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3 Things About Appalachia’s Signature Foods That You May Not Know

If you didn’t grow up in West Virginia, you may have no idea what a pepperoni roll is. But those who grew up eating them in school cafeterias or buying them at some of the Italian bakeries in north-central West Virginia, probably know pepperoni rolls are strongly connected to Appalachian culture and childhood memories.

This week, we’ll learn a bit more about this signature Appalachian food, and we’ll learn about how its origins are deeply connected with the history and culture of coal mining, and to the food that miners brought to work in their lunch buckets.

3 Things About Appalachia’s Signature Foods That You May Not Know

  1. If your father worked in the coal mines, chances are you remember his lunch or dinner bucket and the food that he brought to work. For many families, the extra food that was packed away in these dinner buckets was practical -- it would be there just in case an accident happened.
  1. What’s the origin of pepperoni rolls? Giuseppe Argiro is credited with inventing them in 1927. He was the original baker at The Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia. However, most food historians agree that people were likely making pepperoni rolls for years before Argiro began selling them.
  1. Legend has it pepperoni rolls were originally made for coal miners to take underground in their dinner buckets -- because the cured pepperoni didn’t spoil. The first inventors were actually likely women who made them for their husbands’ lunch buckets.

WVU Press is set to publish a new book about pepperoni rolls next year. Candace Nelson is the author, and in this podcast episode she talks with us about her research into the origins of pepperoni rolls.

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Credit Roxy Todd/ WVPB
Country Club's Pepperoni Roll

Want to try a pepperoni roll?

There are dozens of bakeries that make pepperoni rolls in West Virginia. Most famously are the four bakeries in north-central West Virginia that have been making pepperoni rolls for generations:

Jessica can be heard on Inside Appalachia and West Virginia Morning the station’s daily radio news program.
Roxy Todd is a reporter and producer for Inside Appalachia and has been a reporter for West Virginia Public Broadcasting since 2014. Her stories have aired on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Marketplace. She’s won several awards, including a regional AP Award for best feature radio story, and also two regional Edward R. Murrow awards for Best Use of Sound and Best Writing for her stories about Appalachian food and culture.