Refugee worker speaking at KY Live!

KJ Hall

Whether it’s a home-cooked meal specially prepared by your mother or Hawaiian pizza specially prepared by Papa John’s, food plays a key role in human life that goes beyond providing us with nutrients and energy to live.

From Cuba’s twice-fried green plantains to steamed dumplings cooked in Bhutan, these cultural comfort foods have taken root in different regions of the world to impact global cultures and traditions.

Many of these cultures, traditions and foods are brought to the U.S., including Kentucky, by refugees from around the world.

University Libraries is hosting an opportunity to hear about these foods and their importance to refugees at the last event of the 2015-2016 Kentucky Live! season. Refugee worker and Louisville author Aimee Zaring will be the main speaker at the public talk based on her book “Flavors from Home: Refugees in Kentucky Share Their Stories and Comfort Foods” on Thursday.

Joining her will be Mirzet Mustafic, whose story is featured in Zaring’s book. Mustafic moved to Bowling Green from Bosnia in 1994 after his town was ravaged and thousands were massacred. He was one of the first five Bosnian families to come to Bowling Green and founded the Bosnian Club in 1996.

“‘Flavors from Home’ is important in helping us understand the difficulties faced by refugees in Kentucky and the solace they find in preparing food from their own country,” said Brian Coutts, the department head of library public services and an event organizer.

“Flavors from Home” received a rating of five out of five stars from the San Francisco Book Review.

“Not only are the cuisines richly described along with the exotic ingredients, these native comfort food recipes are prefaced with a portrayal of the plight of the refugees themselves,” Aron Row said writing for the San Francisco Book Review. “The individuals and their home backgrounds are described along with their challenges to enter and succeed in the American mainstream.”

Coutts said refugees have had a profound influence on Bowling Green with more than 10 restaurants and several bakeries owned by Bosnians and many establishments owned by other refugees.

In 2012, communities and organizations across the state accepted 3 percent of the refugees that arrived in the U.S., according to the Refugee Council USA.

Many students at WKU are refugees themselves or children of refugees who continue to transform and enrich all our lives, Coutts remarked.

“We hope to increase the knowledge in the community of the difficult times a lot of our refugees have had, the obstacles they’ve overcome to be successful here, and why food is so important to them since it’s kind of like a lifeline to home,” he said.

This talk is part of a year-long series aimed at bringing diverse speakers with Kentucky ties and interests to the community, Connie Foster, the dean of University Libraries, said.

“We attract students, faculty and community members to share in learning about customs, businesses, scholarly pursuits and other aspects of life in Kentucky,” she said.

The event will be held at Barnes and Noble Booksellers at 7 p.m. Thursday.

This is the final presentation of the 13th season of talks on Kentucky Live! The 14th season will begin in September.