Are you for real? Or will I find out one day I was dreaming? Many things have charmed me about you & just to name a few: the kindness of your people, the basques, who have a special place in my heart, your dry & mild winter, your mountains, your deserts, the variety & quality of your state grown food — & I am not talking of the potatoes —, your foodcoop, your restaurants, your cleanliness…& now your Treefort Festival!?
I love you, Boise!
It’s spring break & I was looking forward to stay put here in Boise & catch up with my pile of to do’s. But the Treefort in in town! The five-day, indie rock festival started in 2012. Today the emphasis is still on the music with about 400 bands playing from Thursday through Sunday, while another full schedule of events organized in “Forts” happens simultaneously. I attended FilmFort, FoodFort & StoryFort. This is what Treefort says about itself & I witnessed it:
We see Treefort as a celebration what makes Boise great – whether it’s Boise’s local breweries, homegrown food, skatepark, lively downtown core or simply its strong spirit of collaboration and love of the outdoors. Boise has something for everyone, no matter their age, and we hope that Treefort is an example of that. In 2015, Treefort was named the City of Boise’s Cultural Ambassador for being an event that genuinely reflects the energy across mediums that is happening in the Boise community and cultural scene, and for the vision of connecting Boise and its creatives with other communities around the region, the country and around the world. The Cultural Ambassador title runs through 2017.
Private venues take advantage of the Treefort momentum to organise events of their own. On Saturday afternoon, as I was heading to the Foodfort to taste some of the local chefs’ dishes, Basque friends tell me that whole lambs are being roasted outside The Modern Hotel. Not surprising, since the owner is Basque & her family owned a Basque boarding house accommodating shepherds in Nampa, ID. “The Modern” is one of Boise’s artsy cultural hubs where locals gather at the bar for cocktails & tasty morsels. I rushed to the Modern & there the scene was unreal. On both sides of Grove Street Band Dialogue III was rehearsing. This recurring event, led by Seth Olinsky, features a dozen bands with their respective instrumental kits lined up & generating shifting walls of sound…& next to it a lamb was quietly being roasted, hand cranked by the helpers of the Ansotegui’s Family. Watch the video to get a sense of the scene & hear about the Ansotegui’s family history & recipes. I hope to visit them soon again at Epi’s Restaurant in Meridien.
& now for the sake of keeping record, this is the list of what I did: Wednesday March 23 : Filmfort Idaho’s Forgotten War : great doc about the Kootenay people. In 1974, tribe leader Amy Trice declares & wins war on the United States government to save her people. Then stayed on for the screenings of Funnel, SMOKE + Q&A, Carbon + Q&A
Friday March 25 FoodFort: Grains in the Gem State : Panel about new grains being grown in Idaho, Teff being one of them (can’t wait to try KIBROM’S, the local Ethiopian & Eritrean restaurant.)
Music: Naked Giants: Very talented & very young boys band from Seattle that really cracked me up —felt very nostalgic for the Skinnybones years! (Jake Williams & our son Miles Joris-Peyrafitte band from a few years back) Filmfort: Janis: Little Girl Blue (which Pierre, the old hippie, liked more than I did.)
Saturday Mach 26 StoryFort: Eileen Myles: loved the activating & sharp reading & Q&A. MixedFort: (I made that one up!)
Basque Lamb & Bands: see Burning Lamb & Bands Music Would have liked to hear CocoRosie but was sold out.
So back to more of the Naked Giants, followed by Dude York featuring — what I liked best about the band, bassist/vocalist Claire England. Sunday March 27 StoryFort:
As soon as I post this I will be heading to Paige Ackerson-Keely, Kerri Webster & Janet Holmes readings & then back on track to teach tomorrow!
March 19th, 2016: St. Joseph’s day. I am not christian, but still a special day for me since it is was my beloved grand-father’s name after whom I named my older son. On that day Pierre & I were very honored to be invited by Argia Beristain & Chef Jesus Alcelay to the monthly Basque dinner at the Boise Basque Center. Three hundred diners are scheduled to attend. We arrive a little early & wait at the bar before filing into the banquet room. I look around &, without the sound track surrounding me I could be anywhere in the Pyrenees, with the sound track anywhere in the Basque country. The conversations are mostly in Basque & there is almost nothing to remind me that I am in Boise, Idaho. Not only are the conversations in Basque, but most of the faces look familiar. It is clear that Pyrenean people share the same ancestry. Native Pyreneans areVascons, a people of ancient Iberia & undoubtedly facial as well as cultural features remain & Idefinitely belong to this tribe. A few years back I had my DNA tested & besides having a high percentile of Neanderthal variants — I am not kidding: I am more Neanderthal than 89% of 23andMe customers, & have 307 variants when 400 is the max! I am also 70% Southern European, with 60% Iberian…. Thus not so French, & it delights me to feel the cave ladies of the Pyrenees in me!
