Watch Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia: “Turkish Cuisine and Seedsaving” & “Ravioli and Sauce”

On Wednesday, September 15th at noon EST on the American Folklife Center’s Facebook page, we will premiere the third and fourth films in the Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia series, featuring Lou Maiuri on ravioli and sauce and Mehmet Öztan on Turkish cuisine and seed keeping.

Lou Maiuri in his canning cellar

Ravioli and Sauce with Lou Maiuri

Lou Maiuri, 92, is the son of Italian immigrants who arrived in West Virginia in the early 1900s. “Italians are big on food,” Lou says 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. In this video, Maiuri shares his recipe for homemade pasta sauce and ravioli, made from his mother’s recipe with tomatoes he grew on his Summersville farm in Nicholas County. As he works, Maiuri reflects on food as a sensory memory that connects him to his mother and other family members who have since passed. 

The film adds to existing documentation in the AFC archival collections on food preservation, gardening, and tomatoes in West Virginia, as well as documentation of the cultural traditions of Italian Americans in the Western United States.

Turkish Cuisine and Seed Keeping with Mehmet Öztan

Mehmet Öztan cultivates wheat varieties from seeds he’s saved

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 Company, and is a teaching artist in the 2020-2021 West Virginia Folklife Apprenticeship Program, got into saving seeds after he moved to the U.S. 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, and speaks about food as a point of connection to both his new home and his home country. 

The film adds to existing documentation in the AFC archival collections on dried beans in West Virginia, as well as Turkish American communities in New York City, among others. 

These films are the third and fourth in the AFC’s Homegrown Foodways in West Virginia program, a series of four films produced by Mike Costello and Amy Dawson of Lost Creek Farm, with support from the West Virginia Folklife Program at the West Virginia Humanities Council. The films, which explore a range of food traditions in the state, will premiere on the AFC’s Facebook page on Wednesday, August 18th, Wednesday, September 1st and Wednesday, September 15th (double feature), with a culminating discussion panel on Thursday, September 30th. Learn more about the series here and we hope you join us!

Dried beans grown by Mehmet Öztan

Watch the first film in the series here and the second film in the series here.

Adapted from a blog post on the American Folklife Center’s Folklife Today.

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