West Virginia - The Mountain State
Official Slogan “Wild and Wonderful”
Suggested Nickname “The Coal-Fired State”
Two Truths and a Lie
720 feet below the luxurious Greenbriar Resort lies a concrete bunker large enough to house all 535 members of Congress. President Eisenhower ordered the construction of the nuclear shelter during the Cold War. The government decommissioned the bunker in the 1990s and now guided tours are available for purchase.
These days Mountain Dew is a popular soda marketed to gamers and X-treme athletes. It originated in the backwoods of West Virginia when two brothers invented the 7-up knock-off to pair with cheap whiskey. Cartoon hillbillies served as the brand's first mascot.
New River Gorge National Park is the newest in the nation with white water rapids flowing through wooded hills and stony outcrops. Despite its name, the New River is actually one of the oldest on the continent.
The Recipe - Mountaineer Sables
West Virginia’s most famous food is arguably the Pepperoni Roll. In 1927, an Italian baker named Giuseppe "Joseph" Argiro stuffed pepperoni into a soft yeasted roll creating a portable lunch for coal miners. Outside those beloved rolls, West Virginia’s specialties like turkey, trout, and ramps come straight from the wilderness. To find ingredients suitable for cookies, I researched local food festivals and was delighted with the results.
Buckwheat is a hardy crop with a short growing season. Farmers planted it out of necessity during the Great Depression when wheat and corn harvests were poor. In Preston County, the buckwheat harvest turned into a community celebration. Each September visitors flock to Kingswood and enjoy copious amounts of buckwheat pancakes. Buckwheat’s name is confusing. Botanically speaking it doesn’t belong with any cereal grains, it’s more akin to rhubarb. The plant's groats are ground into a nutritious flour with a distinct dark gray color.
In the town of Spencer, black walnuts get their own festival. Starting in 1954, people would gather in this mountain town to weigh and compare walnut harvests. The gathering became a huge festival with a carnival, parade, and plenty of food including walnut pie and cookies. The first black walnut queen was Col. Ruby Bradley, the most decorated female in the U.S. Army of the 1950s.
Walnuts, buckwheat, butter, and sugar formed my sable dough, but I wanted something bright to make the flavors dance on the tongue. West Virginia is home to half a dozen apple festivals. Clay County specifically celebrates the Golden Delicious Apple, West Virginia’s state fruit. The varietal was first discovered on a family farm there and sold to a horticultural company in 1914. I poured 12 ounces of apple juice into a saucepan and let it simmer until a fragrant, sticky goo remained.
I added an ounce of moonshine to the apple juice for an extra kick. Moonshine is a high-proof spirit that was traditionally made illegally on personal stills. Today a few legal distillers produce moonshine in a variety of flavors. Many of these can be sampled at a new festival in Morgantown called “Chocolate, Wine & Shine.” I boiled off the alcohol but the moonshine still gave a nice edge to my apple reduction.
My first batch was a disaster, the ratios were all wrong, and produced a sheet of crumbly yogurt topping instead of individual cookies. I recalibrated with a very simple ratio of 1:1:1 butter, buckwheat flour, and ground walnuts. This time the sables held their shape and baked well. They taste wonderful, almost heavenly I would say.
Want to experience West Virginia for yourself? Then Teresa recommends ...
I planned a wonderful rock climbing trip to West Virginia, sadly no one committed, and the plans were scrapped. So all I can recommend is reading “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins which takes place in a fictionalized version of West Virginia but honestly depicts the struggles of communities dependent upon a dwindling coal industry.
Time for the whole truth
The patent for Mountain Dew was filed by two brothers from Knoxville, Tennessee.
(By the way, you can click on any of the 2 truths and a lie statements to visit the source of the trivia)