Teaching Basque Food Culture in Boise

Teaching Basque Food Culture in Boise

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.

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Monday Class : Cooking with Basque Chef Jesus Alcelay
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Friday Class : Basque Family Cooking with Basque Scholar Argia Berinstain

Course Description:
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.

 

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!

En Route to Idaho — Day 5 : Rock Springs, Wyoming – Twin Falls, Idaho

En Route to Idaho — Day 5 : Rock Springs, Wyoming – Twin Falls, Idaho

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!

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!

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.

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Lettuce wrap

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 – Rock Springs

En Route to Idaho — Day 4 : North Platte – Rock Springs

En Route to Idaho — Day 4 : North Platte, Nebraska – Rock Springs, Wyoming IMG_1892

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.

 

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.

En Route to Idaho — Day 3 : Des Moines – North Platte

En Route to Idaho — Day 3 : Des Moines – North Platte

Day #3  Des 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!