Even the aromas escaping from the downstairs kitchen are familiar. Argia invites me to sneak down to say hello to Chef Jesus Alcelay. We are just in time to capture Jesus in full action before the dishes are hoisted up to the dinning hall. We catch him putting the finishing touches to the Oriotorra, a technique I must say I have never done in this order, but will try soon. See Jesus demonstrating:
Here is the delicious, copious & generous menu, served buffet style:
Oriotarra — Cod the way they make it in the town of Orio — see video
Tripacallos — Honeycomb beef tripe in tomato sauce
Arroza Txirlekin — Clams & Rice (same as the one Jesus made for our class on Monday)
Txingarretan Saiheskiak — Slowly roasted garlicky ribs Green Salad & Cake
So, yes! being in Boise is great on many accounts, but the history, gastronomy & solidarity of the Basque that impregnate the town helped me feel at home right away.
Both my Food & Culture classes celebrated Basque culture in Boise. Chef Jesus Alcelay hosted the Monday night class & on Friday basque scholar Argia Beristain shared her family recipe—see details here.
We sat we Argia & her husband Keenan. To my right, two families of first generation immigrants who both came as shepherds, & one told me that he was the last shepherd to have come from the Basque country. It was moving to hear their stories. As I said on this blog, I read John Bieter’s (B.S.U History Professor) & Mark Bieter’s excellent book : An Enduring Legacy : The History of basque in Idaho, but hearing stories first hand is very special. I wish I had written down their names to thank them for their hospitality & sharing. Please contact to me if you read this blog so I can add your names. (Addendum: Thank you Argia! to my right Miguel Angel Azpitarte)
. Voilà! meanwhile here is video to give you a taste & a sound bite of the evening. A happy Saint Joseph’s day & a heart felt eskerrikasko!
WHAT DO WE EAT? WHY DO WE EAT IT?
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM? HOW DO WE COOK IT? (Class description blow)
I am having a lot of fun teaching two courses on Food & Culture at Boise State University Honors College. The students are amazing, and so dedicated to learn about food & to cooking meals from scratch. I dedicated this past week to Basque Culture since Boise has a big Basque population —Immigration goes way back to late 1800’s. More details on Basque culture in Boise soon. But meanwhile you can view the last two cooking classes documented below. I was aptly assisted by two Basque immigrants: Jesus Alcelay executive chef at Cottonwood & Basque Scholar Argia Beristain.
While eating is the most common shared need of humankind, the great varieties of foods and cuisines serve not only our biological survival but also help to identify ourselves culturally. This course explores historical, economic, and ritual aspects of food, and looks at the role of cooking and eating in the context of the transformations of the world food system due to globalization, new technologies & migrations. Through lectures, demonstrations, films and hands-on preparation, students will learn to analyze their own food heritage while exploring local, national and international ingredients and their use. This very interactive —and tasty seminar— will also give you the basic skills to cook simple, healthy and affordable meals. You will learn knife skills, soup making, how to prepare party foods like crêpes or simple hors d’oeuvres, and how to plan menus for yourself and/or the family.
Otherwise, incredibly busy teaching / cooking / performing 3 classes to remarquable, attentive & generous students. My courses are 2 sections of a food & culture course for the Boise State Honors College:
What Do We Eat? Why Do We Eat It? Where Does It Come From? How Do We Cook It? While eating is the most common shared need of humankind, the great varieties of foods and cuisines serve not only our biological survival but also help to identify ourselves culturally. This course explores historical, economic, and ritual aspects of food, and looks at the role of cooking and eating in the context of the transformations of the world food system due to globalization, new technologies & migrations. Through lectures, demonstrations, films and hands-on preparation, students will learn to analyze their own food heritage while exploring local, national and international ingredients and their use. This very interactive —and tasty seminar— will also give you the basic skills to cook simple, healthy and affordable meals. You will learn knife skills, soup making, how to prepare party foods like crêpes or simple hors d’oeuvres, and how to plan menus for yourself and/or the family.
