I was excited this week when Matt Lauer headed to “The Today Show” kitchen for a segment with food critic Katie Lee on West Virginia’s state food, the pepperoni roll. The Mountain State rarely gets good press on a national scale, so a plug on a popular morning show couldn’t be a bad thing, right?
Then I watched in horror as Lee, a native of Milton, W.Va., proved that she is more foodie than hillbilly. She perverted the perfect simplicity of the pepperoni roll — homemade dough, slices or chunks of pepperoni, cheese and sometimes a little sauce — with a recipe that includes broccoli. Yes, broccoli!
To make culinary matters worse, Lee didn’t even craft her concoction into the form of actual rolls. She fashioned something that looked more like a stromboli, cut it into “12 even rounds” and then cooked them in a casserole dish. She served the meal with banana peppers and marinara sauce on the side.
News flash to Billy Joel’s ex-wife: That is not how you make pepperoni rolls! You’ve been living in the big city too long.
I’m not an anti-broccolite like George H.W. Bush, who famously banned them from the White House menu during his presidency. I might even like the recipe that Katie Lee invented. But she needs to pick a better name for it than pepperoni rolls.
The history behind the redneck delicacy exposes the flaws in Lee’s recipe. The inventor of the pepperoni roll, Giuseppe (Joseph) Argiro, got the idea from watching his fellow coal miners on their lunch breaks.
“A common lunch for immigrant miners, according to Giuseppe’s younger son, Frank Argiro, consisted of ‘a slab of bread, a chunk of pepperoni, and a bucket of water.’ At some point between 1927 and 1938 — nobody seems to know exactly when — Giuseppe began placing the spicy pepperoni within the bread, and the pepperoni roll was born.”
The food came into existence because miners needed something that was meaty enough to get them through the day and practical enough to take into a mine. Lee’s version is not the least bit practical.
The State of West Virginia may need to create the mountaineer equivalent of a “man card” for expatriates like Lee just so the card can be revoked for egregious behavior like this:
Filed under: Entertainment and Food and People and Video and West Virginia
I knew Lady Gaga had some West Virginia roots — she even gave the state a plug in her song “Born This Way” — but until today I didn’t know her Mom was a West Virginia University cheerleader.
That bit of history popped into my Facebook feed yesterday in the form of a picture of Mother Gaga in WVU cheerleading garb, and Lady Gaga herself confirmed it today by sharing the photo on Instagram. The family resemblance is obvious.
Filed under: Music and People and Social Media and Technology and West Virginia
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There are no cougars in Wayne County, W.Va. By official accounts, there are no cougars anywhere in wild, wonderful West Virginia. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded in 2011 that the eastern cougar is no longer endangered because it is extinct.
But for a few days last month, a Prichard, W.Va., man named J.R. Hundley deceived a whole bunch of gullible people on Facebook into thinking he had seen one near his house. “I think he killed my [pit bull]! Something tore him up pretty bad,” Hundley wrote Dec. 16.
When asked by Facebook readers, Hundley divulged phony details about the origins of the picture. He implied that he took the photo on “my driveway up the hill to my house” on Lower Gragston Creek Road. When one reader voiced concern about a free-roaming mountain lion killing pets and livestock, Hundley even offered this reassurance about the one he never actually saw: “I was gone, came home and found him. He wasn’t mean at all!”
Nearly 1,600 people shared his warning about a puma on the prowl in the hills, and another 600 liked it. You could tell from the comments that locals wanted to believe it was true, if only to justify their unfounded fears that mountain lions are in the area. Some people spread rumors of their own.
“We saw one cross the road in Prichard a few years ago in front of us, but it was black,” Carrie Ann Bragg wrote. Kathy Baker Rice shared this tale: “I saw one on Bear Creek a few years ago, just about three miles from Buchanan, Ky., which is across the Big Sandy River from Prichard. Huge.”
Cara Nelson-Hall suggested that the mountain lion Hundley imagined was not alone. “They’re on Davis branch. We hear them,” she said. And Jim Reed cried conspiracy by state game officials. “I bet DNR released him out there, lol,” he said half-jokingly. “I would call them and ask them if they did and tell them to pay [you] for your pit bull.”
Appalachian Magazine bought into Hundley’s story, touting it and other alleged sightings of mountain lions in Appalachia under the headline “Mountain Lion Sighted in West Virginia.” Several readers told their own cougar tales in the comments of the magazine’s Facebook page and ridiculed the doubters.
“Anyone that thinks there are no panthers in West Virginia is a fool,” Opal Marcum said. “They are in Wayne County, Mingo County and Logan County for sure. Just because you don’t see them doesn’t mean they don’t see you.”
