Tag Archives: culture

An International Taste of Home Flavors

You know what November means? It means red, orange, and yellow leaves. It means scarves and chilly mornings. It means getting those coupons ready for Black Friday so you can get a great deal on some future presents.

But, above all else, November means giving thanks over a splendid meal on Thanksgiving evening.

We borrowed two delicious recipes from Flavors from Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods, Revised Edition by Aimee Zaring to get everyone in the mood for some Thanksgiving cooking! In addition to sharing recipes from all across the world, Flavors from Home offers fascinating and moving stories from Kentucky’s resettled refugees, giving readers the chance to understand the courage and hardships of the tens of thousands of legally resettled refugees that use the kitchen to be able to return “home.”


Irene’s Chicken Paprikás

Chicken paprikás (PAP-ree-cahsh) is a classic Hungarian comfort food. Hungarians generally use a combination of dark and white chicken meat in their paprikás, but for a healthier version, substitute boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken tenders.

Serves 4 to 6

Ready in about 45 minutes

Image 01 Irene Finley

“Anything could have happened to us, but God had a purpose for my life.” –Irene Finley

5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 1⁄2 teaspoons sweet paprika (preferably Hungarian)
Ground cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 whole chicken, separated into legs, thighs, wings, etc.
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream (preferably regular) 1⁄4 cup all-purpose our
1⁄2 cup 2 percent milk

Heat oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Over medium heat, sauté onion until translucent. Add paprika, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pep- per. Stir to combine. Add chicken and just enough water to cover.Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium-low heat. Cook with the lid partially covering the pan until the chicken becomes tender, about 30 minutes or less. (For chicken tenders, adjust the cooking time to 15 to 18 minutes.) Stir occasionally. Make sure not to overcook the chicken. When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and set aside. Reserve the liq- uid and keep it warm over low heat. Cover the chicken with aluminum foil to keep it warm.


CoCo’s Soft Spring Rolls and Peanut Sauce

Spring rolls are a traditional and ubiquitous appetizer in Vietnam. Serve them at your next party and impress your friends, but keep in mind that spring rolls dry out quickly and are meant to be eaten right away. They also make a light, delicious, healthy meal.

Serves 8 to 10 (makes about 25 to 30 spring rolls)

Ready in about 1 hour and  45 minutes

Coco's Spring rolls 2

“I love to create. I love to bring the new idea to this town.” –Huong “CoCo” Tran

Spring Rolls

1 (8-ounce) package thin rice noodles (or rice vermicelli)
Olive oil for sautéing
2 carrots, shredded
1 to 2 celery stalks, cut in half lengthwise and on the bias 1 small head white cabbage, shredded
Salt and pepper
1 pound firm tofu (1 16-ounce package)
1⁄2 pound vegetarian mock (meatless) ham (optional)
1 (12-ounce) package rice paper (9-inch diameter)
Fresh mint or basil leaves
Peanut Sauce
11⁄4 to 2 cups hoisin sauce
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 to 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper or hot pepper sauce
1⁄2 to 1 cup hot water
Ground peanuts (optional)
To Prepare the Spring Roll Filling
Boil enough water for the amount of rice noodles being used (refer to package directions). Cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the noodles are softened. Rinse with cool water, drain well, and set aside.
Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a fry pan (preferably non- stick) over medium-high heat. Stir-fry carrots, celery, and cabbage until soft. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer vegetables to a plate or storage container to cool until ready to use.

Clean out the same fry pan and heat enough oil to cover the bot- tom over medium-high heat. (Make sure the pan is very hot before fry- ing.) Drain tofu of excess moisture. Cut tofu blocks widthwise into about 7 or 8 (1⁄2-inch-thick) slices. Fry the tofu slices until lightly brown on both sides, 5 to 10 minutes per side. Flip only once for best results. Remove and transfer to paper towels to remove excess oil, if desired.

