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Your first look at “Shrek the Third,” DreamWorks Animation’s Summer 2007 release

The third film in the “Shrek” series held its very first test screening this past weekend. And a JHM reader who was in that audience filed this highly detailed report on this still-in-production picture. WARNING! Spoilers abound in this article



It’s one of the most highly anticipated films of 2007. The third installment of the very popular (and highly profitable) “Shrek” series.

Copyright 2007 DreamWorks Animation

But is “Shrek the Third” actually any good? DreamWorks Animation execs obviously want to know. Which is why they held a test screening of this still-in-production picture this past weekend.

Lucky for us, loyal JHM reader Buddy Glass actually managed to attend this screening. And what follows is his highly detailed look at this very early version of “Shrek the Third.” WARNING! Spoilers abound in this particular article. So if you want to avoid learning too much about this animated feature a full eight months before it hits theaters, you probably want to bail out of this story now.

Still with us? Okay. Buddy Glass’ story starts with he & his family picking up tickets for a test screening …

…. thinking we were going to see a slightly early preview of “Flushed Away” and were absolutely stunned to get into the theater and be told we were going to be the first audience ‘ever’ to see “Shrek The Third”. The kids and adults in the audience went wild but we were told the movie was only about 40% done and some would feature animation without lighting and a fair amount would be just storyboards (in some cases, extremely rough storyboards). They had metal detectors and were very firm on security (couldn’t bring in cell phones with cameras or recorders – understandable).

My impression is that they have a lot of work to do – especially making this movie a lot funnier. My kids agreed and thought it was just okay, definitely worse than the first two. The story is actually fine, although it drags seriously in the middle, and the ending is kind of ho-hum. They seriously need to hire some folks to bring in more gags – especially for the adults. As it is now, they have a film with a decidedly different tone than the others, with flashes of good material in amongst a more adventure-oriented script interested in hitting a fair number of plot points more than giving the audience some chuckles. I think it is definitely salvageable but they need good joke writers – there are so many lines where I was just trying to write their jokes in for them because they hadn’t bothered to include one!

The film’s opening introduces a subplot that sounds funnier on paper than in action. Prince Charming is shown riding through the forest, proclaiming the wondrous actions he’s going to do (sounds like saving Fiona) and we pull back to find out he’s actually on stage, performing a skit at a pub. After a moment, another actor in a rough but obvious Shrek costume wanders onto stage and, to Charming’s dismay, the crowd cheers. The whole thing stage apart after that and every starts to laugh as he rushes off stage and into his dressing room (which is actually an alley door and his setup is out there – cute joke). He vows to claim the throne of Far Far Away.

Soon, we’re up in the castle and find out that Shrek and Fiona are filling in for the king, who is sick. So, they are showing up to events, knighting people (Shrek accidentally stabs a guy he then dubs “Sir Bleed-a-lot”), and it all culminates in them being dolled up with Elizabethan-looking costumes (complete with face-makeup) and they cannot move their arms. Shrek and Fiona are waiting on stage and he gets a page to take a stick and scratch his rear (since he can’t reach it), which, of course, leads to someone opening the curtain and revealing them as this page is poking at Shrek’s posterior. The whole place goes slapstick and it is pretty funny. In fact, this whole “Shrek covers for the King” sequence is good, although, like the rest of the movie, it needs those wall-to-wall gags like in Shrek 2 (which, for my money, was a hilarious film that was much funnier and much more clever film than the first). Donkey and Puss run around but with very little to do and not much that is funny (a couple of good jokes but these are great characters and they aren’t used very well here).

But, then they find out that the king is dying. There is a funny (although, again, could be funnier) sequence where the frog king (still done nicely by Cleese) keeps almost dying. Before he finally croaks (and they don’t use anywhere near the frog puns they could), he tells them that Shrek should be king but if he really doesn’t want to do so, then there is a cousin, Arthur, who is the next in line.

Leaving Fiona & the Queen back at the castle, Shrek, Donkey & Puss in boats sail off to a place called Worstershire – a joke they belabor (in Shrek 2, that would have been a throwaway line but the jokes are in short supply so they need to put up signs). It turns out, this is a high school, which gives then a chance to make a lot of jokes about a medieval-fantasy high school, some funny (D&D geeks, stoners falling out of a van with ‘frankincense and myrrh’, some Valley Maiden-talk) and some bits that are boring (everything else).

They eventually find Arthur (“Artie”) in the exact circumstance out of Screenplay 101 – they find a tough knight on the high school jousting a small guy who falls over and they assume the rough-and-tumble guy is Arthur (turns out, he’s Lancelot but they miss the chances for jokes here). The sad-sack little guy is Artie and he slinks away, people call him names as Shrek and Donkey/Puss pursue, and when Shrek says he is the new king (and someone says he should only be the king of losers or something – need good joke, please!) eventually it is decided he should run over to try and take out the Sword In The Stone (which is, conveniently, on school grounds and just outside the room they are in – why isn’t there a joke here!?!? They just rush past it).

