“My mother packed these for my father,” Mr. Willis said, as he bit into a yeast-risen stub of white bread, seams bursting with coins of Hormel pepperoni, bottom tinged russet by the meat’s aromatic grease. “He worked a coal mine. This was his lunch. I eat the same thing. Breakfast and lunch both, it’s what I want.”
In the northern reaches of West Virginia, along a corridor of Appalachia stretching from Buckhannon, through Clarksburg, up to Morgantown, an appetite for pepperoni rolls cuts across class strata.
Great look into a bit of completely regional food. I remember my time as an Energy Express mentor at Mason-Dixon Elementary when the kids would leave after lunch and the mentors would stick around with the lead teachers runnin' the show to go over lesson plans. We'd head in to town to the D-Mart and get a sandwich or a snack and a pop of some sort to decompress after the kids left (we were all still in college, a pepperoni roll and a Dr. Pepper were still enough to unwind some days!).
The D-Mart staff were of the 'split it down the middle and slather it with chili' variety. That was new to me though. In Morgantown-proper, a pepperoni roll was merely warmed and eaten as is. I even got strange looks for eating pepperoni rolls that included cheese, though my glutton-for-punishment preference was the sliced pepperoni with the hot pepper-jack cheese inside.
And that brings up the biggest chasm in the pepperoni roll world. The article noted the two types, slice or stick pepperoni, but not the good-natured cultural divide between camps of bakers who adhere to one cut or the other. It can be fierce. There are families that have multiple trays of rolls at holidays so each camp can be satisfied.
I believe my Aunt M's recipe is stick pepperoni, but strangely I don't even have it. I'll have to get in touch and make a batch, 'cause Lord and the Gods of Pepperoni knows these low-landers down here haven't felt the awesome fury of the pepperoni roll...