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Why For returns !

JHM’s most popular column finally emerges from its long winter’s nap, as Jim Hill answers your questions about a cut scene from “The Rocketeer,” Goofy’s original voice as well as soliciting your opinions about this site’s editorial direction



First up, Rich writes in to say:

Hello, Jim,

I was hoping you could answer this Disney related riddle for me since you seem to be the Disney Go To Guy. A friend, knowing I am a huge fan of both Dave Steven‘s The Rocketeer, as well as of the Disney film, once told me that in the summer of 1991, Disneyland replaced Tinkerbell flying over the part during the fireworks with the Rocketeer.

Do you know if there is any truth to this? And if so, what information can you tell me about this?

Thanks in advance for your help,


Dear Rich —

Well, your friend is of sort kind of right. While Disneyland has occasionally allowed someone other than Tinkerbell to slide down the wire that used to stretch from the top of the Matterhorn to just behind the Village Haus Restaurant (I.E. During the 1960s, at the height of “Mary Poppins” popularity, the world’s first Supernanny used to fly over Fantasyland. And during the summer of 1995, right after “The Indiana Jones Adventure” opened, Dr. Jones also zoomed through the sky over that theme park), the Rocketeer never made any regularly scheduled flights over Anaheim.

However, 3000 miles to the east, this Dave Stevens character did (for a short while, anyway) have a featured spot in Disney-MGM Studios theme park’s nighttime fireworks extravaganza, “Sorcery in the Sky.” During the Summer of 1991, a stuntman wearing a Rocketeer-like jetpack would make a brief flight around the Chinese Theater‘s forecourt area as a snippet from the film’s soundtrack played.

Copyright 1991 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

Ironically enough, Danny Bilson & Paul De Meo‘s original screenplay for “The Rocketeer” featured an action sequence that was actually set at the really-for-real Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Unfortunately, due to budgetary reasons, this witty little scene was cut out of the picture just prior to production.

Lucky for you folks, I have a copy of that film’s original script in my research library. And — for those of you who are familiar with “The Rocketeer” — this scene would have come right after Cliff Secord & Peevy Peabody have escaped from Eddie Valentine’s goons. Since he’s just learned that his girlfriend Jenny is in danger, Cliff once again straps on Howard Hughes’ experimental jetpack and makes ready to take to the skies.


Cliff stands precariously on the Bulldog’s “head.” He takes a deep breath and poises his thumb over the ignition button.

Here goes nothing.

He presses the switch. The enormous dog is briefly crowned with fire as the Rocketeer blasts off into the darkness.


Like a shooting start, Cliff streaks through the night, the lights of the city brilliant below.

Circling like a hawk, Cliff looks down at the confusing swirl of illuminating streets and rooftops.

He fumbles in his jacket for a map of the city. As he attempts to open it, the wind plasters the map to his helmet, blinding him. Cliff tears at the map. It flies off and bursts into flames as it passes through the rocket’s exhaust.

As the Rocketeer passes over Hollywood Boulevard, he is suddenly illuminated by a spotlight.

Startled, he looks down to see Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, a gala movie premiere is in progress.


On the theatre’s roof, an excited SPOTLIGHT MAN is attempting to track Cliff across the sky.

What the heck … ?

He swings the heavy light on its pivot. Then, the operator’s foot slips over the edge of the roof. He stumble and rolls over the brink, hands clawing. His fingers seize on a gutter and he hangs precariously over the forecourt.

Down below, however, all attention centers on a roped-off pad of wet cement.

Theatre owner SID GRAUMAN stands at the microphone, trying to get the attention of the crowd, who are transfixed by the beautiful blonde walking up the red carpet. Flashbulbs pop like fire works.

Ladies and gentlemen, please … Please welcome the lovely Ginger Rogers.
Who will become part of Hollywood history by leaving the prints of her hands
and feet in our world famous —

A panicked voice interrupts Grauman.

Oh my God! Look up there!

All attention shifts to the Spotlight Man dangling from the theatre’s main tower. The other searchlights sweep over to illuminate him. Women scream as the unfortunate employee vainly attempts to pull himself up. Helpless, Ginger Rogers, her tuxedoed escort, and the pack of spectators hold their breath.

Then, the man’s fingers loose their desperate grip. The crowd gasps in horror as he drops to the pavement.

An explosive roar thunders down from above. Cliff’s path is drawn by the rocket’s fiery trail as he scoops up the falling man just before impact. Barely managing the extra weight, Cliff circles above the crowd then drops the man safely into a group of policemen.

The crowd goes bezerk. Every spotlight, camera, and eye is on Cliff. He executes a loop and lands proudly, feet spread, hands on his hips.

It is his best landing yet — but for his feet planted firmly in the wet cement.

Flashbulbs flare blindingly as recognition ripples through the crowd.

It’s him! It’s the Rocketeer!

Lemme through … Press … move it!

Mr. Rocketeer! Who are you? Where do you –!

