Category: Basque gastronomy (page 1 of 6)

Zorionak to Dr. Kerri Lesh on successful PhD defense!

“If you can’t market in your own language, what you are communicating implicitly then is that Euskara is only worth something when used to market traditional, historic, old products… this is inadmissible, it tramples on the rights of any language that you want to revitalize” (Estitxu Garai, May 12, 2017).

On May 1 2019, CBS graduate student Kerri Lesh defended her PhD dissertation titled “Through the Language of Food: Creating Linguistic and Cultural Value through Basque (Euskara) Semiotics to Market Local Gastronomic Products.” Kerri’s work met with unanimous appraisal from her committee and the audience. Zorionak, Dr. Lesh!

Kerri’s dissertation committee consisted of Sandra Ott (Center for Basque Studies, UNR) and Jenanne Ferguson (Department of Anthropology, UNR) as co-chairs, as well as Ian Clayton (English Department, UNR), Agurtzane Elordui (University of the Basque Country), and Begoña Echevarria (University of California, Riverside).

Kerri spent a year conducting anthropological fieldwork in various locations of the Basque Country, including intensive language immersion at barnetegis (Basque-only language schools) in order to understand the interfaces of culture, language and gastronomy. Her basic research question was:

Amid ever increasing interest in Basque gastronomy, how can value (cultural, economic, social) be created when using the minoritized language, Euskara, to market gastronomic products in working toward language normalization?

In order to answer this basic question, Kerri conducted dozens of formal and informal interviews with actors in the sectors of gastronomy and language maintenance: Michelin-star chefs, gastronomic societies, milk, cider, Txakolina, Rioja Alavesa and beer producers, Basque professors and sociolinguists, NGOs and interest groups.

In her dissertation talk, Kerri discussed the commensality of Basque gastronomic societies or txokos, and their role for Basque culture and language maintenance against the backdrop of changing gender relations. She talked about the “battle of milk” between the producers Kaiku and Euskal Herria Esnea, and the role of products for social reproduction through language. The Basque sagardotegi or cider house is another gastro-space where Basque “authenticity” is produced and consumed. The audience learned the ways “txakoliscape,” as part of the Basque “semiofoodscape,” is a landscape of value, identity, experience, and political and social contestation.

Kerri concluded that further research should be done in order to learn more about what is valued and why, through food and wine products and commensality, in the Basque Country and beyond. She argued that further effort must be made for language maintenance, and tools related to product marketing may continue to be useful in the effort. Finally, she highlighted the antagonisms between authenticity and integrity versus the commodification of language and goods.

 

  

Below are some of the revealing quotes Dr. Lesh presented from actors involved with food, wine and language in the Basque Country. Once again, congratulations, Kerri, and thank you for sharing the results of what seems to have been an intoxicating fieldwork experience!

 

Kerri’s dissertation committee: Sandy Ott, Jenanne Ferguson, Joseba Zulaika and Ian Clayton. Others attended via video conference.

 “We want to demonstrate that we are committed to a civil activity, to the defense of the products. A defense of territory also exists…many times businessmen cannot compete with products that come from outside, often with poor salaries. When defending a local product, we are defending the local producer.” (Luis Mokoroa, Presidente de la Cofradía Vasca de Gastronomía de San Sebastián (President for the Basque Fraternity of Gastronomy of San Sebastian), Terrigastro, February 13, 2018).

“Internationally I am proud and don’t fear retaliation [for using Basque] …but within Spain, you have to be brave to use Basque on the label” (Itxaso Compañon, text message, Oct. 24, 2017).

 “The label is not important, what’s important is the essence and experience you give…it would be an error to lose the essence and think that you have to translate everything”“focusing on key words would be helpful if one wanted to use a language to market” (Agirre, November 24, 2017).

“The women, in the world of Txakolina back then, as well as in other activities, were limited to doing the manual work often, cleaning bottles, labeling them, selling the Txakolina, and dividing up the money…And now, there are a lot of women in the world of Txakolina, things continue evolving.” (Iratxe Zabala, email to author, August 30, 2018).

Dissertation Defense for Kerri Lesh on May 1st

The Center for Basque Studies is pleased to announce that next Wednesday, CBS graduate student Kerri Lesh will be defending her dissertation titled: “Through the Language of Food: Creating Linguistic and Cultural Value through Basque (Euskara) Semiotics to Market Local Gastronomic Products”.

