Burning Lamb & Bands : TreeFort 2016

Burning Lamb & Bands : TreeFort 2016

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Dear Boise,

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!

NP

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 FunnelSMOKE + Q&ACarbon + Q&A

Thursday March 24
Filmfort :

Outstanding  afternoon of screenings. Different genres but totally inspiring works & Q&A
A Band Called Death  Q&A + Skype discussion with filmmakers
Everyone in Between
Genderations
The last two docs must be shown widely to get great insights & understanding of the —hopefully soon to be dead— gender labelizations.
Music:
Wolvserpent, Mamiffer, Chelsea Wolve (the last one was my favorite)

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.) 
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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.)

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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!

Merci Les Bois!

Boisen Euskal Bizitza or Basque Life Style in Boise

Boisen Euskal Bizitza or  Basque Life Style in Boise

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 are Vascons, a people of ancient Iberia & undoubtedly facial as well as cultural features remain & I definitely 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 eskerrik asko!

 

The Boise Report

The Boise Report

Very much enjoying our stay in Boise, Idaho.
On Saturday I was invited to give a short performance at The Cabin, a Center for writers, readers — & performance, since the event was called: GHOSTS & PROJECTORS presents: The Poetry Speakeasy.

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.

& one workshop for the English department —where Pierre is visiting writer in residence:

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!

Méchoui or Whole Lamb on a Spit

Méchoui or Whole Lamb on a Spit

Cooking on a spit was the theme of Pierre’s 65th birthday. After the cake on the spit (see previous blog here),  voilà the lamb on the spit a.k.a méchoui! According to the Robert historique de la langue Française the origin of the word méchoui is: “Borrowed (1912) from the Arabic maghrebien mešwi “roasted, grilled; lamb roasted on a spit”, past participle of šawa (شوى ), to roast, to grill”.   This dish is very popular in North Africa where  Pierre lived several years.

As we still are in the village of Bourg d’Oueil, in the heart of the French Pyrenees, the lamb will be  provided by no one else than our neighbors & friends, the Jamme family.  The 17 kgs (37,5 lbs) lamb, fetched from the nearby mountains a few days before, is “un broutard” or a “grazer”; that is a lamb that had passed the nursing stage and is already grazing. And now the photo log of an another amazing communal food experience:


The day before our friend André brought very dry wood he had split for the occasion & the spit that Marc had fetched from Yves the butcher. In the late afternoon I went to the Jamme’s house to rub the lamb with a thick marinade of olive oil, garlic, wild thyme, salt & piment d’Espelette (chili pepper from the basque country); then we returned the lamb to rest overnight in the walk-in cooler.

Now we went to the village hall multipurpose room to set up the tables. The meal will be inside, since we knew the weather was not going to be warm enough. As no rain was forecast, so the aperitif will be served outside. With Sylvia Gorelick —who made all the bouquets with wild flowers she had gathered in the fields near by— Marie Jeanne Jamm, — who brought additional sheets to cover the tables— Maïté & Michou — Pierre’s sister — set up a beautiful banquet table for 50 people. The event was becoming more elaborate as I had planned.  As we got closer to the date the eating of the birthday lamb as a casual outdoor buffet turning into an elaborate banquet.

On d-day: I am up at 7:30 am to set up for the méchoui. My neighbors Robi & farmer Roland Jamme (remember him from the cake) arrived shortly thereafter. Together we start the fire, strategize and go get the lamb prepped as best as we can to avoid any complication during cooking.

That’s it! it is 9:45am the beast is on the spit, as we have a manual spit, it is going to be crucial to have someone monitoring, turning & basting —w/the same marinade as above— the lamb & adding coals to the fire. Robi & Roland have set up a second fire next to the méchoui were they burn logs to turn them into charcoal, which they add under our lamb in order to keep an even fire.


I had nothing to worry about as Robi, Roland & now Pierre were fully in charge of the lamb. Accompanied by the same crew as last night we are setting up for cocktail hour & hors d’oeuvres. Joseph Garcès, who was Maitre d’H at the family hôtel for 14 years, came right on time to slice the magnificent bellota ham —acorn fed pig—  shipped to us by my nephew Vincent from a small Spanish farm. I had also prepared salads of heirloom tomatoes and organic haricots-vert that we set up on the table along with the ham. The fragrant cantaloupe from the Gers will be passed around once people are seated.

 It is around 12pm and guests are filling in. They are “appetizing” on cherry tomatoes, patés, salamis, radishes —here my 89 year old father is particularly enjoying them— while sipping the pleasant Marquisette, a cocktail make by Maïté & Robi — wine, vanilla bean, lime & seltzer, served by Marie-Jeanne Peyroulan an old time friend who came from a near valley with her son Teo who played a lot of “Quiller” —an ancient version of bowling— with my adorable niece Lou.


It is now 1 pm and the lamb is cooked! My brother Jean-Louis will assist Roland, Robi & Marc for the carving while my nieces Mag & Isa will pass the cut meat to the guests. To serve with the lamb, my friend Paulette made the most tasty Pistache Luchonnaise ever—a white bean & lamb stew with pork rind — a specialty of the Comminges region— Paulette’s Pistache almost stole the show from the Méchoui and the cóca! Unfortunately no pictures were taken as every body was too busy eating. We had seconds & some had thirds. We took a little break and had a cheese course. Not any kind of cheese, no, a Poubeau cheese if you please! Read about it here. It was a perfectly aged one; Joseph Garcès is on a “cheese plan”; that is that he reserves a full wheel six months in advance and lets it age in the cheese maker’s cave. Joseph offered his reserved wheel to Pierre for his birthday party!