P P P : Practice Performance Poetry As Jacques Roubaud writes: “Just about anything may be encountered in the guise of ‘performance poetry’: music, declamation, theatrical bits, acrobatics, ‘primal screams,’ and so on.” We will indeed explore the full range of poetry-in-action both theoretically & practically. Your active participation will be the key that will open the space for an experimental individual & collective heuristic practice. Our workshop type class emphasis is on practice. You will be making work in class & are expected to perform it. Be prepared to be immersed in the art of the act of doing from the moment you walk into class on day one. Practice will include working on skills that will help you connect with your voice & body as the instruments they are. Through breathing techniques, voice warm-up, light stretches you will learn to develop & expand your creative & delivery powers, to trust & stretch your performative skills. To substantiate this practice we will investigate a range of manifestos, movements and cultural contexts from paleolithic art to today’s performance art.
Life is on a slower pace here. The weather mild & dry, people extremely kind —& surprisingly liberal, food exquisite & to give it the perfect flavor a huge Basque community —some say about 20 000! ( see pictures below) So chorizo, pimiento, lamb dishes permeate many restaurant menus!
We were graced by Jerome & Diane Rothenberg visit. They came to talk to our classes & Jerome gave a wonderful reading —Video to be uploaded soon!
Diane & Jerome Rothenberg in Boise
Jerome & Diane visiting my PPP Class
Reading at BSU
Delicious food at the Basque Market in Boise
Great Basque food at Bar Guernica
Got my bag at the Basque market
Cooked by students in class
1st Class on Campus
1st Class on Campus
Idaho beans are outstanding
HidePark hood in Boise
Nez Pierce are close by. I have not yet found camas to eat.
In case you miss this very exciting chapter of our life in January: We went to Park City Utah
“As You Are” was selected in the US DRAMA Competition
A Film by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte & post-prod supervisor & one of the producer brother Joseph Mastantuono
And the winner for U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for the film is: Miles Joris Peyrafitte for As You Are ! Bravo !
En Route to Idaho — Day 5 : Rock Springs, Wyoming – Twin Falls, Idaho
We made it to Idaho! Not yet in Boise, but close since we are 128 miles away. Today we drove 403 miles (649 Kms) from the high desert land —just above 7,000 feet (2134m) above sea level. We bid farewell to I-80 that had taken us all the way from some 5 miles beyond the Holland Tunnel in New Jersey & on route 30 Pierre readjusted to driving on a classic two lane blacktop! We were on the lookout for wild life since there was many warning sign about deer & elk roaming;the temperature being 5ºf (-15c) the fauna kept under cover except for a very low altitude majestic soaring bald eagle. We crossed the border at a place called Border, WY!
Outside Rock Springs
Read the signs!
For months I had made plans to visit the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot & we did! The small museum is mostly about the industrialization of the potato in Idaho. They pride themselves on displaying info that goes “From the original potato planted in Idaho, to the largest potato crisp made by the Pringle’s Company in Jackson, TN”. The famous Idaho potato is a Russet Burbank, developed from the heirloom Early Rose parent plant by Luther Burbank in 1872.
There is a lot to say about the origin of the Potato, but I will limit myself to repeat what you certainly already know, namely that the potato originated in Peru and was unknown to the Europe until the Spaniards brought it back to their country of origin. I am saving the rest for my class at BSU! Driving down to Twin Falls we could see miles and miles of the winterized fields of spuds & their storage facilities. Both Pierre & I had hoped to find a nice organic, local baked russet potato with all the toppings for our dinner, but no such luck — a shame, as we are looking forward to break our diet! — We usually don’t eat potatoes but when in Idaho do like the Idahoans!
Pierre running away with a cute Idaho girl!
She let Pierre go in exchange of my red hat
Potato God Nazca Culture c.400 A.D
Originally we had planned to drive to Pocatello to get closer to Boise but I asked the lady at the museum what scenic location she would recommend us to see on the way south. She highly recommended the Shoshone Falls, located at the edge of Twin Falls, on the Snake River. The falls are higher than Niagara Falls (At 212 feet). Great suggestion to get to see another spectacular scenery.
Lunch was to finish up what was left in our cooler. I made lettuce wraps with hummus, red bell pepper, fennel, cheddar — lovely!, while dinner was a brown rice bowl & a salad at the very mediocre restaurant of the hotel.