If using vegetarian ham, slice and pan-fry like the tofu, adding more oil as needed. Transfer to paper towels to remove excess oil, if desired.
Cool all filling ingredients before assembling the spring rolls.
To Prepare the Peanut Sauce
In a medium bowl, combine hoisin sauce, peanut butter, and cayenne pepper to taste. (For a slightly sweeter sauce, add more peanut butter. For less sweetness, add more hoisin sauce and hot pepper.) Add hot water, a little at a time, until the ingredients are well mixed and the texture is smooth and creamy and of the preferred consistency. Serve cool or at room temperature. Garnish with ground peanuts just before serving. Store left- overs in the refrigerator.
To Assemble the Spring Rolls
Take one sheet of rice paper and quickly dip it into a large bowl of warm water (for about 2 to 3 seconds), making sure it is completely immersed. If you’re using a shallow bowl, you may need to rotate the paper. (Do not leave the paper in the water too long, or it will break down too quickly and be harder to roll.) Remove the paper (it should still be slightly firm) and hold it over the bowl to let the excess water drip off . Place the paper on a clean counter, a sheet of plastic wrap, or a plastic cutting board. (The paper will continue to soften and become gelatinous as it absorbs water during assembly.)
Place 1 tablespoon of the cooled vegetable filling in the middle of the rice paper, spreading it out lengthwise (to approximately 31⁄2 to 4 inches). Top the vegetables with about 1 tablespoon of tofu and ham (2 to 4 pieces), followed by 1 tablespoon of rice noodles and 2 mint or basil leaves. Do not overstuff to avoid tearing the paper.

Fold the end of the rice paper closest to you over the filling. Make sure the filling ingredients are tucked in, then fold in the sides. Slowly roll the rice paper away from you, keeping the ingredients tight and the edges straight, until the paper ends. Transfer to a serving plate, seam side down. Repeat the wrapping process until all the spring rolls and filling have been used.

Serve cold or at room temperature with peanut sauce. These are best served immediately or within an hour of making; otherwise, the rice paper will dry out. To keep them fresh, wrap each roll individually in plastic wrap, or store them in a single layer in a lightly oiled airtight container. Use plastic wrap to divide multiple layers so the rolls won’t stick together and tear. Keep refrigerated.
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A Conversation with Lena Mahmoud, Author of Amreekiya

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Photo courtesy of Lena Mahmoud 

In Amreekiya: A Novel, author Lena Mahmoud deftly juggles two storylines, alternating between Isra’s youth and her current life as a married twentysomething who is torn between cultures and trying to define herself. The chapters chronicle various moments in Isra’s narrative, including the volatile relationship of her parents and the trials and joys of forging a partnership with Yusef. Mahmoud also examines Isra’s first visit to Palestine, the effects of sexism, how language affects identity, and what it means to have a love that overcomes unbearable pain. Featuring an authentic array of characters, Mahmoud’s first novel is a much-needed story in a divided world.

 

Lena Mahmoud was nominated for Pushcart Prizes for her story “Al Walad” and her essay “The Psyche of a Palestinian-American Writer” and was shortlisted for the OWT Fiction Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Sinister Guru, KNOT Magazine, Pulp Literature, Fifth Wednesday Journal, and Sukoon.


What first drew you to writing? Was there a specific moment or experience that made you want to become a novelist?Mahmoud_Amreekiya_Design7.indd

As a child I had a very active imaginary life. I often played out stories in my room or
backyard, but I didn’t start writing until I was eleven. I wasn’t much of a reader before that; I didn’t like most of what I read in school because to me it was boring and so homogenous, but when I read Janet Fitch’s White Oleander, about a girl who lives in many foster homes after her mother’s imprisonment—something much different from the cookie cutter chapter books I had been assigned in school—it made me think that knowing someone else’s story can enrich a reader’s life and make them see things differently. I thought that it would be such a great thing if I could do that, and I had always liked thinking up stories and acting them out. When I wrote them, though, I found that I could also make the story better by revising or rewriting it, so I have stuck with it for almost two decades now.

The dual narrative structure is one of the most intriguing facets of Amreekiya. Why did you choose to juxtapose the story of Isra’s childhood alongside her life as a married woman?