It is now about 4pm and about time to present the birthday boy with his very special cake. After singing Happy Birthday, we serve the cake with crème anglaise, all the details about the incredible ancient cake are here. More singing was done by Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, Sylvia Gorelick, and a special tribute to Pierre by Joan-Francès Tisner & family who had come all the way from the Béarn. After coffee, Armagnac & Mirabelle —Thank you Michou & Julien for bringing the real stuff from Luxembourg! — it was about 6pm when the last guest left!

All of this could not have happend without the  amazing help of the family & a tight community of friends. Special thanks to the Jamme Family, Joseph Garcès & Paulette, Robi Castebrunet & Maïté, Conso, Michou, Marie-Jeanne, Domenja, Marie-Jo,  my parents Jean & Renée Peyrafitte, the Toucouère family, André, Marc & my brothers: Jean-Louis for his carving assistance and Pierre for the pix, Miles, Sylvia, all the wonderful guests & last but not least to Pierre whose birthday gave me a great opportunity to throw a party. MERCI!

Photo credit: Miles Joris-Peyrafitte & Nicole Peyrafitte

Coque or Gâteau à la Broche

Coque or Gâteau à la Broche

This was a dream come true. Since I was a little girl I have admired & loved this cake.  It is made for very special occasions like weddings, christenings, special birthdays or anniversaries. I found an entry for “coque” in an old Gascon dictionary that says “qu’èm invitats a la còca” meaning “we are invited to the christening.”
It takes hours to complete this cake and needless to say it is a very special present to be given one. When I spoke about Pierre’s birthday menu to my friend & neighbor Roland Jamme I couldn’t believe he offered to make one with his wife Simone. Not only were they going to make it, but I could be there the whole time! This incredible ancient cake takes over 5 hours to make and requires the constant participation of 2 people who will endure intense heat. As you will see below, someone has to sit in front of the fire at all times.
After consulting with Simone, Roland they set up the cake making date for Saturday July 9 at 8:30 am., i.e. 6 days before the party,  which would be perfect as the cake needs to age before being served.
I was instructed to show up in Garin —where Simone’s family home is— on time and with all the ingredients .

Thus I showed up very excited and armed with 72 eggs, 3 kgs of flour, 3 kgs of sugar, 3kgs of butter, 15 packed of vanilla flavored sugar, 1/2 litre of rum Negrita & a roll of parchment paper. I was finally going to see the gâteau à la broche made from scratch like it as been done for hundreds of years! So, voilà le photo-reportage of the making –and do not miss the short video. I want to thank Simone & Roland from the bottom of my heart for this incredible day.

  

All the ingredients are placed on the table in order not to forget anything.
Then all the 72 super fresh eggs are carefully separated.

  

I was entrusted with slowly melting the butter in a pan while Roland started whipping the egg whites.

Simone hand mixes all the ingredients expertly; the rum is the last one to go in.

Roland had started the fire before I arrived. Once the batter is done, the ancient wooden mold is warmed up then wrapped in parchment paper.

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The wrapped mold is warmed up again and lathered with butter. Now the cooking part can begin. Simone takes her position in front of the hearth and starts pouring the batter while Roland turns the handle. Simone & Roland have mentioned several time that the starting of the cake is a crucial moment in order to make it sturdy. The main fear is always to break the cake and this fear is only lifted once it has been delivered to the party place!

Slowly but surely the pouring & cooking continue. Closely supervised, I anxiously got to relieve Simone at pouring a few times and Roland at turning. As the cake becomes heavier the turning/cooking  gets trickier. The conversations are continuously interrupted by comments or commands like: “Il faut mettre – put some on,” ” tourne plus vite – turn faster,”  “attention le pied – watch the bottom,” “attend!  les piques brillent encore – Wait, the peaks are still shining.”

Roland keeps feeding the fire with long logs that he and his nephew Fabrice have cut for the occasion. Each log is carefully picked as the fire needs to be highly controlled. Logs & embers are moved according to where most heat is needed.  Here we can see the cake shaping up. The “peaks” are starting to form. One of the conversation around the fire was about the length of the peaks, the pride of the cake makers, though Simone points out that she favors the taste over the shape and I agree.

As the batter in the basin diminishes slowly, Simone is wiping the sweat off her face more often. I try to relieve her as much as I can, but her expert hand is needed to “mettre” properly as it is getting more difficult; due to peak formation the batter sticks less and less so the spooning over has to be more frequent and the batter dripping in the pan needs to be quickly collected —that is before it cooks– and spooned back on too the cake (see video below).

 

Here we go! many hours later finally the last spoon of batter! The cake is perfect, just a little more cooking to give it the final golden look.

The cake is brought inside to cool off while resting between two chairs. After lunch Roland, with the help of Simone’s brother Jean-Claude, the mold is removed with a mallet! That part is very scary and you can sense the how everyone is tense in order to execute the appropriate move in order not to break the cake.

The cake was delivered by Roland & Simone on the morning of the party on July 14. We served it for dessert accompanied by crème paysanne —aka crème anglaise— that my mother, Marie-Jeanne Jamme & Robi Castbrunet made.  What a gift! I am so thankful to Roland and Simone for their generosity, time, expertise & hospitality at her family home. Watch the video and stay tune for the rest of the menu!

For your information a very similar cake, called Šakotis, is make in Lithuania, another close cousin is the German Baumkuchen.

Photos Credit: Nicole Peyrafitte & Roland Jamme
Video: Nicole Peyrafitte
Flower arrangement on the cake: Sylvia Gorelick

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