West Virginia is now behind me, fading away in my rearview mirror, but not in my memory or my heart. I chose West Virginia to start this 4 year journey for a reason. West Virginia is one of the most misunderstood states in the country. People have an image in their head of a bunch of backwoods hillbillies picking their banjos and sipping moonshine from a mason jar. And there is certainly some element of truth to that, but that isn't the whole story. West Virginia is a beautiful place with a wonderful State Park system, some top-notch universities, a deeply proud musical tradition, some fun and vibrant cities and a host of off-the-beaten-track sites, shops and restaurants to enjoy. The people, though maybe a little shy, are kind and friendly and generally very welcoming.
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Food is an interesting and underrated form of communication and an essential part of travel. Even if we are cooking for ourselves, regional differences can be spotted in grocery stores from place to place. Things you may have never seen or heard of are piled high and the locals are all grabbing some. Every state has its culinary specialties and must-try delicacies and ideally when you try them they will help you understand the State or region better. Hopefully they’ll be made with local ingredients and you can get a taste for what grows in the area, and there will probably be hints of where the people who make them came from as well. America is and always has been a great melting pot of flavors from around the world and our culinary traditions are ever-shifting. I encourage everyone to be bold when travelling to new places and eat as locally as you can. You know those big national chains will be mediocre at best. Even if you want fast-food, the local option it bound to be better. Use Yelp to sift through them (with a grain of salt obviously, but a 1 or 2 star place is probably that for good reason), or better yet, ask the locals. Here are seven of my favorite meals from the month I spent in West Virginia..