Southern Publication to feature Mercer School's pepperoni rolls - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Southern Publication to feature Mercer School's pepperoni rolls

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PRINCETON, WV, January 21, 2014:  In Mercer County, Imogene Terry's made-from-scratch pepperoni/cheese rolls are already famous.  When they appear on the menu at Mercer Elementary, parents, grandparents, and even Board of Education employees find an excuse to wind up at the school during lunch time.


Now, those lightly-browned yeast rolls filled with meat and cheese are on the cusp of broader fame.  A free-lance author, blogger, and self-proclaimed "foodie" will be featuring the Mercer School favorite in a magazine devoted to local cuisine. 

Writer Martha Cunningham Miller, a Princeton native and Mercer School alum, now writes from her home in Alexandria, Virginia.  Her writing and recipes have appeared in The Washington Post, Richmond MagazineSmithsonian.com, and The Richmond Times-Dispatch. One of the publications she contributes to is Gravy, a print and electronic publication of the Southern Foodways Alliance that features the food traditions and people of the South.

Before starting her research, Miller sought approval from Mercer County's Nutrition Department. "I'd like to do a short profile about her [Terry], how long she's been at the school, her background, and her take on pepperoni rolls," Miller said. "The story will appear in the next issue, which is set to focus on the foods and traditions of Appalachia."

Miller interviewed Terry by phone.  "She asked me so many questions," Terry said, "and had really done her homework.  I really enjoyed talking to her."

Now in her 31st year as cook at Mercer, Terry doesn't recall Martha as a student back in the late 80's, but said she enjoyed the phone call because Martha was so inquisitive and friendly.

Unable to drive to Princeton because of her young son at home, Miller is relying on her telephone interview, contributed photos, and her memory of the delicious bread and stringy cheese.

The final product, of course, starts with bread dough, Terry explains on a recent pepperoni roll day.  "USDA Recipe B16C," she rattles off. "We have to work as a team when rolls are on the menu.  They are very time intensive."

Terry's helpers on this particular day are Rose Reed and Kay Hubbard.  Kay kneads and punches down gigantic bowls of dough, and portions off each roll. Rose and Imogene flatten the portions with rolling pins and fold them up over little pre-cut stacks of meat, cheddar, and mozzarella cheese.  The rolls are placed on enormous trays and allowed to rise in a warm place. To make 500 rolls, the whole process takes all morning.

Leavened with rapid-rise yeast, the rolls puff up in 20 minutes and are ready for the oven.  Once out of the oven, they are brushed with butter and kept warm until the children arrive. 

Imogene and her crew turn their attention to the rest of the meal:  baked beans, sauteed mushrooms, Romaine salad, peach cup, fresh fruit, and milk.  "The children don't have to take everything," Terry adds, "but they must choose three foods."

At 11:30, third-grade students – a few joined by grandparents— line up for lunch.  They had smelled the aroma of fresh-baked bread while still in the classroom, and they are eager to fill their trays.  Everyone takes a pepperoni/cheese roll.  Most also pick up beans, salad, and fruit.

Once seated in the cafeteria, each child has a different technique for eating their roll, most preferring to eat it first while the cheese is still gooey.

In the kitchen, Terry and her crew are preparing for the next group of children. "This is a great place to work.  It is the only school I've ever worked in." Terry says. "The kids all called me Mamaw."

For information about Martha Miller, visit [marthajmiller.com]marthajmiller.com .  Quarterly editions of Gravy are available in PDF form at http://www.southernfoodways.org/pubtype/gravy-quarterly/
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