Monday, December 8, 2014

Wandering through West Virginia

So last week we navigated Missouri and Washington DC and there are officially only four states left on our grand tour!  (Can you believe it??)  We’re hopping back across the Mississippi to the only state in the Union to have acquired its sovereignty by proclamation of the President of the United State.  It’s the state that is considered the southern most northern state and the northern most southern state. (Try to figure that one out!)  It has the oldest median age of its residents (40), the lowest crime rate and some really messed up boundaries.  If you guess we’re on West Virginia week, go grab yourself a golden delicious apple or perhaps a pepperoni roll (eaten off your fiestaware, of course)!  It’s time to learn why in West Virginia “Mom’s” the word, you can go to tell someone to “jump off a bridge” and they just might and how a super fancy hotel became a top secret government bunker.  I’m full of my usual endless facts and figures and ready to share with my Dynamic Duo just what makes “The Mountain State” worth studying this week.

There are plenty of “Hallmark Holidays” that fill the calendar (Sweetest Day – really?) and there are some out there that feel that Mother’s Day should be on this list.   Residents of Grafton, location of the International Mother’s Day Shrine may have a beef with that.  Originally Andrews Methodist Episcopal Church, the first official celebration of Mother’s Day was held there in 1908.  The holiday was established by Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Jarvis, who created a committee to establish a "Mother's Friendship Day", the purpose of which was "to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War." She had previously organized "Mother's Day Work Clubs" to improve sanitation and health for both Union and Confederate encampments and wanted to expand this into an annual memorial for mothers.  She died in 1905 before the celebration became popular and Anna vowed to continue her mother’s efforts to make it a national celebration.  It was made an officially United States Holiday in 1914 and is celebrated annually on the second Sunday in May.  (Side note, Anna Jarvis would have been on the side of those who claim it became a “Hallmark Holiday” – she fought bitterly in her later life to have it abolished.)

Commercial or not, if you forget Mother’s Day you may just want to go jump off a bridge out of guilt.  If so, West Virginia has the perfect spot!  Just head over to Fayetteville, home to the New River Gorge Bridge.  The 3,030 feet bridge with a 1,700 foot arch (making it the fourth largest in the world) opened in 1977 as the highest vehicular bridge in the world.  (Meaning I am officially never getting MY Mom on it!) What makes the bridge even more unique is its annual Bridge Day celebration.  Celebrated annually on the third Saturday in October, Bridge Day is the only day on which Pedestrian traffic is allowed on the surface of the New River Gorge Bridge.  The event has also turned into one of the largest extreme sports event in the world where for six hours the Bridge serves as the launch point for safe, legal BASE jumps.  Last year’s event saw hundreds of BASE jumpers and over 80,000 spectators.  I’m seriously considering NOT sharing this information with my little daredevil Bean this week…

One thing I will be sharing with her – golden delicious apples!  The sweet, yellowish-green apple (that is a ‘cousin’ of its red delicious counter-part that you might remember hails from Iowa!) originated in West Virginia and is even its official state fruitThe original tree was found on the Mullins' family farm in Clay County, and was locally known as Mullin's Yellow Seedling and Annit apple. Anderson Mullins sold the tree and propagation rights to Stark Brothers Nurseries which first marketed it as a companion of their Red Delicious in 1914.  (Check out the story here from J.M. Mullins the supposed discoverer of the first golden delicious tree)  The taste of the golden delicious is a favorite for raw eating and cooking in the United States.

In fact, I’d bet a golden delicious apple or two may be found in a lunch box of one of the many people employed by the coal industry in West Virginia.  The Mountain State is responsible for 15% of the coal production for the entire nation.  Fifty-three of West Virginia’s fifty-five counties have coal (twenty-eight of which produce coal annually), which was first discovered in its borders in 1742.  The West Virginia Coal Industry provides about 30,000 direct jobs (and about 29,000 independent contractors) including miners, mine contractors, coal preparation plant employees and mine supply companies.  The 2013 production value for all coal mines in West Virginia totaled $7,746,422,200.00!  To say coal mining is important to West Virginia is a gross understatement!

Perhaps not as lucrative, but still important to West Virginia’s heritage are its glassmaking and pottery industries.  The Museum of American Glass in Weston is devoted to the people, factories and the actual glass product designed in West Virginia and the rest of the United States.  Though produced there before, West Virginia became more important to the glass industry in the late 19th century when the emergence of a significant glass sand industry (the mining for sand used in glass making) in the Eastern Panhandle and the growing availability of cheap fuels, especially natural gas, provided the natural resources critical to glassmaking.  Currently, West Virginia continues to be considered a hot spot for glass designers.  Some of the most well-known glass companies hailing from West Virginia include Blenko Glass and Fenton Art Glass.

