Tag Archives: food

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The Universal Language of Food: A Conversation with Aimee Zaring

Recent events have highlighted the need for an understanding of the situation facing refugees throughout the world. Refugees, unlike economic migrants, are forced to leave their countries of origin or are driven out by violence or persecution. As these individuals and their families struggle to adapt to a new culture, the kitchen often becomes one of the few places where they are able to return “home.” Preparing native cuisine is one way they can find comfort in an unfamiliar land, retain their customs, reconnect with their past, and preserve a sense of identity.

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In Flavors from Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods, author Aimee Zaring uses her many years of expertise working with refugees in the Commonwealth to explore their everyday life, the situations that brought them here, and the food that connects them to home. Zaring shares personal and dramatic accounts of their fight for their lives, as well as heartwarming and fascinating stories of their transition to living in America. Zaring also illustrates the importance of understanding the persecution and struggle that these refugees have gone through and the ability of food to provide a sense of home for them when home is lost.

In order to foster a discussion about the lives of refugees in Kentucky and throughout the country, we’re sharing the following conversation with Aimee Zaring, author of Flavors from Home:


What first interested you to write Flavors from Home and how did that interest help to shape the finished book?

For many years, I taught ESL (English as a Second Language) to elder refugees, and we held occasional potlucks where students could share dishes from their homelands. Something magical happened at those potluck dinners. Usually at snack time, the students from each ethnic group would sit together at the same table—but not during potluck days. I was always filled with awe when I looked around the room and saw people from all over the world coming together around food. And I loved seeing how the elders seemed to become kids again as they stood proudly by their dishes and encouraged everyone to “Eat, eat!”

It occurred to me that someone should collect all these delicious recipes before they became altered or “Americanized.” As I began talking to the refugees about their favorite foods, I was reminded that food is never just food; there are always stories and strong memories associated with it. I realized that leaving out the refugees’ stories would be like leaving out the indispensable saffron in the Persian dish tachin. So I decided to make food the unifying element, linking all the stories, just as food in general unifies all of humankind. It’s one of the few things we all share in common.

Describe the circumstances that led a few of the people you interviewed to seek refuge in the United States.

All refugees are immigrants, but not all immigrants are refugees. Refugees flee their home countries out of fear or necessity because of persecution or violence. They usually cannot safely return to their homelands. Economic migrants, on the other hand, choose to leave their home countries to improve their lives, especially to better their economic conditions, and can generally return home when and if they choose.

As one can imagine, war is almost always the culprit. Nearly all the refugees I interviewed for Flavors from Home were driven out by the trickle-down upheaval and chaos resulting from war, military dictatorships, or political uprisings. The first refugee featured in the book came to America as a young girl with her family after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Several refugees in the book are from Myanmar (Burma) and were persecuted for their religious or political beliefs by the country’s longstanding military junta. Two refugees in the book are from Bhutan, the country often referred to as “the happiest in the world,” yet their specific ethnic group (comprised mainly of Hindus) made them a target in the small Buddhist-dominated kingdom. The last chapter in the book features one of my former students, a political activist who spent over two decades of his life in jails because of his enduring fight to defend human rights.

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The kitchen is home for Huong “CoCo” Tran at her Heart & Soy restaurant. (Photo by Julie Johnston)

Which of their stories did you find most uplifting?

Every one of these stories was deeply moving and affected me in a profound way. Sometimes I was moved by the sheer horror of what the individuals had seen or suffered through, for example Nicolas Kiza from Rwanda, who as a young boy traversed the entire Democratic Republic of the Congo by foot, trying to outrun the Rwandan Genocide, because, as he told me, “I’d rather be killed by a lion than my fellow Rwandans.” Sometimes I was moved by the refugees’ fierce determination and strong work ethic and how much they’ve accomplished in the United States with minimal assistance, often knowing little to no English. Huong “CoCo” Tran comes to mind. CoCo spent thirty days at sea after the fall of Saigon. She is now one of Louisville’s most inventive and successful restauranteurs.

Can you explain why some ended up in Kentucky, as opposed to another state?

Kentucky has several official refugee resettlement agencies, including Catholic Charities, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, the International Center of Kentucky, among others, which have been offering services to refugees for decades. Because we have a long tradition of hosting refugees and consequently have refugee populations already established in the area, resettlement agencies will often try to place refugees where they already have family and a built-in support system. The majority of refugees in Kentucky are resettled in Louisville, which has a lot going for it—a relatively low cost of living, good schools, ample job opportunities, a vibrant international community, and a current local government that by and large supports cultural diversity.

