Content Tagged ‘west virginia’

Matthew Neill Null’s West Virginia Tour

Honey from the Lion tours the land from whence it came this week! If you’re in the great state of West Virginia, consider joining Matt at any of the following events. Full details are on his website.

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3 p.m., Sunday, January 17, 2016, HUNTINGTON, WV, Empire Books & News

6 p.m., Monday, January 18, 2016, CHARLESTON, WV, Kanawha County Public Library

noon, Tuesday, January 19, 2016, WHEELING, WV, Lunch with Books, Ohio County Public Library

6 p.m., Tuesday, January 19, 2016, MORGANTOWN, WV, Black Bear Reading Series

House Guest with Matthew Gavin Frank: On Eating Rats

In House Guest, we invite Ecotone and Lookout authors and cover artists, as well as editors from peer presses and magazines, to tell us what they’re working on, to discuss themes in their writing or unique publishing challenges, to answer the burning questions they always hoped a reader would ask.

The following excerpt is from from the West Virginia essay in Matthew Gavin Frank’s book, The Mad Feast, out this week from W.W. Norton, which is a collection of fifty essays, one for each of the U.S. states. Each essay begins with a foodstuff typical of said state and then digresses from there, engaging various shadowy back alleys of regional history—sometimes beautiful, sometimes atrocious—in an attempt to uncover the answers as to why we eat what we eat, where we eat. Matt’s essay, “Spoon Bread,” about Nebraska, appears in Ecotone’s Sustenance Issue.


 

Mad Feast mech.inddThough rat meat often bears traces of pesticides, heavy metals, and human excrement, and though most residents of West Virginia (save, perhaps, for the town of Marlinton—famous for the annual autumnal Road-Kill Cook-Off featuring such local delicacies as pothole possum stew, rat gumbo, and the awesomely named Peter Caught-on-Tail Gate Roll) long to shuck the backwoods “barefoot and pregnant” stereotype (after all, we have the lowest birthrate in the U.S.), my uncle empties the traps into a stockpot as his father and his grandfather and his great-grandfather did before him, adds the water, the tomato, the salt and pepper, and the hot red peppers (his personal touch). Uncle cracks his knuckles, says something about infertility, about eighty-hour underground work weeks, about coal as black lipstick, the sort he’d smear Aunt’s face with when she was alive and well and simmering anything but rodent on the range.

According to Calvin W. Schwabe’s book Unmentionable Cuisine, step one of Rat Stew: “Skin and eviscerate the rat and split it lengthwise.” Uncle dips his face into the stockpot’s steam and inhales. He calls you to the stove, puts his arm around you. You watch the little nuggets of sour meat surface and dive down, surface and dive down. You think of the pride of Debbie “The Rat Lady” Ducommun—a Californian, no less—as she said, “I do as many necropsies of rats as I can, and between 1998 and 2003 I took measurements of the hearts of 150 rats.” You take comfort in the suspicion that you are not nearly as obsessed.

You know this: that in Bordeaux, vintners trap rats that inhabit the wine cellars and subsist on the fermenting grape juice. The vintners skin and eviscerate the rodents, then brush their bodies with a thick sauce of olive oil and crushed shallots, and grill them over a fire of broken wine barrels. Apparently, the resulting meat bears the flavors of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and petit verdot grapes, the latter of which is known in French wine circles as the “little stiffener.”

You try not to think little when you think of fertility, and worry about the heritability of Uncle’s mistakes, anatomical and otherwise. You watch little heart tumble over little rib and little liver. You try to pick out the tenderloin, the neck meat. The feet. The hands. You try not to think of the appendages that anchor us into the mine shafts that only want to constrict, the earth filling itself back in, becoming whole again. This, we call collapse. You tell yourself each night in bed that those are canaries screaming into some implacable, original depth, and not the rats in the kitchen. You try not to think of stiffening bodies, of rigor mortis, of the 2010 mine explosion in Montcoal after which not a single survivor was found. The names of the dead were not released.

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Making A List: Five Little Known Facts About West Virginia

Honey from the Lion, Lookout’s debut novel, takes places in the West Virginia Alleghenies at the turn of the century, and tells the story of how the logging boom changed the landscape—and the lives of a group of people there—forever. In honor of the book, this edition of Making a List details some facts you might not know about West Virginia from one of its own, Lookout Intern Isabelle Shepherd.

#1: Origin of the term “redneck”

The first use of “redneck” appears in the seventeenth century, springing from the Scottish Covenanters, a Presbyterian independence movement. At the time, King Charles I attempted to bring Scotland’s Presbyterian church under his control; in response, the Scottish Presbyterians signed the National Covenant in 1638. The document, signed in blood, declared their allegiance to their religion over the King of England. To symbolize this oath, the Covenanters wore blood-red bandannas around their necks. Eventually, these “rednecks” immigrated to the American colonies and spread down to the Southern states.

Later, wealthy Southern plantation owners may have used the term to distinguish themselves from the poor, and so bestowed the name upon those white field laborers whose necks were turned red with sunburn.

And finally, the coal mining unions appropriated the term. Between 1912 and 1936, strikers in West Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania between 1912 and 1936 wore red bandannas to distinguish themselves as union men. The informal garment was a symbol of unity meant to cross racial divisions between white, black, and immigrant miners.

#2: Pepperoni rolls are a legacy of Italian immigrants

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Those who are raised in West Virginia become quite puzzled once they venture out of the state’s boundaries. Where is the staple food—delicious dough wrapped around pepperoni and mozzarella? They can be dipped in marinara, but West Virginians love them just as well plain. And they can be found everywhere—high school bake sales, roadside convenience stores, donut shops, grocers, and even bars.

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Lit News Roundup

Happy Halloween! For this week’s Roundup, we’ve compiled all the spookiest literary news in honor of this sugar-filled holiday, as well as an introduction to Lookout’s next author, Matthew Neill Null!

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Still undecided on your costume for tonight? Be inspired by this infographic courtesy of Electric Literature. (Although, come to think of it, Sontag’s teddy bear suit might prove a little difficult to pull off at the last minute.)

Handing out candy to the tykes? The Washington Post’s Joe Heim revisits an interview with Lookout author Steve Almond about this book Candyfreak—“a must-have hymnal for anyone who worships confection in all its forms”—and finds out what your go-to candy really says about your personality. The results are more frightening than you think!

The folks over at Uproxx suggest ditching the candy entirely and handing out comic books instead. May we suggest books for every holiday?

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