The Pepperoni Roll, a soft bread roll with pepperoni baked in the middle, originated in the coal mining areas of North Central West Virginia when Italian immigrants invented a food that could be eaten easily underground. This spicy snack soon found its way out of the mines and into bakeries, bread companies, restaurants, and event venues around the state, often with additional ingredients like cheese, red sauce, or peppers. As the pepperoni roll’s reputation moves beyond the borders of West Virginia, this food continues to embody the culinary culture of its home state. It is now found at the center of bake-offs, eating contests, festivals, as a gourmet item on local menus , and even on a bill in the states legislature.
The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll is a comprehensive history of the unofficial state food of West Virginia. With over 100 photographs and numerous recipes and recollections, it tells the story of the immigrants, business owners, laborers, and citizens who have developed and devoured this simple yet practical food since its invention.
Candace Nelson, former columnist for the Charleston Gazette-Mail, is the social media editor at West Virginia University. She writes Candace Lately, a blog that focuses on food culture in West Virginia, and resides in Morgantown.
Candace will be joined at the presentation by West Virginia State Folklorist Emily Hilliard. Hilliard’s food writing has been featured by NPR, the Southern Foodways Alliance, Lucky Peach, and the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets, among others. She writes the pie blog Nothing in the House at www.nothinginthehouse.com