What makes food a more tangible connection for some than other aspects of their heritage?

For most refugees, food equals refuge. It offers a safe haven in a strange land filled with foreign customs. Though refugees must adapt to American ways to increase their chances of success (including the formidable task of learning a new language), nothing dictates that they must give up their native foods. Because of the widespread availability of international ingredients—through ethnic groceries, native produce grown in individual or communal gardens, and online shopping—there is no compelling reason to alter their dishes and culinary customs. Cooking and eating is a multi-sensory experience, evoking all sorts of memories and emotions. It’s the easiest and cheapest direct flight back home.

What do you hope Flavors from Home accomplishes, and what do you believe will resonate most with the audience while reading this book?

I hope Flavors from Home will serve as a launching point for dialogue between people from diverse backgrounds who might not otherwise have a reason or opportunity to communicate with each other. Food is something we all share in common and can enjoy together, and often no words are necessary. Food is its own language and can transcend barriers. I’ve seen time and again the goodwill that a fine meal can foster.

I hope, too, that the book will help educate readers on the many different cultures and ethnic groups that have been added to America’s melting pot over the past half-century. And I hope the stories will inspire people to persevere, even when all hope seems lost. Native-born Americans will no doubt walk away from these stories with a greater appreciation of our great nation, especially after viewing it fresh through the eyes of refugees. Yes, there’s a lot that’s wrong with our country, but there is also a lot that’s right, and refugees remind us to never take for granted our most basic freedoms. And, of course, I want people to try these delectable dishes and perhaps even discover, as did I, a whole new world of comfort foods.


Aimee Zaring lives in Louisville, Kentucky where, for more than five years, she has taught ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) at Catholic Charities, Kentucky Refugee Ministries, Global LT, and Jefferson County Public Schools.

To learn more about her book, Flavors from Home, visit our website.

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‘Cue Cards: A Guide for Father’s Day

Father’s Day is approaching, and you know what that means . . . Time to find the perfect place to take Dad for dinner.

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The first step to becoming a BBQ aficionado is being able to talk the talk. In The Kentucky Barbecue Book, Wes Berry defines many key terms for his readers. Here are a few you may not know:

Burgoo: an “everything but the kitchen sink” rich stew made with several meats and vegetables, cooked up in large quantities at Owensboro’s International Barbecue Festival and found at barbecue joints in Kentucky, especially those in the “burgoo tree” (my term) that includes the counties of Daviess, Hopkins, and Christian, among others.324255_346022322091385_842314571_o

Chip or chipped: a style of barbecue preparation popular in Union Co. and Henderson Co., where heavily smoked exterior pieces of pork shoulders, hams, and mutton quarters are chopped and mixed with a thin tangy dip sauce, a bold flavor creation that’s salty and good as a sandwich.

Fast Eddy: a meat smoking apparatus that often utilizes wood pellets and a gas flame.

Hickory: one of the hardest of the hardwoods, hickory trees are nut-bearing friends of squirrels and Kentucky pitmasters, who favor the smoke and heat imparted by hickory over all other woods. Several different species of hickory trees live in North America, including shagbark, shellbark, mockernut, bitternut, and pignut. Some pitmasters claim they prefer one species of hickory—like shagbark—to others.

Monroe County dip: Sopping sauce favored in several south-central Kentucky counties, made with vinegar, butter, lard, salt, black and cayenne pepper, and sometimes other ingredients like tomato or mustard, used for basting meats as they cook slowly over hickory coals. Also served as a finishing sauce.

Mutton: Mature sheep, either female or castrated males. Mutton is Kentucky’s claim to barbecue fame, although only 10 percent of the barbecue places in the state serve it.

Smoke ring: the pinkish hue imparted to smoked meats (a very good thing).

Grab a copy of Wes berry’s book to learn even more BBQ lingo and scope out the best places for smoky meats and saucy treats in the state.

The Sale is on!

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We hope you enjoyed our Halloween ghost stories all week, but now that the ghoulish night is over, we can move on to more exciting things like The Holidays! Personally, this is my favorite time of the year. When else can you get amazing food, spend much-needed quality time with loved ones, and find the best shopping deals? We know you guys can take care of the first two things in that list, but if you find yourself asking, “What awesome shopping deals?”, you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve got you covered there!

