I am West Virginian.
West Virginian food is to Southern food as cerulean is to blue. Still the same color, but a unique shade.
West Virginians love hot bologna. They top their hot dogs with chili, cole slaw and raw onions. The state even boasts a unique restaurant franchise whose menu revolves around – wait for it – biscuits.
As in other southern states, being vegetarian in West Virginia is a little bit tricky, because it can be difficult to order from the existing menus at most restaurants, and many people have little respect for a diet that does not include bacon.
There is a stereotype of West Virginia as culturally backward and a stereotype of southern food as entirely meat-centric, neither of which are entirely accurate. West Virginia boasts some fantastic food and arts destinations; southern food, though frequently made with meat or meat by-products, can often be made vegetarian or even vegan by simply swapping pan drippings or stock for something plant-based.
Following are a couple of recipes for two of my favorite dishes, which are delicious eaten together.
Brown Beans and Fried Green Tomatoes
1 lb pinto beans, soaked overnight
1 ½ cups vidalia onion, diced
4 cups vegetable stock
8 cups water
Salt to taste
Directions: Combine all ingredients except salt in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low. Soup should simmer at a lazy bubble – no hotter, no cooler – for a 3-4 hours. When beans are tender and creamy and broth is thick and reduced, salt to taste and serve, preferably over a bowl of crumbled cornbread.
1 green tomato, sliced into 4 or 5 slices, 3/8-1/2 inch thick, and seeded
¼ cup all purpose flour
½ tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Red pepper
1/3 cup medium-coarse yellow cornmeal
3 Tbsp. Oil
Salt and black pepper to taste
Directions: Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet. It is best if your skillet is large enough to hold all the tomato slices at once. Mix flour, red pepper and ½ tsp. salt on a small plate.
Spread cornmeal on a small plate and pour a small bowl of water. One at a time, dip tomato slices in flour mixture, then water, then cornmeal. Coat both sides with each ingredient. Place slices in pan, and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until batter is light golden brown. Remove slices from pan and season with salt and black pepper.