A Return To Baking During Coronavirus Pandemic

Apr 7, 2020

Kerri Namolik lives in Shepherdstown, W.Va. with her husband and two daughters. She is an assistant professor for Blue Ridge Community and Technical College and is working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

But like many parents, she has also found herself homeschooling her two girls – Scarlett and Lilah – and using baking as a way to implement some math.


Many West Virginians have been sheltering at home since Gov. Jim Justice issued a stay-at-home-order on March 23 due to the coronavirus, and since then, some have turned back to traditional Appalachian practices – things like gardening, sewing and baking – either out of necessity or just to pass the time. 

“Having a little bit of extra time on my hands, being able to bake breads and muffins and things that we can have for breakfast or for snacks has been a lot of fun,” Namolik said. “And I get my kids involved so that we're also kind of learning things, measuring things and they really enjoy to help out with that as well.”

But Namolik said it is also a way to practice old school kitchen skills.

Namolik and her girls have been making bread, muffins, cookies, but one of their favorites is popovers. They are flakey light rolls that are an American adaptation of England’s Yorkshire Pudding, a recipe that dates back to the 17th century.

Popovers are made with eggs, butter, milk, salt and flour. Namolik said she helps prep the ingredients and her daughters mix the batter together.

“Good, good, good. Now mix all that flour into it,” Namolik said.

“It looks so yucky,” Scarlett said. “It looks like hard milk.”

“Well, it’ll be yummy when you mix it all up,” Namolik said.

Traditionally, Appalachians have relied on baking to provide food for the family. 

Namolik is a self-taught baker who has baked consistently for the past 10 years but is leaning on the skill more during the pandemic. 

“Nobody else is leaving the house except for me whenever I go on those grocery store trips,” she said. “So the least amount of time that I have to leave, the less likely my family is to be exposed. So, I've been trying to do at least a week and a half or two weeks at a time.” 

Earlier in March stores were all sold out of bread as people braced for social distancing, but Namolik has also noticed a shortage of yeast and flour. 

“Well, right now I'm down to my last bag,” she said. “And so I'm hoping at least that means other people are trying to make their own things now since I can't find it.”

And there is truth to that. Online, things like “isolation loaves” and “quarantine cookies” are trending. According to Nielsen data, yeast purchases were up 600 percent in March.  

Have you found yourself returning to homemaking things in this time of social distancing? We'd love to hear from you! Send an email to ctan@wvpublic.org.

This story is part of the Inside Appalachia Folkways Reporting Project. Subscribe to the podcast to hear more stories of Appalachian folklife, arts, and culture.