Cliff’s moment of glory is short lived. The excited crowd surges forward. As Cliff blasts off into the night sky, thrust craves a crater in the cement between his footprints.

Thinking like a true showman, Sid Grauman grabs a pencil from a reporter. He reaches down and quickly etches “THE ROCKETEER” in the cement.

Miss Rogers! Miss Rogers!

(turning with a smile) Yes?

Would you step aside, please?

Flustered, the actress moves to one side. The reporters aim their cameras. Flashbulbs explode as the cement slab is photographed.

That’s a fun little scene, don’t you think? Not entirely crucial to the plot. But still, it would have been fun to see this sequence actually make it into the finished picture.

Anywho … Next up, Darren checks in to ask:


The closest I’d ever been to my hero Walt was through a friend who was the niece of Pinto Colvig. He is best known for being the original Bozo the Clown. In the world of Disney, he was the original voice of Goofy and contributed heavily to the song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” I’ve heard that he and Walt had a falling out of sorts. Do you know what happened or have any other interesting tidbits about this little known connection to Walt?

Dear Darren,

Yeah, I’ve heard the same thing about Colvig. That sometime in the early 1950s, Pinto supposedly did something something that really upset Walt. Which is why eight years passed (I.E. From 1953 “Father’s Day Off” to 1961’s “Aquamania“) before this Mouse House veteran (His connection to the studio dated back to the old Hyperion days) was invited back on the lot to voice a new Goofy cartoon.

To be fair, this eight year absense was during a period when Walt Disney Studios was significantly cutting back on the number of animated shorts that it produced annually. So perhaps there’s a more innocent way to explain Pinto’s prolonged absense. That Colvig wasn’t invited back to the Burbank lot for such a long time because there just wasn’t any work.

Clarence “Ducky” Nash, the original voice of Donald Duck (left)
and Pinto Colvig, the original voice of Goofy (right)
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.

But — that said — Walt did tend to run hot & cool when it came to the studio’s staff. Even talented veterans like Bill Peet & Ward Kimball wound up doing things that unintentionally earned Disney’s ire. And Walt then punished these animation legends by taking away plum assignments (In Ward’s case, he lost out on the chance to direct “Babes in Toyland“) and/or giving them demeaning tasks (In Bill’s case, he was demoted from working on story for “Sleeping Beauty” to creating storyboards for Peter Pan Peanut Butter commercials).

Given Disney’s history of being very quick to anger and extremely slow to forgive … I have to admit that I tend to lean toward the Pinto-must-have-done-something-that-really-offended-Walt explanation as to why Colvig didn’t work for the Mouse Factory for eight long years.

But let me make a few phone calls and see if someone who’s much more knowledgable about Disney animation history than I am has a different take on this particular tale. Which I’ll then try & post as part of next week’s “Why For” column.

And — finally — in response to yesterday’s “Could cashing in on Pixar now be a whole lot harder than Disney officials had originally thought ?” article, Dory Defender writes in to say:

Why do you always have to be so f*cking negative about Pixar? What has John Lasseter ever done to you? You are such an *sshole. I hate your website. I hope that you & your entire family get cancer and die !!!


Gee, Dory Defender. Why don’t you tell me how you really think?

To be honest, e-mails like kind of amuse me. Who’d have ever thunk that someone could get that emotionally overwrought over something that they’ve read here on JHM?

I mean, it’s not like I made up that Disney Brand Management report. That’s why the Walt Disney Company isn’t stepping forward to deny yesterday’s story. That document really does exist. More importantly, it actually does say that there’s been significant erosion in the value of the characters from “A Bug’s Life,” “Monsters, Inc.,” “The Incredibles” and “Finding Nemo.” Which is seriously going to hamper the corporation’s efforts to get a speedy return on that $7.4 billion it spent to acquire Pixar.

So why — because I dared to post that story yesterday — am I now the bad guy? Isn’t that sort of like getting mad at your local weatherman because he tells you that it’s going to rain over the weekend? I mean, that guy doesn’t control the weather anymore than I control the news.

And yet — because I choose to write about the Walt Disney Company as if it were an actual business, rather than some magical kingdom that’s loaded with beautiful princesses & talking mice — I continually get slapped with the “you’re being far too negative about Disney” label. Which (to my way of thinking, anyway) just seems … Well … a trifle bizarre.

Make no mistake, folks. The Mouse really does want to make serious money off of Pixar. And the sooner, the better. Which is why — after “Cars” under-performed (And it did, folks. No amount of whining or complaining by JHM readers is going to convince me or senior Disney officials or key industry observers otherwise. Initial financial projections suggested that Mickey had a “Finding Nemo” -sized hit on his hands. But “Cars” stalled out at $244 million during its domestic run, which is $95 million less than Andrew Stanton‘s movie earned stateside. Which is why this John Lasseter film is now considered to be something of a disappointment. End of story) and then this Brand Management report shows up … Well, that’s the sort of thing that really upsets Disney’s board of directors. After all, they’re the guys who okayed that $7.4 billion payout for a studio that had only produced 7 films. And they don’t like being thought of as the boobs who got played by Steve Jobs, the suckers who paid at least a billion (or two … or three … ) too much for Pixar Animation Studios.

