About Food with a Story

Food with a Story searches out unique historical food heritage practices that:

•    restaurants, communities, or fairs and festivals can use to promote culinary and cultural tourism
•    Country Roads Cook-Off™ organizers and participants can use in their searches for historical recipes to use in the competition

FARM2U Collaborative’s efforts to promote culinary tourism in West Virginia on a large scale ratcheted up in 2007. The Collaborative began planning a broad-based and statewide authentic marketing initiative that would provide in-state and out-of-state tourists with a list of popular eateries across West Virginia. The goal was to develop more than a typical restaurant guide. It was to provide tourists with a safety net so they could get off the interstate, bypass fast-food establishments, and still have some assurance of finding high-quality food at a locally owned restaurant.

The initiative was not intended to rank or choose the “best” restaurants but to clearly describe each eatery. Through a major media outreach, it included only places that were nominated by the public. In the end, 243 were nominated and listed on the farm2u website. In partnership with the West Virginia Division of Tourism, 101 of these restaurants were selected to be highlighted in a brochure: 101 Unique Places to Dine in West Virginia. Published and released in August 2009, it was so popular that 20,000 brochures were requested  in a matter of months.

In spring 2011, FARM2U Collaborative again sought new nominations both to update the original list as well as to create a new Destination Dining category that features the state’s premier restaurants.

Similarly, in 2011, FARM2U Collaborative began in earnest with The Food with a Story initiative—funded through a mini-grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council. The project team quickly uncovered hundreds of fascinating historical stories and resources about food growing and preparation that will interest historians and folklorists.

The team also realized, though, that these same resources could support culinary tourist attractions across the state. As an example, a number of historical food heritage practices from the New River Gorge area could be used by restaurants or communities in that region to promote culinary tourism. For instance, entrepreneurs could capitalize on the name and historic details about the legendary (and sometimes notorious) Dun Glen Hotel’s restaurant near Thurmond to develop new food traditions.

This website will provide information for both interest groups—historians and heritage tourists. As information continues to be uncovered, it will be made available for online usage.  It will be geo-specific—associated with a particular region of the state on an interactive map—and it will represent both cultural heritage and commercial/tourist aspects.

For instance, Food with a Story will include the tale of the pepperoni roll, which was invented in 1927 by Giuseppe “Joseph” Argiro at his Country Club Bakery in Fairmont to serve Italian-American coal miners. At the same time, it will also direct tourists to the original Country Club Bakery, where they can sample a version of the original pepperoni roll that was handed down through generations of the Argiro family, or to another Fairmont eatery, Colasessano’s, which is well known for a more modern variety of the pepperoni roll, developed by Spider Colasessano in the 1950s.