When it comes to pottery, you may not be readily familiar with the Homer Laughlin China Company, but I’d say there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ve heard of their premier line – Fiesta ware!  First introduced in 1936, the original colors were Red, Yellow, Cobalt Blue, Green and Ivory. (Turquoise was added early in 1937.) The shapes of the china were created in an Art Deco style with concentric circles highlighting the bright colors and were an instant hit.  As time passed, so did the color options and retired pieces soon became popular with collectors.  Since 1936, Homer Laughlin has produced its Fiesta pieces in 38 different colors and continues to add one new color to the line every year.  The company continues production in Newell where you can take tours of the factory.
You can be sure that there is plenty of fine china in use at The Greenbrier.  The luxury resort located in White Sulphur Springs was established in 1778 as a place for guests to ‘take the waters’ (use the nearby hot springs) to restore their health.   The original hotel was built in 1858 and has played host to twenty-six Presidents!  Currently, the West Virginia resort encompasses 6,500 acres, offers 721 hotel rooms and a 40,000-square-foot spa and requires a staff of 1,318 people.  What I’ve found even more interesting is the other uses the US government has found for the GreenbrierDuring the Second World War, the United States government appropriated The Greenbrier for two very different uses. The State Department leased the hotel for seven months immediately after the U.S. entry into the war and used it as a place to relocate hundreds of German, Japanese, and Italian diplomats and their families from Washington, D.C. until their exchange for American diplomats. Further, in September 1942, the U.S. Army purchased The Greenbrier and converted it into a two thousand-bed hospital named Ashford General Hospital. In four years, 24,148 soldiers were admitted and treated, while the resort served the war effort as a surgical and rehabilitation center. Then, in the late 1950’s, the government approached The Greenbrier for assistance in creating a secret emergency relocation center to house Congress in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. The classified, underground facility, named "Project Greek Island", was built at the same time as the West Virginia Wing, an above-ground addition to the hotel, from 1959 to 1962. Although the bunker was kept stocked with supplies for 30 years, it was never actually used as an emergency location.

Another important government holding (which changed sides 8 times during the Civil War!) in West Virginia is Harpers FerryThe town was the starting point for the Lewis and Clark expedition and was the site of the first crossing of the Potomac by a railroad, on the first structural steel bridge in the world.  It is probably most readily known for its infamous raid by John Brown in 1859.  The raid was an attempt by abolitionist John Brown to start an armed slave revolt by seizing a United States arsenal.  The unsuccessful raid led to the hanging of Brown for treason and is often cited as one of the precipitating actions that led to the Civil War.  

Before I even started my culinary research countless references to the pepperoni roll in all my West Virginia findings made it quite obvious that it was going to be my first foray into West Virginia cuisine.  Pepperoni Rolls are pretty much exactly what they sounds like - dough pockets with shredded whole milk mozzarella and a stick of pepperoni.  Simple – right?  But HUGE in West Virginia.  For dessert and to use some of those golden delicious apples, I made Slow Cooker Caramel Apple Crisp.  My crew loves apple crisp and I love the smell that results in anything being in the crock pot – win win!
I think that’s plenty to share with the Dynamic Duo this week – I’m sure it’ll keep us occupied.  Noah was out of school today as he was diagnosed with strep this morning (I HATE germs) but the doc said as long as no fever today or overnight he can head back to school tomorrow.  We're hoping so.  (Side note, Noah's 1st trimester report card today was STELLAR!)  It’s a busy week around here in general as we’re planning for company this weekend to celebrate the Bean’s birthday!  (My baby is going to be five.  I’m kind of in denial.  Cold be a rough week :-p)  Grant’s meeting up with some friends from work tomorrow night so the kiddos and I just may try our hand at a West Virginia project or two and there’s chicken and dumplings on the menu!  So until then…

West Virginia Fun Fact of the Day:  One of the nation's oldest and largest Indian burial grounds is located in Moundsville. Its 69 feet high, 900 feet in circumference, and 50 feet high. An inscribed stone was removed from the vault and is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

West Virginia Wall is up

Ready for school

Hmm, looks like I'm working on projects again

We got to skype with Aunt Sarah today

That is one giant pepperoni log...

All decked out and 'texting' - the girl is going to be the death of me

Pepperoni Rolls

An inside shot

Took the lid off my crock pot to find this.

And decked it out like this.  Grant said BEST.FOOD.EVER.  He even offered to buy me a bigger crock pot if I could make more

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