Isra’s adult chapters were the first part that I wrote, and I always intended to somehow explain the backstory of her losing her mother and being abandoned by her father. In the early drafts, I wrote out prologues and epilogues to give this backstory, and they just didn’t work for the novel. Then I started to explore Isra’s past more and more. I thought that showing how she and her husband Yusef first met and what it was like growing up with Amu Nasser and Amtu Samia really made the novel more developed. I didn’t want to do it as a completely linear narrative because the past never really goes away; the memories cling to our minds and influence our decisions. By having the two narratives happen concurrently, it more clearly revealed how the past affected the present.

Explain the significance of the title.

While the word “Amreekiya” technically means American in Arabic, it is often used colloquially to mean “white girl” or “white women.” In the novel it’s most often applied to Isra’s mother, but sometimes to Isra as well. I think, ultimately, that it represents a concern that a lot of the characters have: how “American” should they be? It’s most obvious in the case of the younger generation like Isra and Yusef, who wonder about how they would be judged for using birth control, but the older generation also must confront this issue, like Amu Nasser does when he returns to Palestine and is judged for how “American” his children act.

How have your personal experiences inspired or shaped Isra’s story?

I am mixed like Isra is, and a lot of the narratives I saw about people who were part white/part any Middle Eastern ethnicity seemed to always be about that person shedding their ties to whatever Middle Eastern culture s/he belonged to and trying to be as white as possible. I thought that was both unrealistic and dangerous standard to set for people like Isra and me, so I wanted to write a story to show that it’s more complicated and that it’s not necessary to choose between the two cultures, though that is often what others pressure mixed people to do. I didn’t want to write a memoir, though, because I wanted to show what it must be like for someone who does not have any friends or family who understand that sense of in-betweenness. In my case, I have three full siblings who are mixed like me (as well as five siblings from my parents’ previous and subsequent relationships), and I had the advantage of growing up and knowing my parents much better than Isra ever had a chance to know hers. Isra does have close connections to some people like Hanan, Sana, and Yusef, but they see her as being just like them without truly acknowledging that Isra’s ethnic background and experience are somewhat different. Of course, there are people at the other extreme, like Amtu Samia, who see Isra as being completely different, which is even more detrimental.

Amreekiya deals extensively with the intertwined issues of race, class, and gender. Did you set out to confront these topics, or were they a natural outgrowth of the story itself?

Yes, it was my intention to demonstrate how race, class, and gender affect the characters, especially Isra, because I think that too often we think of those as being abstract social or political constructs without considering that they have a strong influence on our everyday lives. Like many writers who come from marginalized communities, I have often heard from various people in the literary community that highlighting these issues make it less universal, but I do not agree with that view. Even if we are unaware of how our place in society or a particular community affects our lives, it still impacts what we become and what sort of lives we lead or will lead, so it much more accurately depicts our lives to see how race, class, and gender play role, rather than making it as invisible as we possibly can. With that being said, I also didn’t want to make Amreekiya a novel that had a heavy-handed political message telling my readers what to think. Instead, I wanted to tell a story that raised questions for my readers to think about.

Isra’s story is left fairly open-ended at the conclusion of the novel. Why did you choose to leave the status of Isra’s marriage and future ambiguous? Do you see yourself ever revisiting her narrative?

At one point I had a tidier ending for Amreekiya, but in all the years of revising and rewriting it, I thought that it didn’t make sense for Isra to have her life figured out by twenty-four. She still has the conflict of trying to figure out which options would be better for her. Should she live on her own? Should she resume her life as it was with Yusef or possibly pursue a different path with him? Of course, there are still all the expectations of the people around her as well, which is a force that will never go away. As for revisiting Isra’s narrative, I don’t have any plans to do it now, but I do sometimes find myself considering what she would be doing now, so I haven’t ruled that out.

Clark Medallion Event featuring Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape

Topophilia, the love of place, is what drives Richard Taylor. Through his love of Elkhorn Creek and his gift of storytelling, Taylor’s new release, Elkhorn: Evolution of a Kentucky Landscape, presents readers with a powerful picture of a location that has impacted so many with its natural beauty. Filled with photographs, illustrations, and vignettes detailing this creek and its surrounding wonders, Taylor’s book gives readers a sense of why there is such a pull to this majestic landscape. 

