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Finding Story - The Lasarte Brothers - Hidden Basque Kitchens  
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Lasarte Brothers & Basque Radio
  Finding story - The Lasarte Brothers  

Davia was visiting her Nelson Sister, Jessie, in Los Angeles and telling her about our upcoming story about the hidden kitchen traditions of the Basque and discovered that her sister's landscape garderners who were there at the time were two Basque brothers, the Lasartes.

Davia grabbed her tape recorder, and out of the blue did an interview that is the center of our Sheepherders Ball story. "They spoke, they sang, they whistled. I heard all the calls they have for the sheep dogs that traveled with them over the long treks across the American West."

Francisco and Joaquin Lasarte came to America in 1964 from Basque country in northern Spain.
Neither Lasarte brother had any sheepherding experience when they arrived in America.

"You lonely, you by yourself," Francisco Lasarte said. "My God, you with 2,000 sheep and two dogs and you don't know what to do, where to go."

Each brother had his own flock, and they rarely saw each other or anyone else for months on end. Mostly they ate lamb and bread cooked in a Dutch oven in a hole they dug in the ground. You can still find these holes up in the mountains of Idaho, Montana, Nevada and California.

  Francisco Lasarte met a Peruvian sheepherder with his dogs and sheep at Conway Ranch. Today sheepherders stay in old travel trailers. Francisco had only his bed roll. Every time Francisco sees one of these trailers now, he recalls that time when he didn't even have a real tent.
(lft to right) Peruvian man, Francisco Lasarte. photo Courtesy of the Lasarte Brothers
  Francisco putting the finishing touches on a pan of paella. Foil is placed on the paella pan to cook the rice prior to adding the steamed shrimp, chicken, clams, mussels and eggs. Saffron and paprika are added to the rice for flavor and color. Francisco and Jaoquin make the paella for friends, relatives and clients especially at Christmas. Francisco holds the cast iron pot that he used when he worked as a sheepherder. They use the same method today - First they dug a hole in the ground, light a fire and wait for it to burn down. Then the pot with olive oil, garlic, lambshanks, potatoes, mushrooms, carrots, bell peppers, green chilies, onions, and wine is placed in the hole and covered over with dirt and marked. Francisco continues to cook in the ground to this day.  
  Espe Alegria - "The Voice of the Basques"  
  " Shepherding was boring and miserable, with only Espe Alegria’s Sunday radio program to entertain them in the desolate wilderness; they went to the top of a mountain each time to listen."
— Jesus Sillonis / Basque Oral History Project

Espe was born in Ermua, Bizkaia, a small town of about 500 people. She emigrated to the United States to join her mother, who was working at a boarding house in Boise.

Espe's voice and personality lent themselves well to radio broadcasting. She started a radio program, the "Voice of the Basques," which she broadcast in Basque for over 25 years, providing music, news, stories, and announcements to listeners in the West. Sheep herders could hear their language and music, which eased their loneliness and kept them abreast of news in the Basque country and Boise.

Espe dancing at the Sheepherders Ball, Boise Idaho and at her radio show on KGEM
  Espe would visit the sheepherders on the range at their camps and at the boarding houses in town, helping them adjust to life in the United States. We interviewed Rosita Artis, her daughter for this story and she was kind enough to lend these photos of Espe visiting the sheepherders and dancing up a storm at the Annual Sheepherder's Ball in Boise.  
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