My parents came up over the weekend to generously work in my garden (I wasn’t even there – how over-the-top sweet is that?!) and we treated them to a bit of brunch and then a walk around Crystal Bridges. I have a bit of a side
rant discussion that needs to accompany today’s recipe in regards to our museum visit.
My dad shared with me Bill Maher’s tirade against Alice Walton, the woman who can take full credit for bringing masterpieces of American art to reside in a billion-dollar museum in her cherished Bentonville. Bill Maher, naturally, has a problem with the museum, and resorts to name-calling, as intelligent, mature folks with restraint often do, calling the art-collector an “opulent idiot” and “nitwit” for “dropping a billion” on the breathtaking grounds and gallery. One of his “issues” with the museum, among others, is that he thinks that it is such a shame that the museum is located, and I quote, “in the middle of nowhere”, such that “no one” will be able to see the works of art on display. Ms. Walton, he believes, has kidnapped the collection of American art and taken it out to the far reaches of the land where no civilized person dare tread.
Is it a reach to say, essentially, that Mr. Maher’s position is that the art that is now in Crystal Bridges would provide more benefit to humanity if it were located near better-known major museums, such as in New York City, Chicago, or Washington DC? That if Ms. Walton really wanted to give a “gift” back to the people who found utility in her family’s company and shop there, creating billions of dollars over time, that she would donate her art to an existing gallery in a major metropolitan center, where it can be enjoyed by the people who live there and those who can travel to those museums?
I haven’t done much investigating into the backlash that Mr. Maher has faced due to this asinine tirade, so I sincerely hope that my conclusion is not unique, but here it is: it sounds like his problem is that the wealth (in this case, art) has been collected by an individual with noble intentions and spread out among the many instead of concentrated among the few (let’s just say, for argument’s sake, the 1%). Or am I confusing his positions on things here?
I’m sorry for a
rant discussion that borders on politics, but I can assure you that my issue isn’t political. I don’t know what Bill Maher thinks about most things and I don’t really care. My issue with his position is exclusively related to his elitist attitude and the fact that it contradicts his established stance on wealth and the distribution of wealth. Ms. Walton proved that Mr. Maher’s perspective is perhaps a lot smaller than it could be by using her power to shift wealth (again, art) to a place that is seen by others as less deserving of culture than the tiny island. There aren’t people who “deserve” art.
All of that aside, if you can, you really should visit Crystal Bridges, especially while the current Palley gallery collection “A Taste for Modernism” is on display.
The recipe that I’m sharing has nothing to do with the context. Nope. It’s just that we enjoyed this delicious hash before our visit to the museum, when the discussion came up. I’ve been working on the exact right blend of spices to recreate one of our favorite happy hour treats – sweet and spicy fries from the bar menu at The Hive. The Hive is a beautiful restaurant and bar inside of one of the most interesting hotels I’ve ever visited – 21c Museum Hotel. The hotel features gorgeous architecture, interactive green penguins that the staff moves around the building, even pulling them up table side, clever decor (gold-foiled flies on mint wallpaper, Jonathan Adler pillows, and I could go on), and a rotating modern art collection shared among the sister hotels.
Although we don’t have the penguins, art, architecture, or decor, we do have an oven. So I took advantage of that and tried to recreate the basic flavor of our favorite sweet and spicy french fries. The dish definitely isn’t “spicy,” but it is “spiced,” if that distinction can stand. Peri-peri spice blends are available in large retail stores (I checked the other day just to be sure), but I will have you all know that the particular blend that I used was a gift from my wonderful aunt Jo for Christmas. Peri-Peri has a warm, dusty flavor to it that goes well with the earthy root vegetables. I added heat with extra cayenne pepper, poured in balsamic for contrast and loads of honey for a sticky, sweet glaze to capture all of the flavor. I topped mine with avocado (of course), and husband had his with some leftover garlic-mint puree from an Indian takeout dinner.
Honey & Peri-Peri Root Vegetable Hash
Serves 4 as a side dish
You will need:
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 tsp. peri-peri spice blend (medium heat)
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. cracked red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. minced fresh garlic
- 1/4 tsp. each garlic salt and black pepper
- 2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup Yukon gold potato, cubed
- 1 cup sweet potato, cubed
- 1/2 yellow onion, thinly chopped
- 2 parsnips, sliced into small pieces, about the same size as the other veggies
- 1 cup cooked ham, diced (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Spread butternut, potatoes, onion, and parsnips (and ham, if using) on a large, rimmed baking sheet.
- Whisk together olive oil, peri-peri, honey, balsamic, garlic, and spices until uniform in consistency.
- Pour glaze over the vegetables. Toss for a couple of minutes to coat the vegetables as evenly as possible.
- Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until vegetables are cooked and slightly brown.
- Serve hot.