But discerning readers quickly pegged Hundley as a hoaxer. “Also look out for the notorious Sasquatch,” Travis Boone mocked. “He’s around too!!”
Some critics assumed that the picture was real and that Hundley edited a mountain lion into it. But as it turns out, the entire photo is real (along with a second one like it). Hundley just didn’t take it.
The photos were published on three Facebook pages, Hunting Trophy Trips, Oregon Outdoor Hunters and Oregon Outdoor Council. Oregon State University forestry student Hayden England saw the cougar March 10 while working in the field near Vida, Ore., and the McKenzie River.
Filed under: History and Hunting & Guns and Media and People and Social Media and West Virginia and Wildlife
Behold the power of enlightened rednecks:
Remember that the next time you read an article trashing West Virginia or hear some elitist tell a joke about those hillbillies in the Mountain State. A little redneck common sense made the researchers at my alma mater skeptical, and a little hard work on their part exposed the alleged deception of a multinational corporation.
Filed under: Business and Education and Government and News & Politics and Rednecks and West Virginia
Homer Hickam, the enlightened redneck from Coalwood, W.Va., who rose to rocketry and writing fame, knows exactly how 14-year-old Texan Ahmed Mohammed feels. Both were falsely accused of mischief during their scientific adventures, Hickam for allegedly starting a forest fire with an errant rocket launch and Mohammed for presumably perpetrating a bomb hoax in his school.
Hickam empathized with Mohammed in a blog post that recalled not only Hickam’s own arrest but also some of the run-ins that other brainiacs have had with authoritarian school bureaucrats and police officers:
The other examples of nonconformist geniuses being suspended for their creative pursuits included a boy who made a cardboard mockup of a rocket from a potato chip canister and a girl on the honor roll whose science experiment produced a puff of smoke on school grounds.
Hickam gave the latter student and her twin sister scholarships to Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala., and now he is offering the same thing to Mohammed. “Space Camp is one place where really bright kids can blossom. … I’m there often enough to see how youngsters, often picked on at school for being too bright, thrive when they find themselves with other students just like them.”
Filed under: Aviation and Education and News & Politics and People and West Virginia
Comments: 1 Comment
I’m totally jumping on the bandwagon of angry West Virginians rolling virtually toward Sheetz’s corporate headquarters in Pennsylvania. The cause: Mountain State pride in pepperoni rolls.
The outcry started Friday, when Rogers and Mazza’s Italian Bakery in Clarksburg, W.Va., announced on its Facebook page that Sheetz abruptly canceled the company’s contract to provide pepperoni rolls for 117 stores in West Virginia and other states. Worse, they lost the contract to a company outside West Virginia, the birthplace of the pepperoni roll.
“I would suggest and appreciate everyone writing this company with their displeasure on their decision,” Rogers and Mazza’s urged its fans — and they did.
Those complaints prompted the Charleston Gazette-Mail to run a story today. It caught my attention on Facebook, and here’s what I have to say to Sheetz after reading it:
UPDATE, July 30: Sheetz has caved to the pressure applied by West Virginia’s angry rednecks. Here’s what the company said in announcing that its Mountain State stores will sell West Virginia-made pepperoni rolls: “Our customers told us loud and clear that it is important to them to have those rolls provided and baked by a West Virginia company. I couldn’t be happier to have that feedback and we are committed to executing upon it.”
UPDATE, Aug. 17: Rogers and Mazza’s paid the price for biting the hand that fed it a contract for pepperoni rolls for years — the bakery lost the contract to another West Virginia-based competitor, Home Industry Bakery. “The company went through a thorough evaluation of West Virginia vendors and selected the best partner to supply all 49 stores in the state,” Sheetz announced.
Thank you, Rogers and Mazza’s for exposing a potential injustice at the hands of Sheetz. You took a hit to your pocketbook for West Virginia pride, and I, for one, appreciate it.
Filed under: Business and Food and Media and Social Media and West Virginia
Kaitlen Whitt is about as enlightened as they come from an intellectual perspective. She has a degree in English and taught the language in Bulgaria while on a prestigious Fulbright scholarship. She has traveled to more than 40 countries. She has contributed to the Traveling 219 multimedia project and Allegheny Mountain Radio. And she makes and sells jewelry.
But Whitt hasn’t always been proud of her redneck roots in West Virginia. By her own admission, she saw it as “a dumping ground full of uncultured, uneducated, unfriendly, and uncouth people” and wanted to “rise above a home that I understood as a prison.”