Every year, UPK hosts their annual Holiday Sale where we discount books left and right for your holiday reading and gift-giving pleasures. This year, we’re featuring over 1500 books in our sale! We know that number can be a bit overwhelming and you may not know where to begin, so we’ve created a “Best of the Books on Sale” list that features the highlights from multiple categories of book genres. Whether you’re shopping for a history buff, local foodie, or poetry fanatic, this guide will help you find the perfect gift.

The way the holiday sale works is when you order from our website, you will enter a code (either “FHOL” or “FSNO”) at the time of check out and you will receive either 20% or 80% off your purchase depending on the title. In order to ensure that your package arrives before Christmas, all books should be ordered before December 4, 2015.

BEST OF THE BOOKS ON SALE:

Military History: Kentucky Maverick: The Life and Adventures of Colonel George M. Chinn
20% off
Colonel George M. Chinn’s (1902–1987) life story reads more like fiction than the biography of a Kentucky soldier. A smart and fun-loving character,Chinn attended Centre College and played on the famous “Praying Colonels” football team that won the 1921 national championship. After graduation, he returned to his home in Mercer County and partnered with munitions expert “Tunnel” Smith to dynamite a cliff. The resulting hole became Chinn’s Cave House—a diner that also functioned as an underground gambling operation during Prohibition. He even served as Governor A. B. “Happy” Chandler’s bodyguard before joining the Marine Corps in 1943.

Biographies: My Life as a Mankiewicz: An Insider’s Journey through Hollywood80% off
The son of famed director and screenwriter Joseph L. Mankiewicz (All About Eve [1950], Guys and Dolls [1955], Cleopatra [1963]) and the nephew of Citizen Kane screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz, Tom Mankiewicz was genuine Hollywood royalty. He grew up in Beverly Hills and New York, spent summers on his dad’s film sets, had his first drink with Humphrey Bogart, dined with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, went to the theater with Ava Gardner, and traveled the world writing for Brando, Sinatra, and Connery. Although his family connections led him to show business, Tom “Mank” Mankiewicz forged a career of his own, becoming a renowned screenwriter, director, and producer of acclaimed films and television shows. He wrote screenplays for three James Bond films—Diamonds Are Forever (1971), Live and Let Die (1973), and The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)—and made his directorial debut with the hit TV series Hart to Hart (1979–1984). My Life as a Mankiewicz is a fascinating look at the life of an individual whose creativity and work ethic established him as a member of the Hollywood writing elite.

Classic Film: Rex Ingram: Visionary Director of the Silent Screen
20% off
In Rex Ingram, Ruth Barton explores the life and legacy of the pioneering filmmaker, following him from his childhood in Dublin to his life at the top of early Hollywood’s A-list and his eventual self-imposed exile on the French Riviera. Ingram excelled in bringing visions of adventure and fantasy to eager audiences, and his films made stars of actors like Rudolph Valentino, Ramón Novarro, and Alice Terry—his second wife and leading lady. With his name a virtual guarantee of box office success, Ingram’s career flourished in the 1920s despite the constraints of an increasingly regulated industry and the hostility of Louis B. Mayer, who regarded him as a dangerous maverick.

Civil Rights: The Antislavery Movement in Kentucky
80% off
As one of only two states in the nation to still allow slavery by the time of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865, Kentucky’s history of slavery runs deep. Based on extensive research, The Antislavery Movement in Kentucky focuses on two main antislavery movements that emerged in Kentucky during the early years of opposition. By 1820, Kentuckians such as Cassius Clay called for the emancipation of slaves—a gradual end to slavery with compensation to owners. Others, such as Delia Webster, who smuggled three fugitive slaves across the Kentucky border to freedom in Ohio, advocated for abolition—an immediate and uncompensated end to the institution. Neither movement was successful, yet the tenacious spirit of those who fought for what they believed contributes a proud chapter to Kentucky history.

Bourbon: The Birth of Bourbon: A Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries
20% off
More than two hundred commercial distilleries were operating in Kentucky before Prohibition, but only sixty-one reopened after its repeal in 1933. As the popularity of America’s native spirit increases worldwide, many historic distilleries are being renovated, refurbished, and brought back into operation. Unfortunately, these spaces, with their antique tools and aging architecture, are being dismantled to make way for modern structures and machinery. In The Birth of Bourbon, award-winning photographer Carol Peachee takes readers on an unforgettable tour of lost distilleries as well as facilities undergoing renewal, such as the famous Old Taylor and James E. Pepper distilleries in Lexington, Kentucky. This beautiful book also includes spaces that well-known brands, including Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace, have preserved as a homage to their rich histories.

