Pepperoni Rolls Are OK, But …

Most states, able to claim a food as delicious, utilitarian and inexpensive as the pepperoni roll wouldn’t hesitate to proclaim it their official state food, I suppose. It was suggested West Virginia legislators should name the pepperoni roll – invented in Fairmont, specifically for coal miners – as the official state food. The idea went nowhere.

That’s probably because of political gridlock involving the leather breeches, ramps and soup beans and cornbread parties.

With so many wonderful foods that are part of our mountain heritage, how do you pick just one?

A good pepperoni roll is a delight. But it just can’t compare to a bowl full of leather breeches, sometimes called dried beans.

They’re not, strictly speaking, a West Virginia food. They’re part of the nation’s pioneer heritage, though very few people outside this region have ever heard of them.

You haven’t? Trust me on this: Buy 10 or 20 pounds of green beans. Spend several hours with a needle and thread stringing them. Hang them up to dry for three or four months.

By then, they’ll look like anything but edible, but bear with me: Put them in a crock pot or other slow-cooking device, with some salt and a little pork for flavoring (you may have to experiment). Once the beans are done (it can take a day or so), enjoy.

Wilted lettuce ought to be considered, too. Here’s how to do it: Place some leaf lettuce in a large bowl. In a skillet, heat some bacon. Mix the bacon grease with some green onions and – the secret ingredient – a bit of buttermilk, along with seasoning to taste. Pour lots of this stuff over the lettuce. It’ll look intimidating, but it’s delicious.

Soup beans (also with green onions) and cornbread deserve honorable mention as the official state food (the late Sen. Robert Byrd loved them). So do beans and ramps, providing you and those around you for the next 24 hours can stand it. And wild game ranging from groundhog to venison needs to be considered.

Then there are morels sauteed in butter and salads made of field greens to add to the list.

That’s the problem with declaring any one edible as West Virginia’s official state food. We have too many culinary delights vying for the title. Makes you feel sorry for the poor flatlanders who have never had just-caught trout cooked over wood coals, doesn’t it?

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