So they get out by the Sword and just as Artie is about to try and give it go, Shrek says he needs ‘inspiration’ and Puss suddenly conducts the school band to distract them while Shrek tries to loosen it up for him. The loosening idea is terrific, but ‘striking up the band’ and all is really boring, not funny and is a stretch to make any sense at all. My eight year old actually leaned over and said, “why would the band start playing?” I didn’t say it but I thought, “Um, lazy screenwriters?” So he pulls the sword out, Shrek grabs him and they are off.

On the trip back, Artie and Shrek fight a bit and eventually end up crashing the boat (at some point, their Viking-for-no-reason captain just disappears but whatever) on an island. They eventually find their way to a door (by now, Artie is furious and doesn’t want to go back to be king) which Artie bangs on and proclaims that he is being kidnapped. This part was storyboarded so I can’t tell you how it will look but some big apparition comes out and a loud voice says something about fearing whoever-something. Then, it short-circuits a bit and the real guy comes out. Ho-hum. I’ve seen the Wizard of Oz.

We find out that this old guy is Merlin (Artie says he used to be a teacher at the school but had a nervous breakdown – not funny at all! Can’t they come up with something better and a term that means something to eight year olds?) He is voiced by the great Eric Idle (although some of the work was in progress). This character, second only to Artie, is so underdeveloped that this whole sequence, despite one funny joke about underwear stew, just drags and drags. Typical second act problems but since they focus on Artie and Merlin, two uninteresting and underdeveloped characters, you are practically begging for Donkey and Puss to cut up or Shrek to be his usual grumpy self (this is in short supply throughout the movie, but it is funny when he does act like himself – like Donkey telling him to change his tactic of yelling at Artie to get him to be king and Shrek picking up a big log to beat him with). Shrek bonds with Artie when it is revealed that he was abandoned by his parents. Shrek eventually says that what people think of you is not the same as what you are (oh, they say it in a nicer way, but you get it) and Artie finally thinks maybe he could be king.

So, after wasting some time on the island there, they suddenly decide to head back and have Merlin teleport them back to Far Far Away and it works.

But while all of this is happening, Charming has gone back to the nasty pub in the second movie and rouses all the villains there to join him in taking over Far Far Away. He appeals to them by saying a version of the same homily Shrek convinced Artie with – “Why should we be denied our Happily Ever After because some else says so!?!” The idea here, again, is great and some of the lines he uses to convince them (the evil queen is there, Captain Hook) but so much more could be done! And, yes, Regis is here as the Uglier Stepsister. That works okay but it is hardly a revelation. They agree to join in storming the castle. Yay, we have our villains. Nowhere near as interesting as the way things work out in Shrek 2 but oh well.

Meanwhile, Fiona meets with Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and the Ugly Stepsister (now reformed) there. This scene is some fun, although there are frequently chances for funny jokes that are just lost. Almost everything out of a character’s mouth in Shrek 2 was funny. If only that were the case here…still, there are some good bits.

As the villains descend on the castle, the princesses go off to hide in the bowels of the castle (and there is an inspired joke here in the moving wall and statuary they are hiding behind where they come together and make the Frog King kiss a Horses rear – why aren’t there more wonderful throwaway jokes like this!) There is one funny scene where they confront the highly-underused minor characters (Gingerbread Man, Wolf, Three Little Pigs, and Pinochio) and, in the funniest bit in the film, Charming tries to get Pinochio to tell them where Shrek is by saying he can’t possibly lie but Pinochio combats this with a bunch of confusing double-triple-and-quadruple negatives. This is wonderfully done and a window into the level of often sophisticated humor in Shrek 2. But it is short-lived.

The Princesses, Queen and Fiona wander around (for too long) but eventually come out and Rapunzel betrays them to Charming so she can be queen. What a missed opportunity to say that she was made she didn’t get her own movie! (Rapunzel Unbraided notwithstanding – what a lovely in-joke) The princesses are all captured and put into a cell.

Shrek and gang return but as they confront Charming, Artie runs off when Charming reveals that Shrek is supposed to be king but wanted to ‘pawn it off’ on Artie – and that he loosened the sword for him back at school. The kid takes off and Shrek is captured by the villains. The most striking thing here is that Shrek seems so weak! In the past, he always kicks butt but he’s strangely subdued in this one. It doesn’t work to well, especially when you think he should be winning these fights.