Politics: Writing Southern Politics: Contemporary Interpretations and Future Directions
80%
In Writing Southern Politics, leading scholars review the key research and writing on southern politics since World War II. This essential volume covers topical areas such as civil rights, public opinion, political behavior, party development, population movement, governors, legislatures, and women in politics.
“Provides the most comprehensive overview of the southern politics literature. The subfield has been crying out for a volume such as this … it will likely become required reading for both students and scholars of southern politics.” — Jonathan Knuckey, University of Central Florida

Cultural Studies: Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-First Century
20%
Virtual Afterlives investigates emerging popular bereavement traditions. Author Candi K. Cann examines new forms of grieving and evaluates how religion and the funeral industry have both contributed to mourning rituals despite their limited ability to remedy grief. As grieving traditions and locations shift, people are discovering new ways to memorialize their loved ones. Bodiless and spontaneous memorials like those at the sites of the shootings in Aurora and Newtown and the Boston Marathon bombing, as well as roadside memorials, car decals, and tattoos are contributing to a new bereavement language that crosses national boundaries and culture-specific perceptions of death.

Food: Eating as I Go: Scenes from America and Abroad
80%
What do we learn from eating? About ourselves? Others? In this unique memoir, Doris Friedensohn takes eating as an occasion for inquiry. Munching on quesadillas and kimchi in her suburban New Jersey neighborhood, she reflects on the meanings of cultural inclusion and what it means to our diverse nation. Enjoying couscous in Tunisia and khatchapuri (cheese bread) in the Republic of Georgia, she explores the ways strangers maintain their differences and come together. Friedensohn’s subjects range from Thanksgiving at a Middle Eastern restaurant to fried grasshoppers in Oaxaca. Her wry dramas of the dining room, restaurant, market, and kitchen ripple with geopolitical, economic, psychological, and spiritual tensions. Eating as I Go is Friedensohn’s distinctive combination of memoir, traveler’s tale, and cultural commentary.

Poetry: Many-Storied House
20%
Collectively, the poems tell the sixty-eight-year-long story of the house, beginning with its construction by Lyon’s grandfather and culminating with the poet’s memories of bidding farewell to it after her mother’s death. Moving, provocative, and heartfelt, Lyon’s poetic excavations evoke more than just stock and stone; they explore the nature of memory and relationships, as well as the innermost architecture of love, family, and community. A poignant memoir in poems, Many-Storied House is a personal and revealing addition to George Ella Lyon’s body of work.

Nature Books: Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky
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Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky provides an introduction to Kentucky’s signature rare plants with 220 full-color photographs by naturalist and award winning photographer Thomas G. Barnes. The book draws attention to the beauty of Kentucky’s old-growth forests, prairies, wetlands, and other habitats while focusing on the state’s endangered flora. The authors note that as of this year, 275 plant species in Kentucky are considered endangered or threatened, with more than 50 potential additions to the list. The book includes an overview of ecological communities and the ways in which they are threatened, an explanation of how various plants have become endangered, and suggestions for conservation and preservation. The Bluegrass State’s rare wildflowers take center stage with gorgeous color photography and descriptions, organized by habitat. Rare Wildflowers of Kentucky will appeal to any nature lover, and the inclusion of references, a complete list of scientific and common species names, and a list of each plant’s endangered status makes the book especially useful to gardeners and to botanists and horticultural professionals.

4th of July

Food + Friends + Fireworks + Fun = A 4th of July Celebration

In The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook, Maggie Green offers up not only delicious, seasonal recipes using fresh, local ingredients, but also provides menus to make holiday planning easy. For a classic, Kentucky-proud celebration, Maggie’s menu includes:

  • Ale-8 One Slow Cooker Pork Barbecue with Brown Sugar Bourbon Barbecue Sauce
  • Sweet and Sour Creamy Coleslaw
  • Cornmeal-Crusted Fried Green Tomatoes
  • Nina’s Potato Salad
  • Sweet Bourbon Baked Beans
  • Buttermilk Black-‘n’-Blue Berry Cobbler
  • and Fresh Herbed Lemonade, Sweet Iced Tea, or mix ’em up in an Arnold Palmer

You’ll find a personal favorite of ours below, or a printable version of the recipes on Maggie’s menu here. For more great meals (and recipes), The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook is available wherever fine books are sold.