Elkhorn is the 2018 winner of the Thomas D. Clark Medallion. The Clark Medallion is presented by the Thomas D. Clark Foundation Inc., a private nonprofit established in 1994. The medallion is presented annually to a book highlighting the state of Kentucky’s history and culture.

In honor of Taylor and his new release, an award presentation, reception, and book signing will be held at 5:30 pm Wednesday, September 26 in the River Room at the Paul Sawyier Library in Frankfort. The event will be hosted by Kentucky Humanities, Nana Lampton, the Paul Sawyier Public Library, and the Thomas  D. Clark Foundation.

Taylor_TrueFinal_Medallion“Count among the Elkhorn’s fans white-water enthusiasts who mount kayaks on their roof racks and often drive considerable distances to glide along its rough-edged spine. Or the fishermen who wade into sun-lucent pools as they might approach a spiritual or religious experience. And the rest of us, near and far, who love nearly pristine places, land that hasn’t been subdivided into suburban citadels with a few acres of tamed lawns or converted into cultivated fields that productively but monotonously generate nicotine or a single food crop to the impoverishment of nature and local soils,” Taylor writes in Elkhorn.

The Clark Medallion event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Click here for more information.

 

Q&A with Amy Clark

With all of the excitement about the upcoming Appalachian Studies Association conference, we decided to get in touch with UPK author Amy Clark. Check out our question and answer session to learn about the University of Virginia professor:

UPK:       What first prompted you to think about and study Appalachian Englishes?

AC:           I grew up in the coalfields of southwest Virginia, and my first education in vernacular dialects had to be my upbringing. Voice was at the center of everything, like how my family told stories, the cadence of a preacher’s sermon, and music…always music. My dad sang in a quartet on weekends so I grew up traveling and listening to old-style mountain music, which is full of vernacular grammar, accent, and words.

 

UPK:       Who are some of your role models in the Appalachian community?

AC:           I grew up with three living generations of family, so I have to say they were my first role models because they were my first teachers, historians, sociologists…you name it. Everyone who came after simply added on to that foundation they gave me. I know everyone says this but it’s true of me, as well: I discovered Appalachian literature when I was introduced to Lee Smith’s and Denise Giardina’s books. And seeing my own voice on the printed page was a revelation, because it meant there was artistic integrity in the way we speak. I continue to be inspired by other writers like those I’ve gotten to know through the Appalachian Writer’s Workshop at Hindman. Helen Lewis has inspired me because of her service and activism. And so many scholars who have done good work…too many to name.

 

UPK:       Have you ever been a victim of linguistic bigotry?

AC:           I’ve experienced regional bigotry, which likely had a great deal to do with my accent because that’s the first indicator of where I’m from. It surprises me that denigrating Appalachia is still not taboo, and it surprises me when the bigotry comes from highly-educated or high-ranking people.

 

UPK:       What are your responsibilities as the founding director of the Appalachian Writing Project?

AC:           My primary responsibility is growing a network of teachers who are good role models for their colleagues in progressive ways to teach writing in all disciplines, at all levels. I write grants to support my leadership team of teachers, who train a new batch of teachers every summer to develop workshops that we offer in public schools. We also have Young Writer’s Camps and Writing Retreats. As co-founder/Director of our new Center for Appalachian Studies, I’m including the AWP as part of the CAS outreach, and there will be more opportunities for teachers to integrate Appalachian studies into their curriculums.

 

UPK:       What have you learned from working with the Appalachian Writing Project?

AC:           I was a public school teacher at the beginning of my career, so I know how hard it can be. There are so many excellent, hard-working teachers in our system who-if given the resources, support, and time-are willing to go beyond the call of duty in the classroom and share their good practices with colleagues. So many of them are good writers, too, but like their students, they have trouble acknowledging it. We spend time in our writing institutes working on that insecurity. Several of our teachers, like Rebecca Elswick, author of Mama’s Shoes, have gone on to publish their work.

 

UPK:       What do you most look forward to at the 2014 Appalachian Studies Conference at Marshall University?