I have many more videos & pictures to share but tonight we are fried & starting to think about our new life in Boise Idaho!
En Route to Idaho — Day 4 : North Platte, Nebraska – Rock Springs, Wyoming
It was very rewarding to jump in the car at 7:28AM with ambient temperature at 7ºF /-14ºc & embark on another spectacular drive. First the sun rose in our backs as we left Nebraska & then huge gorgeous clear skies welcomed us into Wyoming.
Considering equipment for next trip
Would like to try the frying pan & the oven
Can you get the one book I would consider?
The biggest beef jerky display I have ever seen.
This is the proof it is a real truck stop
Shortly after our gas-&-trucker-materials pit-stop, we made a further stop at a look-out to catch the views. We were surprised to meet up with a very famous tree that grows out of a boulder of pre-historic rock. The Tree Rock is located right between Cheyenne and Laramie plumb in the middle of Interstate 80, literally hugged between its east- and west-going lanes.
The tree grows out of a crack in a pre-Cambrian pink Sherman granite boulder formed anywhere from 1-4 billion years ago. (The granite that is, the tree is somewhat younger, but that species of pine can live as long as 2,000 years.)
As read on one of the The Tree Rock —a.k.a “the lone tree”— tourist-info tablets, the transcontinental railroad tracks of the Union Pacific Railroad lie a short distance to the west, as lies the Ames Monument, erected to commemorate the highest point of the railroad’s route honor the Ames brothers. I remembered very well that Augustus Saint-Gaudens had chiseled the bas-reliefs —from Quincy, Massachusetts, granite! — & architect H. H. Richardson designed the pyramid (as well as the Albany City Hall!) I have worked on several project on Augustus Saint Gaudens & even though this is not my favorite work of his, I was delighted to find his work here, since I have seen almost all ASG public works.
We continued our journey towards Rock Spring thru more beautiful landscapes where the speed limit went up to 80 miles p/h! I will never forget the golden pale yellows of the endless prairies illuminating the snow, the light blue sky & the pinkish granite boulders.
Our picnic at the Ames monument was a little less fancy today —since we are starting to run out of provisions— but was still nourishing: hummus, bread, cheese, apples & nuts. Tonight we went out to dinner at a local restaurant (attracted at first by the name, The Coyote Creek Steakhouse) where Pierre had a decent sirloin, turned down all five of the offered potato-versions, settling for green beans while & I had a bison burger — sans buns but with more green beans.
Today we also passed the 2000 miles marker. One more day on the road before Boise. Tomorrow through Pocatello to give a thought to Pierre’s old friend Ed Dorn & on to Blackfoot to visit the potato museum.
Day #3Des Moines, Iowa – North Platte, Nebraska: 400 Miles 644Kms We left Des Moines a little after 9AM since we opted for a lighter driving day . It was 19ºF /-7ºc when we left Iowa. The light fog wrapping the windmills was beautifully quixotic. The fog had cleared by the time we reached Nebraska and clear skies accompanied us to North Platte.
We filled up the car & had breakfast before leaving so we stopped only for lunch. No rest stop extravaganza today, au contraire we opted to lunch at the Mormon Island State Recreation Area conveniently located off I-80. Named for the winter stopover used by Mormon emigrants heading westward we enjoyed lunching by the frozen lake and watching some locals ice fishing.
We then headed to North Platte where we had a blast visiting the Buffalo Bill residence’s outdoors grounds since the location is closed for the winter. On this Sunday afternoon North Platte was a pretty empty town and very few of its 24 000 inhabitants were visible. But the world’s largest Rail Yard sure was! After spotting the longest train we had ever seen going through town, we decided to visit the train yard and got there right on time to climb to the top of the The Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center & what an amazing view!
This location was chosen because of its close proximity to the Platte river and to Grand Island. Nebraska’s been a railroad center since the Union Pacific Railroad first reached here in July 1866 & that first train rolled through what was known at the time as “Hell on Wheels” town. Today Bailey Yard, named for former Union Pacific president Edd H. Bailey, is the world’s largest train yard. Covering a massive 2,850 acres, each day Bailey Yard manages 10,000 railroad cars. Of those, 3,000 are sorted to make sure the cargo reaches its final destination. We sure did see some action from the Golden Spike Tower. We watched a gorgeous sunset and went to find our motel for the night.