Succulent Pork Barbecue

Every Kentucky cook needs a good pork barbecue recipe up his or her sleeve, and I have learned several juicy tips over the years.

First, a bit of terminology: the best meat for pork barbecue is an economical, rectangular roast from the top part of the pig’s shoulder called Boston butt, Boston roast, fresh pork butt, or Boston-style butt. (Don’t ask me why a pork shoulder is called a butt.) Pork shoulder is sold bone-in or boneless, in sizes ranging from 4 to 8 pounds. I consider this cut the chicken thigh of a pig—the meat is moist, dark, and distinctive. The well-exercised muscles in the shoulder crisscross around a bone and are supported by collagen and tendons, with fat marbled throughout. Because of this hodgepodge of muscle, tendon, and collagen, the meat has to be coaxed into tenderness. Given enough time to cook, though, it shreds easily for the best pulled pork barbecue around.

The flavor varies, depending on the method of cooking—smoked, oven-roasted, or slow cooked—but the end result will be fork-tender goodness. What does fork tender mean? Poke a fork in the cooked pork and twist: the meat shouldn’t feel tight, and it readily falls apart.

Ale-8 One Slow Cooker Pork Barbecue

Nothing holds a candle to home-smoked meat, but this slow-cooked version works in a pinch—a large pinch piled high on a bun, that is. It uses Kentucky’s own soft drink, Ale-8 One. This spicy soda, bottled in Winchester since 1926, is sold around the state. If Ale-8 One isn’t available, substitute a spicy ginger ale. Just like a true, wood-fired smoking process, low and slow is the rule. For best results, start early in the morning or let the pork slow-cook overnight. In my (oblong) slow cooker set on low, the pork takes about 11 hours to reach a fork-tender state. Check the tenderness of the meat after about 10 hours to gauge how quickly or slowly your slow cooker cooks.

Makes about 12 servings

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • One 4- to 4.-pound pork shoulder or Boston butt pork roast
  • One 12-ounce can Ale-8 One
  • 2 tablespoons Barbecue Dry Rub
  • 2 cups Brown Sugar Bourbon Barbecue Sauce, or the barbecue sauce of your choice

Place half the onion in the bottom of a slow cooker. Lay the pork shoulder on top of the onion. Pour the soda over the pork and sprinkle with the dry rub and remaining onion. Cover and cook on low for 11 hours. At this point, the meat should be fork tender, which happens when the internal temperature reaches about 200 degrees F. If it’s not fork tender, turn the meat over, cover, and cook for 1 to 2 more hours. When the pork is done, place it on a platter and shred and chop the meat. Keep the meat warm, and serve the barbecue sauce warm on the side. Alternatively, discard the juice from the slow cooker and place the meat back in it. Mix in the barbecue sauce and warm before serving.

Brown Sugar Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

This sweet sauce, flavored with bourbon, is inspired by a recipe I developed for Barbara Smith.

Makes about 4 cups.

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • One 12-ounce bottle chili sauce
  • 1/2 cup Kentucky bourbon
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup Kentucky sorghum or molasses
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a saucepan, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the ketchup, chili sauce, bourbon, brown sugar, Worcestershire sauce, sorghum, vinegar, and cayenne pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Serve warm, or let cool and store in glass jars in the refrigerator.

Kentucky Fresh Cookbook Maggie Green

Dough-Not forget the Doughnuts!

University Press of Kentucky National Doughnut Day

There’s only one way to celebrate National Doughnut Day, and we’re on top of it! Enjoy this recipe for Bourbon-Infused Orange Doughnuts from Bourbon Desserts by Lynn Marie Hulsman, and share with us your #NationalDoughnutDay celebratory confections!