AC:           I’m doing a workshop on Friday about teaching writing to vernacular speakers, which is based on my chapter in the book, so I’m excited to have that opportunity (see my answer to 7 for more about that.) I’m looking forward to catching up with people I haven’t seen in a while, and hearing about the new work that’s being done.

 

UPK:       What advice would you give a teacher from outside of the Appalachian region who might be teaching in Appalachia for the first time?

AC:           Come with your cup empty and learn as much as you can about our histories. And because most teachers aren’t well-versed in sociolinguistics, I would urge them to learn more about the dialects-where they come from, why people speak them, and how best to teach bi-dialectal speakers. Contrary to institutionalized ideas about a “right” and “wrong” English, we speak on a continuum of Englishes. So I would advise them not to simply dismiss what is nonstandard as wrong or incorrect, but instead, appreciate the historical significance of it and then teach students how to sensitively shift into a standard spoken and written version when they need it, but understand that they don’t have to deny their “first” voices.

 

UPK:       What was it like to have your co-edited book, Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity, and Community, be used as a dialect resource for actors during the filming of Big Stone Gap?

AC:           It was thrilling. Adriana Trigiani called me when she saw a piece I had written about Appalachian dialects and she said she wanted to use the book. She also asked me to do a phonetic rendering of the script so actors would know how to pronounce some of the words, so we met and talked about that once the movie was underway. I was able to watch Patrick Wilson and Ashley Judd (who Tweeted about the book) as they filmed a scene, and our dog, Sadie, ended up in the scene with them.

 

UPK:       What other successes has Talking Appalachian seen in the past year? Has it been used as a resource in other areas?

AC:           It is being taught in several university classrooms, such as University of Kentucky and UVa.’s College at Wise, and it was recently nominated for the Library of Virginia Literary Award in Nonfiction. I’ve received some wonderful feedback from readers, especially after a recent piece I published in the New York Times about writing in a vernacular voice. I’m also happy to report that it will be released in paperback this fall.

 

UPK:       Did you have any favorite Appalachian traditions or pastimes growing up in Virginia?

AC:           My family made and sold molasses on my great-grandmother’s farm, and I have good memories of participating every fall. They harvested the cane, which was crushed in horse-drawn mill. We boiled it in pans flanked by benches that someone had taken out of old school buses. The kids used hole-punched pie pans nailed to broomstick handles to skim the batch as it cooked. Then, the pan would be hoisted on chains so the molasses could be poured into mason jars. My family took orders and sold out before a batch was even finished. I can still remember the smell of smoke in my hair every night, and the older folks sitting on the bus benches near the evaporating pan, smoking and listening to the high school football game on the radio. I’m quilting now with my mother and grandmother, and my four-year old daughter watches and pretends to help. I’m eager to start new traditions with my own children that they will carry forward.

To delve deeper into the life of Appalachia and Amy Clark, check out her book Talking Appalachia!

Don’t miss this week’s giveaway!

Appalachian ElegyWe are still going strong with this week’s book giveaway, featuring bell hooks’s Appalachian Elegy. Known for her strong activism on issues such as gender equality, Appalachian culture, and African American heritage, this collection perfectly showcases the influential writer’s views in a compilation of beautiful, emotional poems. Of the 66 poems, we love so many. One of our favorites is number four, an eloquently written piece describing the earth, the transformation of land by humans, and how the earth returns back to its natural state, ready for new beginnings.

4.

earth works
thick brown mud
clinging pulling
a body down
hear wounded earth cry
bequeath to me
the hoe the hope
ancestral rights
to turn the ground over
to shovel and sift
until history
rewritten resurrected
returns to its rightful owners
a past to claim
yet another stone lifted to
throw against the enemy
making way for new endings
random seeds
spreading over the hillside
wild roses
come by fierce wind and hard rain
unleashed furies
here in this untouched wood
a dirge a lamentation
for earth to live again
earth that is all at once a grave
a resting place a bed of new beginnings
avalanche of splendor

If you’re interested in her other beautiful poems, don’t forget to enter the giveaway by Friday, February 8th, at 1 pm!