Monday, October 3, 2016

Roadside Regional Dining

From day one here, I've seen these things called Pepperoni Rolls in convenience stores and gas stations.  Jason shrugged when he told me they were a "West Virginia thing" and we went on our way.  Yesterday I was thumbing my way through some of those tourist magazines that are a staple of rest stops all over the nation and along with at least a thousand more things I want to do and see I found a short article on the humble origins of... the Pepperoni Roll.  So you know I had to try one.

This was my breakfast this morning!

Never heard of a Pepperoni Roll before?  Apparently, these little gems don't exist too far away from West Virginia... So once you try one your avenue to satisfy your craving is pretty narrow.  Unless it leads to your own kitchen.  Pepperoni Rolls are pretty simple to make.  Basically, it's just a nice soft dinner roll filled with pepperoni.  You could take your favorite yeast dough that you'd use to make dinner rolls, roll it out and cut like you're making pretty large crescents, layer some pepperoni inside, roll it up, pinch it shut and bake it.  And there you have a classic Pepperoni Roll.

See the inside?

The fats in the pepperoni that are solid at room temperature melt during baking and infuse the soft bread with flavor. Some bakeries are trying to gourmet them up a bit by adding cheese and/or herbs to the stuffing.  Or giving you a cup of warm marinara sauce for dipping.  I think either or both of those additions would be delicious... But just plain old pepperoni is classic and the way a purist would have them.  And of course, there's the expected disagreement over using sliced or stick pepperoni.  I say just use plenty of it!!

The story of how they came to be such a regional staple of roadside dining is really what's interesting, though, because it's such an American story.  Guiseppe Argiro, an Italian immigrant who came to the U.S. to work in the coal mines found his real calling in baking and started selling Pepperoni Rolls to other miners in 1927 from the Country Club Bakery in Fairmont, WV.  Isn't that the American dream?  Starting with nothing and finding success inventing something iconic? They became popular because they keep for several days at room temperature, are lightweight and easy to pack and can be eaten with one hand - a real working man's lunch!  Today they are popular for tailgating, camping, and on-the-go snacking for these same reasons.

I think it's a safe bet if you put your money on me having more Pepperoni Rolls in the future...

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