Her defense will start in MIKC 305N at 9:00 am. Please join us in wishing Kerri our best and congratulations for reaching the final stage!

Kerri Lesh

 

Two-week Study Abroad: “Basque Languge, Food, and Culture” Summer 2019

Winter break has come and gone, and we are already into spring semester! I am thinking eagerly of summer, not only because (if all goes as planned) I will have defended my dissertation and gone on to teach my first on-campus course, but because I have finally gotten an opportunity to develop my own study abroad program, “Basque Language, Food, and Culture.”

My undergraduate years were spent being a little lost until I decided I would study abroad. Years of sitting in a seat and reading books finally materialized into tangible things such as innovative architecture, delicious food, beautiful landscapes, and connecting with those from other countries through their spoken language. While working at the University of Kansas, my colleagues at the Admissions Office used to send students to me when asked about study abroad opportunities. I would go on about all the ways in which my learning was enhanced by my experiences abroad; they were the same experiences that brought me to where I am today, having lived in the Basque Country for a year conducting fieldwork, and being able to communicate in more than one language.

That is why I have developed a two-week study abroad program in the Basque Country. This program entails a couple of classes during the summer before departing mid-July and will include a final assignment due in August, upon return.

For further details visit: www.ACO.unr.edu

*Limited space available*

For questions, please email me: klesh@unr.edu

General Information:

Cost: $2,975 (airfare to Bilbao not included)

Where: The Basque Country

When: Onsite in Basque Country July 15-28th (2 classes pre-departure and  final assignment due in August)

 What: 3 Undergraduate/Graduate credits (ANTH 499/699, BASQ 499/699, COM 490/690, HIST 498/698, SOC 497/697)

 

Kerri Lesh talks “Txakolina” on Academic Minute and NPR podcast

Just before the Thanksgiving weekend on November 20th, Academic Minute featured a series of pieces about various drinks, to include beer and caffeinated beverages. Among the academics featured, Kerri Lesh presented on Txakolina–“a hard to define wine.”

As a cultural and linguistic anthropologist and Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), Kerri’s research examines the use of the Basque language, Euskara, in the creation of value for marketing local gastronomic products.  Her dissertation, divided into chapters on various Basque beverages, analyzes how each product distinctly functions in various markets when using Euskara to promote it.  One of her chapters looks at the various ways in which the traditional Basque wine, txakolina, is advertised and commodified to create value for the product as well as the Basque language.

Her piece that is featured can be found here on Academic Minute and on NPR’s podcast, discusses the uniqueness of this locally produced Basque wine, and the uncharacteristic ways in how it is defined. Aside from her love of food and wine, the aim for Kerri’s dissertation is to demonstrate ways in which value is created for the Basque language in contribution to language normalization.

Kerri plans to defend her dissertation this upcoming May, and to teach a course during the first session of summer titled “Consuming Identities: Food and Drink as Cultural Heritage.”

 

Kerri Lesh presents at the 117th American Anthropological Association annual meeting

Photo credit: Mariann Vaczi

Last week, Kerri Lesh returned from presenting at the 117th American Anthropological Association‘s annual meeting in San Jose, California. Her presentation titled “Size (and Shape) Matters: Creating Value with the Basque Language through Wine, Cider, and Font” illustrated the value of using language in its form and content for marketing gastronomic products. Kerri was delighted to present alongside scholars such as Martha Karrebӕk, Kathleen Riley, Richard Wilk, and Chelsie Yount-André in their panel “Food, Money, and Morals: Semiotic Reconfigurations of Value.”

Kerri is a member of the Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition (SAFN) as well as a member of the Culture and Agriculture groups that are part of the larger AAA. Amongst attending other events and speakers, Kerri attended the SAFN meeting where Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director of Food First, was the keynote.  Eric is of Basque and Puerto Rican heritage and grew up milking cows and pitching hay in Point Reyes, CA, where he learned that putting food on the table is hard work. After studying rural education and biology at the University of Oregon and Evergreen State College, he traveled through Mexico and Central America, where he was drawn to the simple life of small-scale farmers. He is the editor of the Food First book Food Movements Unite! Strategies to Transform Our Food Systems; co-author of Food Rebellions! Crisis and the Hunger for Justice with Raj Patel and Annie Shattuck; and author of the book Campesino a Campesino: Voices from Latin America’s Farmer to Farmer Movement for Sustainable Agriculture and of many academic, magazine and news articles.

