CHARLESTON, W.Va. - What should be the Mountain State's signature dish?
The question arose during the recent West Virginia legislative session when a House resolution calling for the pepperoni roll to be named the official state food created a social media sensation before failing to gain traction.
It was a fun debate, though, so we asked notable West Virginians to mull the question.
Pepperoni rolls are popular, sure, but what about the stinky-but-succulent ramp? Or the nutty buckwheat cake? Or the staple food of beans and cornbread?
* Homer Hickam, author of "Rocket Boys," which chronicles his life in Coalwood, McDowell County, was shocked to see pepperoni rolls as the potential state food.
"My wife's reaction to your list: Ewwww! True, she's from Alabama but has spent a lot of time in West Virginia. Pepperoni rolls? I would think venison would be more appropriate, not that I ever ate it that much growing up," he said.
"My favorite food that Mom served up in Coalwood was potato cakes. Her cornbread was pretty good, too. But wait, after giving it some thought, here's my proposal: Commodity cheese. If you don't know what commodity cheese is, then you're not really a West Virginian."
"We had lots of Italians in Coalwood. One of them I wrote about a lot in 'Sky of Stone' - Johnny Basso. Still, I don't remember ever seeing one pepperoni roll in southern West Virginia. I suspect it's a geographical thing. But I bet EVERYBODY in the state has either eaten commodity cheese or were birthed by parents who did. Have you ever eaten commodity cheese, Candace? It was really very good.
It came in big blocks, bought by the government to support dairy prices and handed out in economically depressed areas.
"People who were eligible got enough for all of us."
Homer Hickam's Vote: Commodity Cheese
* Jeff Kessler, president of the West Virginia Senate, threw his vote in another direction.
"I love pizza. DiCarlo's in particular. Cheese and pepperoni," he said. The difference for him is that cold cheese is thrown on the hot, baked dough and sauce, which melts the provolone atop the square.
Jeff Kessler's Vote: DiCarlo's Pizza
* Newsweek/Daily Beast special correspondent and editor of "Democracy: A Journal of Ideas" Michael Tomasky holds a special place in his heart for the pepperoni roll.
"I'm Italian on my mom's side, so I grew up gobbling down my maternal grandmother's pepperoni rolls by the dozen. I was shocked when I moved away from the state and saw that they didn't exist everywhere," Tomasky said.
"I've since introduced pepperoni rolls to many friends and never had one person say anything other than 'Wow, these are great!' And now, of course, more and more people have discovered them. So I'm all for it. They're the state's greatest export since Jerry West."
Michael Tomasky's Vote: Pepperoni Rolls
* Former governor and current Sen. Joe Manchin echoed Tomasky's sentiment.
"Our beautiful state is so special because we have a great variety of foods and traditions," Manchin said. "Of course, I am very partial to pepperoni rolls and spaghetti and meatballs because these are foods that I grew up with, but I also appreciate and enjoy many other great foods from our state such as hot dogs, pinto beans and cornbread, ramps and apple butter. Indeed, West Virginia has something for everyone to enjoy."
Joe Manchin's Vote: Pepperoni Rolls
* Chuck Yeager, the first pilot to travel faster than sound, can think of a better choice.
"Never heard of pepperoni rolls. Who is making this decision? Only ever had cornbread & buttermilk & leather britches," he said.
For those who don't know, leather britches are beans that are strung together and then hung up to dry. They are then boiled, usually with a ham bone and onion for added flavor.
Chuck Yeager's Vote: Cornbread & Buttermilk & Leather Britches