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New film series explores W.Va. food traditions

CHARLESTON — The West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council is launching the “Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia” film series, presenting four short films that explore a range of food traditions in the state.

The series will be produced by West Virginia farmers, chefs and foodways storytellers Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of Lost Creek Farm in Harrison County.

The first film in the series, presented in conjunction with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, will premiere on the AFC’s Facebook page Aug. 18, followed by premieres Sept. 1 and Sept. 15 (double feature). There will also be a culminating discussion panel Sept. 30, featuring AFC staff, West Virginia State folklorist Emily Hilliard, filmmakers Mike Costello and Amy Dawson, and foodways practitioners featured in the films. After the series premiere, the films will be accessible for viewing on the Library of Congress’ YouTube channel.

Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia films

  • “Foraging and Relations with Jonathan Hall” — noon Aug. 18 — Filmmakers Costello and Dawson will be joined by fellow hunter and forager Jonathan Hall as they sustainably harvest and preserve ramps. Hall reflects on the experience of being a Black outdoorsman hunting and foraging in virtually all-white spaces in rural West Virginia, discussing how racism has created unique barriers to entry to the practice of outdoor foodways traditions in Appalachia. As a teacher to his friends, to his children and professionally, as a geography professor at West Virginia University, Hall uses wild food to educate about the conservation of the resources that sustain us, informed by the ethos of “relations” that has guided Indigenous communities for thousands of years before white settlers arrived in Appalachia.
  • “Kimchi Fermentation with Marlyn McClendon” — noon Sept. 1 — McClendon remembers the pungent smell of kimchi wafting from her lunchbox in the middle-school cafeteria, but what she especially recalls are the sneers and snickers that followed. Growing up in Huntington, she was often teased by classmates over her Korean-American identity. Over the years she developed a deeper appreciation for her Korean heritage –– as well as a closer relationship with her Korean-born mother –– largely through food. Now living in the remote community of Lobelia, in Pocahontas County, McClendon explores her Korean and Appalachian heritage at the dinner table, often preparing traditional Korean foods with ingredients grown or foraged nearby. In this video, McClendon and her mother, Yong, prepare traditional kimchi and a variety of other Korean dishes for a meal shared with friends and neighbors.
  • Ravioli and Sauce with Lou Maiuri — noon Sept. 15 — Maiuri, 92, is the son of Italian immigrants who arrived in West Virginia in the early 1900s. “Italians are big on food,” Maiuri said 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. Mike and Amy often find themselves exploring Italian-American foodways in West Virginia in places like Clarksburg’s historic Glen Elk District with its bakeries and delicatessens, at traditional spaghetti houses, and with seasoned cooks like Maiuri, who shares his recipe for homemade pasta sauce and ravioli in this video.
  • “Turkish Cuisine with Mehmet Öztan” — noon Sept. 15 — 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 Co., and is a teaching artist in the 2020-2021 West Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, got into saving seeds after he moved to the United States and had a difficult time 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.

The West Virginia Folklife Program is a project of the West Virginia Humanities Council and is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts Folk & Traditional Arts Program. West Virginia Folklife is dedicated to the documentation, preservation, presentation, and support of West Virginia’s vibrant cultural heritage and living traditions. For more information on the event and West Virginia Folklife Program, visit or contact Emily Hilliard at or 304-346-8500.

The West Virginia Humanities Council is a nonprofit corporation governed by a board of directors whose members are drawn from all parts of West Virginia. It is the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, supported by the NEH, the State of West Virginia, and contributions from the private sector. The purposes of the West Virginia Humanities Council are educational, and its mission is to support a vigorous program in the humanities statewide in West Virginia. For more information visit

The American Folklife Center was created by Congress in 1976 and placed at the Library of Congress to “preserve and present American folklife” through programs of research, documentation, archival presentation, reference service, live performance, exhibition, public programs and training. The center includes the Archive of Folk Culture, established in 1928 and now one of the largest collections of ethnographic material from the United States and around the world.

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