The following is a guest post by West Virginia State Folklorist Emily Hilliard, who directs the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council. AFC staff have been working with Emily, as well as Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of Lost Creek Farm, to co-produce the Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia program, a series of four films that explore food traditions in the state, premiering on the AFC’s Facebook page on August 18th, September 1st, and Wednesday, September 15th (double feature @ noon EST), with a culminating discussion event on Thursday, September 30 @ 1pm EST, which you can register for by clicking here.
This Wednesday, September 15th, beginning at noon EST on the AFC’s Facebook page, we will premiere the final two films in the Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia series: Ravioli and Sauce with Lou Maiuri followed by Turkish Cuisine and Seed Keeping with Mehmet Öztan.
Ravioli and Sauce with Lou Maiuri
Lou Maiuri, 92, is the son of Italian immigrants who arrived in West Virginia in the early 1900s. “Italians are big on food,” Lou says from his basement cellar, where the shelves are lined with preserved peppers, canned beans, and a family-recipe pasta sauce he’s been making for 70 years. In this video, Maiuri shares his recipe for homemade pasta sauce and ravioli, made from his mother’s recipe with tomatoes he grew on his Summersville farm in Nicholas County. As he works, Maiuri reflects on food as a sensory memory that connects him to his mother and other family members who have since passed.
The film adds to existing documentation in the AFC archival collections on food preservation, gardening, and tomatoes in West Virginia, as well as documentation of the cultural traditions of Italian Americans in the Western U.S., as well as in Chicago, Illinois and Paterson, New Jersey, among others.
Turkish Cuisine and Seed Keeping with Mehmet Öztan
In the small mountain community of Reedsville in northern West Virginia, sits a farm where hundreds of varieties of heirloom seeds are preserved, but relatively few of these varieties are known as Appalachian heirlooms; they’re mostly Turkish seeds from Mehmet Öztan’s home country. Öztan, who is the owner of Two Seeds in a Pod Heirloom Seed Company, and is a teaching artist in the 2020-2021 West Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, got into saving seeds after he moved to the U.S. and had difficulty accessing ingredients he knew growing up in the Turkish capital of Ankara. He has used seeds and communal meals prepared in the traditional brick oven he and his partner Amy Thompson built in their backyard to establish new connections with the rural community where he now lives. In this video, Öztan prepares a hearty bean stew and lavash, a traditional rustic bread, in his backyard oven, and speaks about food as a point of connection to both his new home and his home country.
These films are the third and fourth in the AFC’s Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia program, a series of four films produced by Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of Lost Creek Farm, with support from the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council. The films, which explore a range of food traditions in the state, will premiere on the AFC’s Facebook page on August 18th, September 1st and Wednesday, September 15th.
The culminating discussion event on Thursday, September 30 (@ 1pm EST) includes the program’s producers and filmmakers, as well as Mehmet Öztan, Marlyn McClendon, and Jonathan Hall. You can register for the September 30th discussion by clicking here. We hope you join us!