Again we were able to make our lunch, dinner, coffees & teas. Lunch was a tuna fish salad into which I mixed the last of the grains — faro, rye & oats mixture — diced daikon, carrot, celery, red pepper, dressed w/ PJ’s Meyer lemon vinaigrette. Pierre had cheddar I had goat cheese with bran crackers,nuts & a clementine. For tonight’s dinner we finished the lentils as a soup, made a salad & used the last of PJ’s dressing, Blue Iowa Maytag plus apples & walnuts for dessert. Tomorrow a longer ride: trying to get to Rock Spring Wyoming!
And now if you have travel so far with us you might want to watch a freight train passing by for almost 3 minutes — and that is not even the full train. Mesmerizing!
Day #2Maumee, Ohio – Des Moines, Iowa: 558 Miles or 898 Kms
After drinking Pierre’s prepared cup of warm water with lemon & cayenne pepper water & our travelling green magic juice we hopped in the car at 7:50am to resume our journey West on I-80.
When we stopped for gas in Greenfield, Indiana we were reminded that if we wanted a soda, we should ask for “pop”! The lady at the Hardee’s was eager to take our order but we had our solid breakfast of pumpernickel bread, butter & cheese & we made coffee in the car.
Second stop was in Morris, Illinois & the R-Place Restaurant with its collection of antique toy displays, including a wonderful puppet show kept me busy filming & photographing for a while. I did ask for 4 quarters to play the puppet show. The clerk was proud to tell me that the puppet show grossed $80 per month, that was 320 plays.
Again we didn’t get any food though I considered the Strawberry Pillows for a solid minute — but by looking at the thing intensely I could almost taste it & that was enough to feel the sugar rush!
We left Illinois, crossed the Mississippi, & drove into Iowa.
I had noticed on the Waze app that the World’s Largest Truckstopwas coming up on I-80 at the Walcott Exit. We stopped there & lunched on Romaine lettuce with carrots, celery, left-over pork roast, sardines, cheddar dressed with Pierre’s delicious Meyer lemon & olive oil vinaigrette & concluded with our usual plain yogurt with cinnamon, stevia & grilled seeds.
Then we had molto fun visiting the amazing World’s Largest Truckstop. We didn’t make it to the adjacent truck museum but we had a lovely time talking to several truckers who were trying new truck seats. Pierre joined them for a tryout of new-fangled special rubber seating. We exchanged our destinations & they advised us that road conditions between Cheyenne & Idaho can be very bad & told us to make sure to have a full tank of gas when starting this portion of the trip. Another trucker & his wife from New Orleans gave us the price of some of the chromes on display. “A $1000 for that apron. I’m gonna put some on my truck soon”. The sword & knife window display was open & a family was deciding what kind of knife to buy; a lady bought a mini gun. Pierre checked out the library section & considered buying a Louis L’amour Western audio book but since we had just started listening to the Lewis & Clark journal diariesavailable free here, we decided to pass.
Settled into our comfy Sterling Hotel suite —with terrible internet, after a quick trip to the Wholefood to pick up a salad & some cheese (a chunk of excellent! Iowa Maytag Blue — same family making blue cheese since 1941!) we had dinner, i.e. yesterday’s lentil salad turned into a stew to which I added some grains (farro & oats), followed by apples, nuts & cheese — the Iowa maytag, of course. & now some zzzz before heading to Wyoming. From here on out the route is new, for Pierre too who had driven this part of I-80 only to turn south here in Des Moines to visit with Ken Irby in Lawrence, Kansas. But that was in 1987, & this is today. Onwards! Let the wagons roll…
January 1 2016
Nice first day on the road to Idaho. Smooth ride with with very little traffic . We left Bayridge, Brooklyn at 7:56 & got to Maumee, Ohio 5:58PM. We drove 566 miles (910 kms) out of 2475 miles (3983 kms) to get to Boise Idaho. We crossed New-Jersey, Pennsylvania & two third of Ohio.
We made our coffees, teas, lunch (Braised d’Artagnan Berkshire Pork; Lentil Salad; Greens, Goat Yogurt w/ Cinammon/Stevia & Roasted Seeds) & dinner (Red Miso Soup with Oats,Rye & Farro; Pumpernickel Buttered Bread; Hard Boiled Egg, Carrot & Celery, Cheddar w/ Apples & Cashew Nuts.
We listened to France Culture, NPR, John Coltrane, Matthew Ship, Michael Bisio & Cheikha Rimitti.
Below is the photo reportage, stay tuned!