Haute cuisine might not be what comes to mind when people think of the region where I grew up – Appalachian Ohio, bordering West Virginia – and that’s fair. If you take a look at the area on this Appalachian Regional Commission map, you’ll see it’s sprinkled with red, which marks places considered to be a food desert. These are areas where affordable healthy food isn’t easy to come by and convenience foods are prevalent.
One of the tastiest convenience foods I’ve ever had is the Appalachian pepperoni roll, which I ate routinely while growing up. It’s a fluffy white bread roll that is baked with pepperoni inside. When the pepperoni is heated, the spicy oils are released into the bread so it’s subtly greasy with a mild kick. Invented at a bakery in Fairmont, West Virginia in 1927, the pepperoni roll initially served the same pragmatic purpose as the Cornish pasty – to provide miners with an easily transportable, calorie-dense food.