Thankfully, her success at escaping the state and packing a lifetime of adventures into a few short years has given her fresh perspective. Whether she realizes it yet or not, Whitt’s journey to true enlightenment helped her see that being redneck isn’t so bad after all.
Here’s an excerpt from her “love letter to West Virginia” documenting that journey:
I’ve always been proud to be from West Virginia, and the stereotypes about it simply reinforce my love of it. In that sense I don’t get why Whitt once seemed to resent her roots. But she is now an eloquent spokeswoman for the place we both consider home. I’m glad to have her in the enlightened redneck fold.
Filed under: Entertainment and Hatin' On Rednecks and Media and People and Redneck Humor and Rednecks and West Virginia
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If you have $100, you can buy $97.09 worth of goods in Virginia, according to a new analysis and map of government data by the Tax Foundation. Cross the border into West Virginia (known as the Best Virginia to those of us who are from there) and you’ll get $16 more value for your $100 investment.
That is why our family likes to shop when we visit the Mountain State.
Filed under: Culture and Government and News & Politics and West Virginia
A Washington Post video about a fledgling newspaper that is produced in a historic West Virginia hotel helped the reporter on that story win a national award last month.
Lee Powell traveled to The Wells Inn in Sistersville, W.Va., last year to get the scoop on The INNformer, dubbing it a “bi-monthly miracle” in an era when newspapers are dying. Powell included the companion 4 1/2-minute video report in a a package of three stories that he submitted for an Edward R. Murrow Award for online writing. Powell won the award on June 24.
I’ve had my eye on The INNformer for nearly two years now, ever since media writer Jim Romenesko started mocking hotel/newspaper owner Charles Winslow over his quirky job ads. The free paper is published just a few miles from my hometown, and my parents get it delivered to their house. I skim the back issues when we visit and now have a stack of them at our home hundreds of miles away. I also check the paper’s Facebook page periodically.
Reading the paper as an experienced editor and reporter, I haven’t been impressed with the journalistic quality of The INNformer. Grammatical errors and typos are common — one issue was printed without standard masthead details like the date — and the writing can be bland. The paper also has missed multiple opportunities to tell compelling stories.
I can think of two from my hometown, which is part of the paper’s circulation area. The first story had great feature potential. When former Paden City High School band director Ed Hood died last summer, alumni and current band members paid tribute to him at a memorial service. It was a great news hook for exploring Hood’s legacy in building “The Biggest Little Band in the Land.”
The second, a shooting that left a man dead in Paden City, happened a month ago. That is big news in a small town, but the coverage overall has been sparse and confusing. It’s the perfect opening for an upstart newspaper to fill the void. Yet The INNformer dedicated only four superficial paragraphs to the shooting several days after it happened.
All that said, as a small-town boy who grew up reading daily and weekly newspapers in the Ohio Valley, I still appreciate the work The INNformer is doing. It’s the part-time passion of a local businessman who cares enough about his community to produce a paper that is likely more hassle than it’s worth in terms of revenue.
The newspaper is quaint, like the hotel where it is created. And although the journalism is sometimes lacking, it is improving. It’s also welcomed by readers who aren’t as critical (for better or worse) as seasoned journalists like me. “It’s something everybody looks forward to,” one reader told the Post.
Given enough time, dedication and desire, Winslow could become the next Adam Kelly of West Virginia journalism. Kelly, the “country editor” who owned and ran the Tyler Star News, was a fixture in Sistersville, Paden City and other small towns when I was young. The big shoes he left behind haven’t been filled since.
Winslow could be the one to step into them. “I actually enjoy this,” he told Powell. “That sounds kind of stupid but — my paper, I handle it from start to finish.”
Filed under: Grammar and Media and News & Politics and People and Video and West Virginia
Last fall, The New York Times published some interesting data in an interactive map that shows how U.S. residents migrate by state. I just discovered it in my Facebook feed today and was most curious about the data from my home state of West Virginia.
According to the graphic, 70 percent of people who lived in the Mountain State in 2012 were born there, down from 81 percent in 1950 and 1900. I know that many more West Virginians, including myself, move away for work these days than used to be the case, but I was surprised to see that the state has an increasing percentage of people from other places.
Only a few states have a greater percentage of homebodies than West Virginia — Louisiana at 79 percent, Michigan at 77 percent, Ohio at 75 percent, Pennsylvania at 74 percent, Mississippi and Wisconsin at 72 percent each, and Iowa at 71 percent. Like West Virginia, Alabama is at 70 percent.
The takeaway is that people in the Rust Belt and Bible Belt love to stay close to home.
Filed under: Culture and Media and Religion and West Virginia
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