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.”
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
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, 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.
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
To learn more about the interview or The Basque Fry Fundraiser in Gardnerville, Nevada click here: https://bit.ly/2MSKWop
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.
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’s “Txakoli: The Spanish wine style you need to try in 2018”
Food and Wine’s “Thirty 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’!
This semester Center for Basque Studies student, Kerri Lesh, was awarded a Bilinksi Fellowship for 2018-2019 by the College of Liberal Arts. She has been the first student from the Center for Basque Studies to be awarded a Bilinski Fellowship. A reception was held for the eight awardees who were announced May 3rd. Associate Dean Jane Detweiler presented the awards after a short welcome speech provided by Dean Debra Moddelmog. The previous year’s recipients were present to share their work with a poster presentation as they noshed on cookies and fruit.
Kerri was awarded $30,000 to support her in writing her dissertation, which focuses on the use of Euskara alongside the marketing of local gastronomic products of the Basque Country.
Russell J. and Dorothy S. Bilinski’s goal in life was to be independent and challenged intellectually. They strongly believed in people being self-sufficient, ambitious, and above all, responsible. Both Russell and Dorothy were true intellectuals, as well as being adventuresome, independent and driven. Russell was a researcher, academician, and an entrepreneur. Dorothy was an accomplished artist and patron of the arts. Russell and Dorothy believed that education was a means to obtain independence, and this is the legacy they wished to pass on to others.
In furtherance of that goal, when Russell and Dorothy died, they left a significant gift for the formation of a nonprofit corporate foundation. The Bilinski Educational Foundation seeks to fulfill this legacy by providing fellowship funds for post-secondary education for students who have demonstrated, and are likely to maintain, both the highest academic achievement and good moral character, but who lack the financial resources to complete their post-secondary education.
Martin Hotel to Add Second Location in Carson City
The Martin Hotel in Winnemucca will now open a second location in Carson City. The restaurant’s owner, John Arant, told the Nevada Appeal that Carson City and the Martin would make a good match. The Carson venue will feature the same menu as the Winnemucca restaurant, and the dining rooms will also be identical, including photographs by Linda Dufurrena, and paintings by Gordy Glazier and Teddy Swecker. Arant expects to employ 25 people or so at his new locale. More information about the new restaurant is available in this article in the Nevada Appeal. On Egin!
Before heading across the better half of the continental USA, I had a chance to reintegrate with a little action in Washington DC just a couple of weeks ago. I was nervous and excited to chair, present, and co-organized, alongside Anne Lally, the panel “Taste and Terroir as Anthropological Matter” at the annual American Anthropological Association meeting. My panel was titled “The sociolinguistic economy of terroir: constructing and marketing identity in the Basque Country”. In this paper I discussed how the concept of terroir was directly and indirectly translated into Basque within various gastronomic contexts. The result was to show how this multi-faceted concept of terroir provides a lens for looking at which components become most salient to Basques in the process, and what that in turn shows about the values portrayed in social, linguistic, and gastronomic production.
It was an amazing opportunity as I was luckily enough to secure Amy Trubek, one of my academic idols and author of “Taste of Place; A Cultural Journey into Terroir”. It was well attended with questions to follow that provide further food for thought. Afterward, it was everyone to the bar for a round of drinks, which was my favorite part-not because I love wine, but because it is at these AAA meetings that I feel I have found my academic family. Cheers, and stay tuned to see what becomes of the panel! Rumor has it, it’s not over yet…