As Spam is to Hawaii, soft yeast rolls baked around pepperoni are to West Virginia. The pepperoni roll first appeared in the early twentieth century in coal country when Italian American miners’ wives packed the hearty meal for their husbands’ lunch breaks.
They are still a favorite of West Virginians and are widely celebrated enough that when a Morgantown musician named R.J. Nestor wrote a musical about the state’s history, he organized the Great Pepperoni Roll Cookoff to pay for it. “What better way to fund a show about West Virginia history than with a delicacy that’s so West Virginia?” Nestor asks.
Now Golden Horseshoe tours schools for two weeks each fall, showcasing Mountain State history for twenty thousand students. The daylong Cookoff, this Sunday, August 11, at the Morgantown Farmers Market continues to support the show.
Vendors serve hundreds of hungry fans and compete for People’s Choice, Most Original (one year a cook fried doughnuts with pepperoni-studded batter), Most Traditional (no sauce), and Best Overall awards.
The ten-dollar entry fee covers attendees’ samples from area restaurants, home cooks’ kitchens, food stands, and other local spots. “A gas station five minutes from my house has won the competition twice,” Nestor boasts.
The Fifth Annual Great Pepperoni Roll Cookoff is August 11 at 2:00 p.m. at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion in Morgantown, West Virginia.