Which (The way I hear it) is making for some pretty awkward moments in the boardroom. Given that Steve now has a seat on Disney’s board of directors. Which only makes sense, given that — thanks to all those shares of Disney stock that Jobs acquired as a result of the Pixar acquisition — He’s now this corporation’s largest individual shareholder.

Anyway, that’s the story that is currently making the rounds in financial circles. Increasing discontent about the Pixar situation at the uppermost reaches of the Team Disney Burbank building.

But JHM readers … Based on most of the talkbacks that were tacked onto yesterday’s article said, you guys don’t seem to want to hear any more stories like that. Reading between the lines here, it sounds as if what a lot of you really want to read here is some sort of fairy tale about how everything is sweetness & light back in Burbank. How — now that John Lasseter & Ed Catmull are in charge of WDFA — everything there is running as smooth as silk and everyone who works in animation at Disney is just happy-happy-happy.

If that’s honestly the sorts of stories that you want to read on this website … I’m thinking that maybe you should probably stop coming by JHM.

You know how Bill O’Reilly has his “No Spin Zone”? Well, here at, we try & keep things Pixie Dust-free. We make an effort not to get sucked in by all of that talk about Dreams & Magic & Wishes & Wonder that the Walt Disney Company always does. I mean, just because virtually every movie that the Mouse makes ends with a ” … And they lived happily ever after” … Well, that doesn’t mean that that actually happens in real life at Disney. Just ask Chris Sanders.

So — to answer Dory Defender’s question (I.E. Why am I so f*cking negative about Pixar?) … The way I see it, it’s not that I’m being negative. It’s just that everyone else seems to be looking at the Pixar / WDFA situation through rose-colored glasses. Which is why they print Disney’s press releases as written. They believe what they’re being told.

Which perhaps explains why this incredibly complex story (I.E. The melding of two distinctly different animation enterprises) has been so under-reported lately. Particularly the negative stuff.

So if it seems as though JHM is the only place where you’re reading somewhat downbeat reports on Pixar … Well, there’s a reason for that. I don’t have the standard weenie’s take on the Walt Disney Company. I try to write about the Mouse as if I’m some reporter who’s covering the automotive beat in Detroit. And the tone that I’m going for here is informed but dispassionate.

Mind you, sometimes it’s extremely hard to remain dispassionate. Take — for example — my current dilemma when it comes to Pixar’s next picture.

Brad Bird, director of “The Iron Giant,” “The Incredibles” & “Ratatouille”
Copyright Disney / Pixar

As an animation fan, I really can’t wait to see “Ratatouille.” Given that Nancy & I are such huge Brad Bird fans, this is probably the film that I am most looking forward to seeing in 2007. Simply based on Brad’s history (Plus what I’ve seen so far of the film’s characters from various books & the trailer as well as the voice talent that Pixar has tapped to work on this picture), “Ratatouille” looks like a thoroughily delightful movie. Something that I’ll probably see two or three times while it’s in theaters this summer.

But that’s just Jim Hill, animation fan, talking. When I put my reporter hat on, I then to admit that there’s still some very weird buzz swirling around this film. That those within the company who have already seen the work-in-progress version of “Ratatouille” will first tell you that they absolutely love this movie, that it’s some of Bird’s best work … But then they’ll go on to say that they still expect this Pixar film to do only 2/3rds of the business that “Cars” did. Which means that this Brad Bird movie — just like the John Lasseter film that preceded it — will get tagged with the “Pixar disappointment” label.

Now I’m assuming that JHM readers would actually like to know about something like that. That — in spite of the recent assurances that were posted here on this website that Disney has this situation well in hand — there are still those in-house who are very concerned about this Brad Bird movie.

But then when I read the 40+ talkbacks from yesterday (Plus — of course — Dory Defender’s delightful note), where JHM readers go on & on how they don’t want to read any more negative Pixar-related stories. And then I think: “Well, it’s not like I commissioned that report. Disney Brand Management did. All I did was report its findings.”

I mean, is that what you really want? That I not report stories like this? Are you honestly saying that you’d prefer not knowing about stuff like this? That we all should just pretend that bad news never happens at the Walt Disney Company? Because I’m not sure that I can do that, folks.

That said, I’d be willing to consider some editorial guidance from JHM readers. So what it is exactly that you want to see at this website? What do you want to see more of? More importantly, what do you want to see less of?

Mind you, I make no promises that I actually follow any of the suggestions that you folks post in the talkback section of today’s column. But I will make a point of reading through each of your comments this coming weekend. And — if a strong enough pattern emerges — maybe we’ll make a few changes at the site. Maybe.

Soooo … 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 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.

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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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