FAIRMONT — Facing a more health-conscious market, Marion County officials have decided to denounce its own creation, the pepperoni roll, to create a healthier version to benefit visitors for generations to come.
But to fight a statewide, and even nationwide, health crisis, Marion County decided to take a look at its own contributions to the food industry, and inevitably, the pepperoni roll fell under the spotlight.
“Basically, it’s a nutritionist’s nightmare,” said a Marion County Health Department board member, citing all the saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium in a typical roll.
Such concerns did not exist when Giuseppe Joseph Argiro sold the first snack in 1927. To people from that generation, mozzarella cheese, meat sticks, salt, and added sugar were simple ingredients. Now, nutrition is much more complex.
“Grandma wasn’t always right,” said another health official, referring to the humble recipe. “In fact, while she was feeding you those warm pepperoni rolls, she was also feeding you heart disease and nitrates.”
While delicious — who hasn’t splurged on a sackful? — pepperoni rolls definitely contribute to unhealthy eating habits, therefore a solution was created by Marion County tourism and health officials.
Here’s what has been devised in Marion County’s finest bakeries:
• Healthier dough. New pepperoni rolls will be made with quinoa flour, arrowroot, and other natural starches.
• Healthier “meat.” Vegan pepperoni — made with soy protein isolate — replaces the nitrate-rich original.
• Healthier “mozzarella.” Plant-based cheese is significantly lower in calories.
Marion County bakeries have pledged their support of the improved recipe. By May 2018, traditional pepperoni rolls will be phased out of Marion County.
Research was conducted to create the healthier pepperoni roll.
Staff and volunteers at the Marion County Convention and Visitors Bureau recently handed out samples to tourists.
Here’s what folks thought:
• 10 percent answered “yes” to the question, “does this taste like Grandma’s?”
• 37 percent approved of the healthy ingredients.
• 12 percent could recognize it as a pepperoni roll.
Most liked the idea of a healthier snack, although a fair number remained loyal to the original. Some people also complained about the texture. Whereas all-purpose flour has elasticity and yeast rise, gluten-free alternatives do not.
Fortunately, if you’re a die-hard fan of the original pepperoni roll, you have until next year to enjoy your snack in Marion County.