “Jens insisted. “Of course, if you’re serving different cuts of meat at your Fourth of July feast, you always want to put your biggest thickest steak on the grill first. If you’re also cooking a New York Strip, you want to put that one on a few minutes later. But after that, just let the grill do its job and flip your meat a total of three or four times, once every three minutes or so.”

Of course, the last thing you want to do is overcook a quality piece of meat. Which is why Dahlmann suggests that – when it comes to grilling steaks – if you’re going to err, err on the side of undercooking.

“You can always put a piece of meat back on the grill if it’s slightly undercooked. When you over-cook something, all you can do then is start over with a brand-new piece of meat,” Jens said. “Just be sure that you’re using the correct cut of meat for the cooking result you’re aiming for. If someone wants a rare or medium rare steak, you should go with a thicker cut of steak. If one of your guests wants their steak cooked medium or well, it’s best to start with a thinner cut of meat.”

Photo by Jim Hill

As you can see, the folks at Longhorn take grilling steaks seriously. How seriously? Just last week at Darden Corporate Headquarters in Orlando, seven of these brand’s top grill masters (who – after weeks of regional competitions – had been culled from the 491 restaurants that make up this chain) competed for a $10,000 prize in the Company’s second annual Steak Master Series. And Dahlmann was one of the people who stood in Darden’s test kitchens, watching like a hawk as each of the contestants struggled to prepare six different dishes in just 20 minutes according to Longhorn Steakhouse‘s exacting standards.

“I love that Darden does this. Recognizing the best of the best who work this restaurant,” Jens concluded. “We have a lot of people here who are incredibly knowledgeable & passionate when it comes to grilling.”

Speaking of which … If today’s story doesn’t include the exact piece of info that you need to properly grill that T-bone, just whip out your iPhone & text GRILL to 55702. Or – better yet – visit  ExpertGriller.com prior to firing up your grill or smoker later today. 

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

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

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

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

… or perhaps even pet a few of the participants.

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

Photo by Jim Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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