Bourbon-Infused Orange Doughnuts

Makes 1 to 2 dozen

 I love orange-flavored baked goods. They’re such a refreshing change from more ubiquitous flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and cinnamon. And this recipe, with the zingy fresh ginger, is a breath of fresh air. These doughnuts are hearty enough for winter, and can stand up to a cup of bold coffee, but also work well in warmer months, with the eye-brightening citrus note. For a fluffy doughnut that’s never greasy, make sure your oil is very hot (at least 365 degrees F). I like to make these in a very deep stockpot, with an extra-heavy, reinforced bottom. I’m not going to lie to you . . . frying these babies in lard brings a whole new nuance to decadent, but vegetable shortening or canola oil are fine alternatives.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Method:

Bourbon Desserts Lynn Marie Hulsman University Press of KentuckyIn a medium mixing bowl, combine 1 cup of sugar, orange zest, orange juice, and bourbon, stirring lightly with a fork.

Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the eggs until light yellow, about 3 minutes. A little at a time, add sugar–orange zest mixture.

In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Stir in the ginger.

Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, a little at a time, beating until just combined, about 2 or 3 minutes for each of 2 or 3 additions. Do not overmix, or you’ll have tough, flat doughnuts.

Using a fork, stir in the butter.

Line two 9 x 13-inch baking sheets with parchment and sprinkle them liberally with flour. (Don’t skimp!) Set one sheet aside.

Turn the dough onto the other sheet, and sprinkle flour over the top. Flatten the dough with your hands until it is about 1/2 inch thick. If the dough is still wet, use more flour. Transfer the dough to the freezer until it’s well chilled, about 20 minutes.

While the cut doughnuts chill, gather up the dough scraps, and repeat the flattening and cutting process.

Once the dough is chilled, take it out of the freezer. Using a doughnut cutter (or a 3- to 3 1/2-inch drinking glass), cut out doughnut shapes. To cut out the holes, use your cutter (or an apple corer or the top of a small jar) to cut out circles of 1 inch in diameter.

Arrange the doughnuts and doughnut holes on the prepared sheet pan. Refrigerate the doughnuts for 30 minutes, or cover and refrigerate overnight to fry the next morning.

When you’re ready to fry, put enough shortening into a deep-sided (but not wide) pan to measure a depth of about 3 inches. Clip a frying or candy thermometer to the side of the pan and heat over medium heat until the oil comes to 365 degrees F. Have several layers of brown paper ready for draining. (I use grocery bags.) Do not use paper towels, as the doughnuts will wind up limp and soggy.

Find the tools you’ll need for flipping and lifting the doughnuts out of the oil, and lay them to the side of the stove. Once you start frying dough, things happen fast!

Pour the remaining 1/2 cup sugar into a large, wide bowl and set it aside.

Once your oil is ready, carefully add a few doughnuts to the hot oil, leaving plenty of space in between. Work in small batches so that the oil temperature doesn’t decrease. Fry until one side is golden and crispy, about 1 minute. Turn the doughnuts over and fry until the other side is golden, about 30 to 45 seconds.

When the doughnuts are done, set them on brown paper to drain for a few minutes. While they are still warm, lay each doughnut on top of the sugar, then flip the doughnut and set the uncoated side on a serving plate. Serve warm.

Store in a tightly lidded plastic container or tin for up to 5 days.

After The Fall of Saigon: Starting from Scratch in Kentucky

Fall of SaigonToday marks the 40th Anniversary of the Fall of Saigon, and the end of the Vietnam War. For many Vietnamese families who did not subscribe to the ruling Communist Party’s politics, the withdrawal of American forces also meant their own evacuation from the country they called ‘home.”Huong “CoCo” Tran was among those South Vietnamese civilians for whom Vietnam was no longer safe.

After fleeing her homeland, CoCo started her new life in Louisville, Kentucky. First, packing ice cream cones at the Derby Cone factory, then later, after a lucky break and a lot of hard work, as a restaurateur. A pioneer in the Louisville restaurant industry, she opened Egg Roll Machine—the first Chinese take-out restaurant in the city in 1980, Café Mimosa—the first Vietnamese restaurant in the city in 1986, Zen Garden—the first Asian vegetarian restaurant in the city in 1999, and Zen Tea House—Louisville’s first and only Asian tea house. Her newest ventures are Heart & Soy and Roots—also vegetarian. Flavors from Home - University Press of Kentucky

And though CoCo is unique, her story of courage, perseverance, and self-reinvention is not wholly uncommon. Each year, the United States legally resettles tens of thousands of refugees who have fled their homelands. As these individuals and their families struggle to adapt to a new culture, the kitchen often becomes one of the few places where they are able to return “home.” Preparing native cuisine is one way they can find comfort in an unfamiliar land, retain their customs, reconnect with their past, and preserve a sense of identity.

