Ramps are a rite of Appalachian spring This indelicacy is singularly ours

Friday April 08, 2005

Charlestoon Daily Mail - Columnist Dave Peyton


It really is a shame that Pope John Paul II died without having savored Appalachian ramps. The late pontiff sampled cultures wherever he went.

When he was in Mexico, he donned a sombrero. When he was in America's southwest, he had his picture taken in front of a native American teepee.

When in Africa, he sampled the culture there by wearing native accoutrements.

And, it's said, no matter where he went, he sampled local cuisine.

Had he come to West Virginia in the spring, I have no doubt he would have attended a ramp feed, which to many of us is akin to a religious experience.

This weekend will be special for me. If all goes as planned, I will have the high honor of taking my son to his first ramp feed.

This one is at the Upper West Fork Volunteer Fire Department at Chloe, Calhoun County, beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday.

This feed comes with the highest recommendation from Bob Weaver, editor of the Hur Herald, the online Calhoun County newspaper.

My son has never sampled ramps. Until recently, he wasn't interested in mountain rituals.

Now that he is a fully licensed adult, complete with a wife and a good job, he can turn his attention to more spiritual pursuits. That includes eating ramps, of course.

I have explained to him that ramps are sort of like cooked spinach with significant garlic overtones. And, depending on how they are cooked, they may have the taste of bacon grease in which they are fried. That's the way I like them.

In his younger days, my son didn't believe ramps were cool. The fact is, they aren't.

For example, I know of no hip-hop opus dedicated to ramps. The Gap doesn't sell skirts or blouses emblazoned with ramps.

New York folks have recently discovered ramps and use them in their haute cuisine, but that still doesn't make them cool among the young.

But now that my son is Approaching middle age, he sees the need to immerse himself in his native culture. I will assist him. My wife won't be attending. She finds even the odor of ramps offensive.

My son's wife, Sarah, is a native of Illinois and respectfully declined, suggesting that she and my wife go shopping while my son and I partake of the spring rite.

In a perfect world, I'd not only be sitting down with my son on Saturday to feast on ramps, Pope John Paul II would be there to bless the meal and the culture behind it.

And perhaps, as an extra added attraction, Martha Stewart would be there. She left West Virginia about a month before the small green plants began poking through the soil in the high mountains.

In fact, it's a shame the whole world can't be in Chloe on Saturday or in Richwood on April 16 or in Helvetia the last Saturday in April or in any of a score of sites this Appalachian spring when the indelicate delicacy will be served, and with them, the mountain culture will as well.

Dave Peyton appears twice weekly in the Daily Mail
he can be reached at 522-0179 or at davepeyton@davepeyton.com

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