The princesses and Fiona whine a bit before the Queen inexplicably breaks down the wall with a shrug (“Didn’t think you got your fighting skills from your father, did you?” Whatever) and they get out. Suddenly, they start kicking butt and it is fun with Snow White sending the birds that come when she sings to attack an evil tree, Cinderella using her glass slippers as boomerangs, and Sleeping Beauty tripping people by falling asleep in front of them while they run up to her. Some good bits here (with a sort of reference to the new Charlie’s Angels in the actions and the Kill Bill ladies in the music).

In the midst of all this, Artie wanders off and finds Merlin again in the forest. Suddenly, he’s told the real Sword in the Stone is nearby and he pulls it up and realizes he IS supposed to be king. Boring, slow scene! Not funny at all. All of this was storyboarded so hopefully they will come up with some better writing here.

They end up breaking up a reenactment of the show at the beginning of the movie, with Charming now using the real Shrek all tied up. This sequence was all in storyboard so it was hard to tell what was going on but, essentially, they all fight a bit until Artie comes in and tells Charming that everything is fine because you don’t need to be what other people say you are (the lesson Shrek taught him). Merlin pops in, everything works out and Artie becomes king.

So, there you go – an idea of where they are with Shrek The Third. My impressions:

  • Mike Myers is so subdued here that he almost disappears from the movie for long stretches – but it’s not his fault. Few lines give him much to do.

  • Cameron Diaz does well with what she has. No problem there.

  • Eddie Murphy and Antonio Banderas are in the same boat –talented voice actors wishing they had more and better lines. Why don’t they use the comic duo and have a lot of fun with them? Too much exposition for the gags.

  • Justin Timberlake barely registers. It is not a horrible misfire but also nothing special at all. Again, the script doesn’t develop Artie at all. Why make him a sort-of wimp but not really very interesting. He’s just a dull character. Why not an ADD fratboy or something more inclined to give us laughs? Some kind of traits that would make him funnier would be nice. As it is, Artie gets plenty of screen time but not much development. Their take on characters like Fairy Godmother and so many others have been so inventive. Why is Artie such a bore with nothing to do?

  • Eric Idle – What a waste that they don’t give Merlin more. They could have some fun with it but they miss the chance. Eric Idle is one funny guy but they don’t give him anything to do (seems like a lot of his lines are not in there yet anyway, so maybe he’ll help them out with some adlibs). This character needs to be seriously redeveloped – just a crotchety old guy who lost some of his abilities. What a bore! They need to find a way to reimagine Merlin in an interesting way – not just toss him in there with no development. Artie and Merlin are so carelessly and humorlessly shoehorned into this movie, they hardly seem to be from the Shrek universe.

  • Charming – Rupert Everett gives it a good try but the character that was so witty in Shrek 2 is reduced to little more than a revenge-minded buffoon. I wish they’d let him be a little more inspired like he is when recruiting the others. I wish his plan would be more interesting than running in there and taking everything over. He ends with a whimper, too. Ho-hum again.

  • Saturday Night Live Princesses – A funny idea and, in action, it works okay. These are hysterical ladies and they could do a lot more if given better material. As it is, they make do with occasionally witty lines that mostly lack bite. Maya Rudolph (Rapunzel) is the only one that seems a little out of it. Tiny Fey might have been better.

  • Minor characters – Most of the best humor is from the minor characters and they just don’t get used. The Three Blind Mice are barely in one scene. The rest of the other characters are so rarely show it is just a shame (making way for the one-joke princesses (although it is a good joke) and the underdeveloped Merlin and Artie. The Gingerbread Man is hysterical but other than one brilliant moment of his life flashing before his eyes (another absolute high point and one of the few times I laughed out loud), he’s not given much to do.
That’s a lot, I know. But the biggest problem with the movie is that it lacks the fast and furious humor of the others (especially Shrek 2), the witty songs (like the Be Our Guest parody), and the endless throwaway gags that made people NEED to see Shrek 2 over and over again. This is their main problem and they need to hire some funny script doctors that can bring in a lot more gags-per-minute than they have now. My kids were really fidgety during a lot of it and I became bored numerous times, rarely laughing heartily. Asked afterward to name favorite moments and they had a hard time.

As it is, they have a long work-in-progress that they need to tighten, strengthen in the middle and make a lot funnier. If Artie and Merlin are going to take up so much space, they will need to be more compelling if they plan to obscure so deeply the guy who the movie is named after – Shrek, who really is submerged in the second and third acts. I’m stunned Mike Myers didn’t give them more good ideas.

But let’s not be too harsh! They still have months and months to work on it. They have the parts, they just need writing help to work those characters out and inject some humor. Then, they will have another blockbuster on their hands.

Copyright 2007 DreamWorks Animation

So there you have it. “Shrek the Third.” Which sounds like it still needs a lot of work before its May 18, 2007 release.

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.

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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