 

Kerri has the pleasure of meeting Eric as the SAFN/Culture and Agriculture reception where Kerri and Daniel Shattuck were presenting Basque wine and Italian olive oil tastings. Three txakolinak were served in addition to the olive oil, both demonstrating the importance of culture in the development of taste and terroir. 

Photo Credit: Mark Anthony Arceño

If you like txakoli as much as everyone at the reception did, stay tuned for a piece on Academic Minute and NPR podcast where Kerri provides food for thought on this Basque beverage.

Photo Credit: Mark Anthony Arceño

 

 

 

From Cataluña to Euskadi: An interview with Mikel and Fatima

Ever wonder what life is like on a vineyard in the middle of a mountain in the Basque Country?
A Catalan interviewer spent a couple days with Fatima and Mikel to find out what their lives are like living in a baserri on a vineyard that produces the Basque wine, txakoli. Conducting the interview mostly in Spanish, he introduces viewers to the couple’s lives as they talk about how they met, what life is like together in their baserri, the work that takes place in the vineyard, and how a meal is prepared inside a gastronomic society.
This interview is especially meaningful to me as I spent a couple months of my research year living with Mikel and Fatima in a tiny neighborhood up the hill from the town of Elorrio. While I was conducting interviews and learning Euskara, they allowed me into their lives, sharing their home, language, food, and knowledge with me during my stay. This couple has an amazing story and they are generous enough to share it with so many people.
So, kick back with your coffee (or Basque beverage of choice) to enjoy the first 30 minutes of this segment that gives us a peek into the lives of two people who continue to open their home, sharing what life is like for them in the Basque Country.

Nevada Stories Series: Folklife Program Videos Online

A couple of months ago, I came across a few videos on the Nevada Arts Council website highlighting Basque culture in Nevada.

Nevada Stories is an online video series focusing on folk and traditional artists, specific local traditions, and Nevada’s landscape. An outreach activity of the NAC Folklife Program, it supports the Nevada Arts Council’s mission to provide folklife education to all age groups and to highlight the individual folk artists, traditional communities, and cultural sites that make Nevada distinctive. Filming and production are funded through Folk and Traditional Arts grants from the National Endowment for the Arts.

I’ll share the Basque ones here, but be sure to check out the website for more on the many cultures that comprise Nevada!

The Basque Chef: Asier Garcia

Visitors to the 34th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko (2018)–themed “Basques and Buckaroos”–saw firsthand that Basques know how to have fun! A popular social pastime in the Basque Country involves bar hopping while sampling the pintxo (pronounced “peen-show”) or bite-sized snack specialties of the house. Our guest chef Asier Garcia hails from Bizkaia and is now a resident of Boise. Asier leads a workshop group through the intricacies of creating a dozen different pintxos, deconstructing this artful tradition to enhance their culinary repertoires and satisfy their appetites.


Basque Cooking With Jean Flesher

Utah bandleader, contractor, Basque personality and cook Jean Flesher presents Basque cuisine in traditional fashion with a northern Basque country (French influenced) flavor. The workshop features classic dishes and cooking techniques. Participants learned new recipes (included in the video) and left with satisfied appetites and a full serving of Basque joi de vivre. This film was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and partnerships between the Western Folklife Center, Nevada’s Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, and the Nevada Arts Council.

Hunting the Mountain Picassos

For more than half a century, Jean and Phillip Earl of Reno have used clues from old maps, letters, and books to hunt for and document “Mountain Picassos,” distinctive figures carved into aspen trees found in the high country meadows of the Great Basin. These figures– along with names, dates, and sayings– were carved by Basque sheepherders in the early to mid-20th century.

Euskal Jaiak: Celebrating Basque Culture – the 50th Annual National Basque Festival, Elko
For the last 50 years, Basque families from throughout the American West have gathered in Elko, Nevada on 4th of July weekend to celebrate their culture and the opportunities afforded them in the USA. Filmed over the three days of the 2013 National Basque Festival, “Euskal Jaiak: Celebrating Basque Culture” offers the viewer an all-embracing view of this multi-faceted event.

