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The Observer, May 29

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FIRST STEP: Miller amid her cardboard dancers.
  • FIRST STEP: Miller amid her cardboard dancers.

A smidge in advance of Riverfest, a celebration of another sort rose up at the Historic Arkansas Museum. If you were driving by on Second Street, you would have seen giant cardboard square dancers and a cardboard fiddler at the museum's south entrance. The imposing dance partners, their arms forming bridges eight feet over the pavement, will one day be made of inch-thick aluminum, and while they're frozen in motion children will be able to dance around and through them in what will forevermore be a “Party for Peg” on the HAM grounds.

Alice Guffey Miller of Monticello submitted the winning design for a sculpture installation to honor the late Peg Newton Smith, a daughter of Arkansas who championed the worth of knowing her state's history. She was captivatingly funny, gracious, generous and always kind, and she was a long-time commissioner for the Arkansas Territorial Restoration (now the HAM), creating the museum's gallery for Arkansas artists and the museum store in 1973.

Among the first artists to exhibit at HAM were Elsie and Louis Freund, and Miller's sculptural installation is inspired by Freund's painting of square dancers. Miller is, like Smith, an Arkansas gem, creating large-scale public art, often working with children and often using recycled materials, since the 1970s. Miller is involving students in the creation of the sculpture by working with E.A.S.T. labs and in gathering stone from each of the state's 75 counties to face the pedestals that will support the dancers. Little histories and poems will be part of the sculpture, which Smith would have been thrilled with. Miller said her vision for “Party for Peg” — to be created with private funds — is constantly evolving. But even in cardboard, even in the planning stages, it's a work that already reflects Arkansas culture in a joyous way. Thank you, Alice; thank you, Peg.

 

Last weekend, The Observer fired up our smoker for the first time this summer. As always, it was a glorious moment. We've long been a fan of smoked meats — the most primal of all foods — and an admirer of the artisans who do it and do it right: Smoke-smelling geniuses who squat by their pits for hours, bringing together the Holy Trinity of smoke, meat and time.

The Observer, on the other hand, cheats. It's not a BIG cheat, but it would probably get us tarred and feathered at any serious barbecue competition. In exchange for that little white culinary lie, however, we get results that are around 95 percent as tasty as anything you'll get from one of those slow cookin' joints.

Here's the secret: Good old foil.

Start by rubbing your pork liberally with a good pork rub. Next, carefully seam together two sheets of heavy duty foil at one edge, then open them like a book. Plonk the porker down in the middle and then seal the meat up inside. No haphazard wrapping here. You're trying to seal in those juices! Next, slap the wrapped beast in a 325-degree oven and cook for three and a half hours (the benefit of using an oven is that you can set it and forget it… if you did your wrapping right, no smoke would get to the meat anyway).

During the last hour or so your meat is cooking, go outside and build a fire in your smoke box. 

Once your oven timer goes off, unwrap the meat. It's going to look horrible — boiled and soggy — but press on. Put the now-nekkid goodies in the smoker and smoke the dickens out of it for 45 minutes to an hour — until it looks right. Serve with the barbecue sauce and cheap beer of your choice. Loosen belt. Repeat.

 

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