The following excerpt, from Flavors of Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods, illuminates the aftermath of the Fall of Saigon through the eyes of a survivor who has redefined what it means to be a Kentuckian and an American.


Flavors from Home - University Press of Kentucky Coco Tran in her Roots and Heart & Soy kitchen

Huong “CoCo” Tran in the kitchen of her restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky.

On April 30, 1975, Communist troops from North Vietnam and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam invaded and overtook Saigon, ending the war and a century of Western influence. CoCo [Tran] found herself in the midst of a mob scene as she tried to make her way to a ferry and return to Saigon. Her older sister, who was unable to leave at the time, asked CoCo to escort her adopted eleven-year-old daughter to freedom and safety. CoCo still recalls, even thirty-odd years later, the horrific accident that occurred just hours after the child was entrusted to her care. With thousands of people fighting their way onto the ferry, CoCo and the young girl were pushed into the water as they boarded. CoCo surfaced. The child never did. CoCo spent the rest of the day and night frantically searching for the little girl. Eventually she had to return to Saigon—alone and defeated. (She never forgot the child and spent the next three decades trying to locate her. Finally, in 2008, she found her niece alive and well in Vietnam with two children of her own.)

Because of CoCo’s father’s politics, the family knew they were no longer safe in Vietnam. On May 2 CoCo and members of her extended family—twelve adults and six children—left Saigon with only some cash and some gold and an extra change of clothing. The only thing they knew for sure was that they would pay any price for freedom.

The family members staggered their individual departures to avoid arousing suspicion and reconnected near Long Hai beach, where American ships were supposed to be waiting to pick up refugees. No ships were in sight. The family negotiated with a fisherman, paying him to transport them on his small, poorly supplied fishing boat toward international waters. CoCo remembers how dark it was that first night at sea and how terrified she was, not knowing where they would end up or whether they would even survive another day. Finally, in the distance, they spotted a merchant ship. Just when they thought their luck had turned, the captain of the Taiwanese merchant ship demanded the exorbitant sum of $9,000 for food and transportation. They gave him everything they had and traveled from port to port, alongside cows and buffalo. They stopped at Thailand, Hong Kong, and Okinawa, but each port refused them entry. At the time, no official refugee program existed to support the people who were fleeing Vietnam. Without relatives or sponsors at these port cities, no country was willing to take in CoCo’s family.

Meanwhile, CoCo’s younger brother, Tran Thien Tran, was in America working tirelessly to find a way to help his stranded kin out on the open seas. He was living in Kentucky, attending the University of Louisville’s J. B. Speed School of Engineering. The family’s hope was that Tran could find them local sponsors so they could join him in the States. After thirty-six days at sea, the Trans finally got word that Taiwan would admit them, on the condition that they not stay on the island for an extended period. Back in the States, sponsoring groups from local churches and the University of Louisville, along with a few individual households, rallied to assist the Tran family.

A grainy photo from the Louisville Times shows a tearful CoCo giving her brother a long-awaited hug at Standiford Field airport. It is hard to reconcile this woman with the confident, relaxed, successful restaurateur sitting across from me now and smiling broadly, brown eyes shining behind maroon-rimmed glasses—the American Dream personified.

For more on the Vietnam War and the International Community in Kentucky:

Bourbon Desserts: Always-in-the-Pantry Bourbon Pound Cake

Always-in-the-Pantry Bourbon Pound Cake

Always-in-the-Pantry Bourbon Pound Cake

“Bourbon does for me what the piece of cake did for Proust.”—Walker Percy

Why not combine the two?

What better way to celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month than with this home-cook staple from Lynn Marie Hulsman’s Bourbon Desserts.

Introducing the recipe, Hulsman says, “The loveliest thing about about pound cake, though, is that it’s rootsy.” This is the kind of recipe that anyone with a well stocked home kitchen can make at just about any time. That’s not to say, however, that making a truly inspired pound cake doesn’t take a good deal of love and attention.

With that said: break out the whisks and get to baking. When you’re bourbon-loving friends drop by, you’ll be more than ready to entertain with this delicious cake.

Always-in-the-Pantry Bourbon Pound Cake

Makes two 8 x 4-inch loaves

2 cups (4 sticks) butter, cold (but not hard),
plus more for greasing pan
2½ cups granulated sugar
7 large eggs, at room temperature
4 cups cake flour, sifted before measuring
1 tablespoon bourbon

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