"It’s not that Helvetia is inauthentic or fake—in fact, it’s quite the opposite. And to say that the presence of a Swiss community in the remote mountains of West Virginia is unlikely would deny the history and impact of the waves of immigration and relocation to central Appalachia by diverse cultural groups (there were several Swiss settlements scattered across the region in the late nineteenth century). But what makes Helvetia unusual resides not only in the cultural, historical, and social preservation of the nearly 150-year-old village but in something less tangible. There is an enchantment about the place that exudes from the hand-painted signs of coats of arms, Swiss phrases, historical markers, and the public buildings and homes adorned in Alpine gingerbread and bright floral patterns. It’s a magic that exists in the intimacy of a community whose families have been neighbors, friends, and colleagues for generations."
Read more via HUMANITIES Magazine
Welcome to Helvetia, population 59. In a high mountain valley “an hour from anywhere,” the little town sustains the traditions of the Swiss immigrants who settled there in 1869. West Virginia state folklorist Emily Hilliard spent 2016 documenting Helvetia’s seasonal celebrations to understand how this isolated community draws strength from its land, its history, and its people.
Read on via Bitter Southerner
We arrived at the small country store at dusk, giddy for our first hot dog. The hand-painted sign outside Buddy B’s in Sissonville, West Virginia, advertised fresh produce, pinto beans and cornbread, and “Best In Town Hot Dogs.” Inside, bulk seeds, bags of peanuts, and jars of penny candy lined the red gingham–papered walls, and a cash register and food counter stood on either side of the door. We gawked like tourists at the hot dog clock and hand-painted hot dog sign, outlined by the triple-underlined text, try our hot dogs they are go-o-o-o-d. As the cashier-cook prepared our dogs, we surreptitiously took pictures.
Read on in Gravy
The last Friday in April, I drove along the Buckhannon River through the village of Helvetia, West Virginia to the coat of arms-adorned community hall in the center of town. Though I’ve been visiting the Swiss-German community for five years now— first as a tourist, then as a journalist, and now as a folklorist— this was my first time here in the spring. Having previously contended with whiteout blizzards just to make it to the 59-resident town perched in a high mountain valley, I was struck by how lush and alive everything seemed. Spring ephemerals dotted the roadsides, locals were out walking and doing yard work, and the distinctively pungent smell of ramps wafted out from the kitchen of the hall.
Read on via the Southern Foodways Alliance blog
Ten years have passed since my first visit to Canterbury Shaker Village, but walking again past the apple trees and old wooden buildings, I’m struck by the same feeling. In this small settlement nestled among New Hampshire’s green, rolling hills, a serenity seeps into my bones and muscles, compelling me to walk slowly, deliberately, with reverence. The Shakers believed they were creating and living in a heaven on earth, and that belief feels tangible here, a surviving legacy. But the sentiment also implies a tension—between permanence and transience, between mortal and eternal existence—that is itself ephemeral, difficult to grasp.
Read on in Ecotone
D.C. is a unique city that has always navigated having both a national and local identity. Because of all the government and national organizations that are based here, it is also a highly transient city, and one that is swiftly evolving. The D.C. of 5 years ago looks drastically different than it does today. What’s consistently been at the root of the local D.C. culture though, from punk to riot girls to go-go, is a steadfast commitment to the homegrown and independently owned, and that value is only growing stronger. Artists are beginning to stay local instead of moving to New York, folks are starting small-batch food companies, and the DIY culture is as strong as ever. Another thing we all love about D.C. is that it’s a small city with all the benefits of a big city. This means for creatives like us that the artistic community is small and welcoming. This also means that there’s a lot to see and do, but because of the compact size, it’s possible to tackle a lot in a day.
Read on in Design*Sponge
Goin’ on a road trip across out East? Pick up a few cheap regional snacks on your way. If you’re headed west though, you better pack your own—it’s wild out there.
Region: Across the South
A Tennessee icon, Moon Pies—the classic s’more sandwich of marshmallow & graham cracker cookies, coated in chocolate-- can be found in gas stations, bars, and juke joints across the South. Best enjoyed with an RC Cola, additional flavors include vanilla and banana. Do Moon Pies only come as “Double Deckers” these days? OPEN QUESTION.
Read on in The Runcible Spoon
It’s getting to be that gloriously overwhelming time of year when just about everything is ripe. So much fruit, so much pie-making potential. Going back and forth among the blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and stone fruits, I remembered that I had some Michigan friends coming to my house in a few days. Of course. Cherries. I had to get tart cherries.
Michigan, specifically Traverse City, is the cherry capital of the world. The state grows about 75 percent of the nation’s tart cherries. Down here in the Mid-Alantic where I live, tart cherries are harder to come by and the season is rather fleeting. All the more reason, then, to buy a few pints at the farmers market, bring them home and put them in a pie.
Read on via American Food Roots
The moment the leaves begin to turn and the air gets a little crisp, I start planning my annual apple orchard visit. I collect a car-full or two of friends, find a Saturday that works for all of us, and scout a nearby orchard. Now this selection of our destination for a few hours of apple picking, meandering, and eating is serious business, and I have a short list of criteria to find the perfect spot.
I love an orchard that grows heirloom apples like the Arkansas Black (which, hence the name, is almost black in color), Blue Permain or the Newton Pippin. These are usually rare, old, regional varieties whose seeds have all but been lost due to industrial agriculture. Though they can be finicky to grow or ship, they almost have the best flavor. Out of all heirloom varieties, though, I give special preference to the Northern Spy, which in my opinion is the best baking apple you can find. If an orchard doesn’t carry Northern Spies or other heirlooms, I’ll settle for the standard Mcintosh, Gala, or Braeburn, all of which will make a fine pie. And of course, I make sure that the orchard actually allows visitors to pick the apples, as wandering through the rows, climbing a tree for the highest (and surely the tastiest apple) and throwing cores at your friends is clearly half the fun.
Read on in Luri & Wilma