To learn more about Basque’s in Nevada, go to, Home Means Nevada 1896: Folklife in Nevada Historic Radio Series

Bill Douglass Featured in the Las Vegas Sun

Bill Douglass, the founder of the Center for Basque Studies, was interviewed by Yvonne Gonzalez of the Las Vegas Sun for a Q + A in her piece about the Basque Fry Fundraiser in Gardnerville, Nevada. Since Douglass has been researching and writing about the Basques and Basque culture since the 1960s, he was the natural choice to ask questions about Basque cuisine, culture, history and how all of these aspects helped shape the American West into what it is today.

Bill Douglass

Bill Douglass

He explained how the Basque cuisine is different in the United States than in Euskadi because of the different availabilities to seafood. He also talked about the history of Basque boardinghouses and how it shaped the way we think of Basque cuisine today, as well as the way Basque immigrants have been viewed in the United States and the fluctuating status of the sheep industry. It is a fascinating interview and if you want to learn more about Basque culture, history or the diaspora, this is a great read!

The Basque mural in Gardnerville, Nevada by Beverly Caputo; to read more about The Basque mural, click here: https://bit.ly/2N7E1I7

The Basque mural in Gardnerville, Nevada by Beverly Caputo; to read more about The Basque mural, click here: https://bit.ly/2N7E1I7

To learn more about the interview or The Basque Fry Fundraiser in Gardnerville, Nevada click here: https://bit.ly/2MSKWop

Of pigs and onions: Prestigious broadcaster includes Basque subjects in its endangered food series

One of the world’s most prestigious broadcasting institutions, the BBC, produces a radio show titled The Food Programme for its Radio 4 network. This show includes a special series on endangered foods, part of international project created by Slow Food to save foods at risk of extinction, titled the Ark of Taste, which among its many fascinating reports has included short descriptions of both the Euskal Txerria Pig and the Red Onion of Zalla (Bizkaia) – both topics covered here at our humble blog. In both cases, too, the reports make a compelling case for the intersection between food and human culture.

Click here to listen to the report on the Euskal Txerria (3 min 56 sec). See a couple of posts we have done on Basque pigs here and here.

Click here to listen to the report on the Zalla Onion (3 min 57 sec). See our post on these wonderful red onions here.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Txakolina Fest at Craft Wine and Beer

Mural design and photo by Erik Burke

I like to think of myself as an unofficial ambassador for the Basque wine, Txakolina. Apart from making it a chapter of my dissertation, which demonstrates how Euskara is used to market locally produced foods, I also just love drinking it. So, when this libation is celebrated right here in Reno at Craft Wine and Beer, it’s time to make some noise!

This year, Craft Wine and Beer’s Txakolina Fest will be on Friday, May 25th from 5-9pm. Ty Martin and his crew put on this Basque-inspired event, and seem to amp it up every year.  Here is his sneak preview of what is to come this Friday:

Between graduation parties, the first BBQ’s of the season, and all the yard work (so much yard work), we also cram in a bunch of seasonal events, and my favorite event we do might just be TXAKOLINA FEST! It’s always a hustle to get the fresh vintage of our favorite Basques wines to Reno before everyone checks out for summer, but the stars aligned this year. For your sampling pleasure, we’ll be pouring AT LEAST six Txakolina from Bizkaia, Getaria, and Alava alongside various Basque ciders. Glasses can be had all evening on Friday, May 25th, from 5pm until close with a more formal(ish) flight offering from 5p-7p. We will also smoke some chorizo from Villa Basque down Carson way. Rumor has it that some dancers from Zazpiak Bat may be just loose enough by the evening to cut a rug and show you a few steps. Lastly, in the spirit of Basque competition, we’ll have a “Best Porron Pouring” contest and lots of dancing as the night wears on. Ladies, bring your best war cry!

For the oenophiles and foodies out there who would like to learn more about this Basque wine, check out the headlines that list several must-try “Txakolinak“:

Decanter’sTxakoli: The Spanish wine style you need to try in 2018

Food and Wine’sThirty Roses to drink this summer

Forbes’ Txakoli: The Choice Wine for Spring Sipping

Hope to see you all at Craft Wine and Beer this Friday for some Txakolina sippin’!

 

 

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