Fayetteville, AR, is in the northwest part of the state which is very different from the rest of Arkansas as I was told repeatedly. My delightful host and hostess retrieved me from the airport (mysteriously known as XFN) and took me directly to the Walmart Museum, a surprisingly entertaining experience. The spirit of Mr. Sam hovers over the entire thing which includes his office, brought there down to the last paper clip.
My factoid of the day: before Sam built the first Walmart, he opened a small five- and- dime, called Ben Franklin (ultimately a fairly large chain.) Back when I had a house in Dorset, VT, next door Manchester had the Ben, as we fondly called it. The mother lode for all household minutiae, when it closed it was deeply missed.
The next day we went to Eureka Springs, a town that reminds me of Woodstock NY some years back in its tie- die enthusiasm. There are lots of springs and the rather seedy but clearly great–in-its-day Crescent Hotel. En route home we stopped at the fabulous Thorncrown Chapel designed by E. Fay Jones, a mentee of Frank Lloyd Wright. Thorncrown was built –almost entirely of wood– in 1980. In 2002 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places; it also received a special Award of Excellence from the American Institute of Architects.
The initial impetus for my visit was to see Crystal Bridges, the museum of American art built by Alice Walton, Mr. Sam’s daughter who is heir to the family fortune. The building, designed by Moshe Saftie, is stunning with raised sections sort of reminiscent of a turtle’s shell, (or, since this is Arkansas, an armadillo).
The museum’s name comes from the Crystal Spring that feeds into the museum ponds and the bridges incorporated into its design. The architecture and the way the structure sits neatly into its Ozarks ravine –bursting with flowering trees in early April—is stunning. The collection, while boasting many outstanding works, lacks depth. On the grounds is a Frank Lloyd Wright House, a Buckminster Fuller dome, walking trails and pieces of sculpture. The whole is a strong statement about the importance of art in an area that doesn’t have a lot of this magnitude. This is a link to the museum as a whole for those not buying a plane ticket: https://crystalbridges.org/
And now for a true Southern dish: real pimento cheese that bears NO resemblance to the stuff of my youth that came in a jar that was later repurposed and used for orange juice.
Best Pimento Cheese Spread
1 ½ cups mayonnaise
4 oz pimento (in a jar), drained and diced
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp finely grated onion
¼ tsp cayenne or to taste
8 oz extra sharp Cheddar finely grated
8 oz extra sharp Cheddar coarsely grated
Stir everything but the cheese together in bowl. Add cheeses mixing thoroughly.
Serve as a sandwich, on crackers or baguette slices, stuffed into celery.
You could yell “Woo Pig! Sooie! (assuming you can
pronounce it) to honor the Razorbacks, the beloved U of AR football team– or
not. The celery stick bit is probably
great with a Bloody Mary (as are many things.)