This article originally appeared in The DA.

It’s a big month for WVU alum Candace Nelson.

Just last week, her new book about the state’s culinary specialty, The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll, finally hit the shelves.  The book is not only full of beautiful color photos, but also a detailed account of the state’s “secret snack” that is rarely seen outside of West Virginia’s borders.

 The history of the pepperoni roll is more storied than you might expect, Nelson said. She first began writing about the topic for the Charleston Daily Mail (now the Charleston Gazette-Mail) in 2013, when a group of state legislators introduced a resolution to make pepperoni rolls the official state food of West Virginia.  In part, the resolution read:

The pepperoni roll was first created in Fairmont, around 1927 by Italian immigrant baker, Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro, and it should be no surprise that it quickly became a daily staple for coal miners and struggling families; 

Today, the humble pepperoni roll is ubiquitous around the mountain state and may be found in restaurants, bakeries, convenience stores and family kitchens, eaten cold or hot. This simple food continues to sustain West Virginians from every walk of life, coal miners, artists, business people and students.  

The Legislature hereby recognizes the significance of the “pepperoni roll” in the state and by so doing declares that the “pepperoni roll” is the official State Food of West Virginia.

(Read the entire 2013 resolution here.)

Photo by J. Kendall Perkinson.



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The resolution died in the House Rules Committee, but the story started Nelson on a journey that culminated in her new book.  The West Virginia Pepperoni Roll covers the roll’s history, its prevalence, rumors surrounding its legality, and the eternal debate over what kind of rolls are best.

“Depending on what part of the state you’re from, you probably have pledged loyalty to stick or sliced pepperoni rolls,” said Nelson who refuses to take sides.  “I love all pepperoni rolls equally.  I truly believe that there’s a pepperoni roll for every occasion.  I mean it.”

Writing about food is nothing new to the Wellsburg native.  The success of her food blog, Candace Lately, combined with her journalism experience and previous writing on the topic, is what led the book’s publisher to contact her at the outset.  The foreword is written by Emily Hilliard, state folklorist whose food writing has been featured by NPR and the Southern Foodways Alliance.

Nelson’s next Morgantown appearance will be June 17th at Barnes & Noble from 1 pm-4 pm.  Other appearances include:

June 10 – Weirton Book Company from 4-6 p.m. in Weirton, W.Va.

June 15 – Taylor Books from 6-7 p.m. in Charleston, W.Va.

 June 17 – Barnes & Noble from 1-4 p.m. in Morgantown, W.Va.

June 20 – Rolls on the River from 5:30 – 8 p.m. in Charleston, W.Va.

June 24 – Empire Books from noon- 2p.m. in Huntington, W.Va.

July 8 – Town Run Brewing (hosted by Four Seasons Books) at 5 p.m. in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

July 30 – The Great Pepperoni Roll Cook-Off at the Morgantown Market Place Pavilion from 2-4 p.m. in Morgantown, W.Va.

Sept. 2 – West Virginia Italian Heritage Festival Author Forum at noon in Clarksburg, W.Va.

Sept. 5 – “Lunch with Books” at the Ohio County Public Library from noon to 1 p.m. in Wheeling, W.Va.