Through stories and food, Zaring’s ‘Flavors from Home’ shows common bonds among people of all races, cultures

“Flavors from Home evolved out of my wish to share some delicious, unique ethnic recipes and to document what I had experienced during the potlucks at the school where I taught English to refugees. At these potlucks, people from all different races, faiths, nationalities, ethnicities, and social statuses gathered together around food, and I witnessed firsthand the melting away of all the outward and superficial barriers that tend to divide people.” -Aimee Zaring

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Letter to the Unborn

The first and only time I hunted deer my Father and I holed up
in an old rust bucket Ford van. Rear doors flung open to the woods,
we passed secrets between us. Cocoa with butterscotch Schnapps.
Limericks. That the boy a block down dropped a piece of granite
on a killdeer nest between the tracks. Crosshairs swayed over steam
and snowy woods, searching for Bambi. Don’t name
what you intend to kill.

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arriving

not many deer crossed the road back then
but life was wild i remember the call

october 1959 i was nearly 9 mama was
in the house on the phone i could hear her

crying moaning talking i was standing behind
the barn it was hotter than hot i started praying

for granddaddy to live to be all right i was just
a boy but granddaddy was special to me

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The House of Hunley

The House of Bourbon ruled Europe
for centuries, but do we remember
their laws, their names, their restoration
to power after the bloody French Revolution?
In most of our houses, they’re not remembered
at all, though we invoke their names at AA meetings
or when supping the corn mash elixir that teaches us
how to forget, all because French-speaking
settlers sought to honor them by christening
their new Kentucky home Bourbon County.

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Characters for a Novel of the Days

Mostly, days sauntered by
like strangers come on Saturday
to the county seat:
there’d be Wednesday,
t-shirted, bearded, smoking a Bugler he’d rolled
himself, thinking of squirrels and the mighty football team
of Beallsville. Or Monday would show up,
brooding by the soldier’s monument
before the Monroe County Court House,
three June turkeys he’d bagged
under the game warden’s radar
stashed like Ice Age boulders in his freezer.

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Preacher Man

That was the summer I fell in love. 1977—the hottest summer in 50 years. The heat lay in our holler like somebody had left open a window in hell. Days were so long, the sun never really set, only napped a few hours before waking up full of red-hot fury. At night the darkness wasn’t true, not the black of a winter’s night, but rather faded like the negative of an old photograph.

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Hosanna, a History

I am jobless and homeless, with a teenage daughter to support, which is why my daughter, Katie, and I have driven to the property of an 85-year-old woman I barely know, where I am prepared to wheedle, grovel—whatever it takes—to convince the old lady to give me a roof over my head. The woman stands before us in overalls, arms folded, waiting. She has a real name, but everyone in the valley calls her Ma. She is a wizened tiny creature, with thick unruly gray hair. After decades of working outdoors, she is brown and crackled like pine bark. I remembered her and her empty farmhouse when the sheriff’s deputy showed up at my door with an eviction notice.

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Speaking Opossum

This was one of the nights where Joseph’s face was pinned to the living room carpet, his older brother’s forearm driven into the tender spot where his vertebrae joined his cranium. That’s what Mrs. Conn, his fourth-grade teacher, called it: cranium. He often mouthed the word to himself on nights like this, rolled it around with his tongue to distract himself from the pain. Mom was in a Xanax coma upstairs, and Dad was tinkering in the garage with an open bottle of Maker’s Mark at arm’s length; so the brothers fought, each trying to survive in his own way.

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