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!