Here is yet another fine example of elected officials using taxpayer-funded time in a questionable manner. The state of Maine is currently embroiled in a debate over which delicious treat, the blueberry pie or the whoopie pie, should be designated the official state dessert.
State pride is important to many people, but there is a point at which one must wonder if naming state fruits, vegetables and desserts is really vital legislative work? That argument will have to wait as the battle lines have been drawn in Maine. One might think the choice could be handled easily by a simple popular vote, a dessert referendum. Not so, there are many tangled issues here.
Team "Blueberry Pie" wants everyone to know that Maine (like many states) has an obesity problem, which will only worsen by awarding the official dessert status to Whoopie Pies. State Representative Donald Pilon framed his argument thusly;
“At a time when 31.3 percent of Maine’s children are considered overweight or obese, do we want to glorify a dessert that lists lard as its primary ingredient?’’
Mr. Pilon sees wild blueberry pie as a healthier alternative to the lard-loaded whoopie pies he once referred to as "a frosting delivery vehicle." He may also be motivated by money as it must be noted that the blueberry industry generates an estimated $250 million dollars annually for Maine's economy.
Lest you think this fight is only being waged in the State house, think again. Some 4th grade school children have chimed in, sending a letter hoping that the blueberry pie will win on a technicality as they see the whoopie pie farther down the food chain, calling it a "snack" and not a full fledged dessert.
Across the aisle, Team Whoopie Pie is hopeful of claiming the title of State Dessert. And concerning the "snack" allegations leveled by the 4th graders, The Maine Whoopie Pie Association begs to differ. Amos Orcutt, the brains behind the MWPA and also the push to name their pies as the state dessert has been beating the bushes at the Capital for almost a year now and he too claims that the youth and the economy both favor the whoopie pies made by the 60+ Maine bakeries that are part of his organization.
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Also looming on the sidelines is a potential battle with the State of Pennsylvania over which state can lay claim to the creation of the whoopie pie. In late January the Patriot-News caught wind of the dessert wars in Maine and challenged their state's new governor to step up and protect what they claim was originated in the kitchens of Lancaster, PA. The editorial closes with this argument;
The bottom line is this: The whoopie pie could be the slippery slope. Pennsylvania must show other states they can't mess with our fatty foods. If we don't, what's to stop New Mexico from making the cheesesteak its official sandwich or Idaho from snatching up all the glory from scrapple?
Perhaps there is a "teachable moment" in all of this.
While researching the background information on the piece, it became rather evident that Maine was not alone in this propensity. A quick survey of foods that have received official designations as "State" foods yields a bountiful harvest, some are quite curious;
The State of Oklahoma lists 13 different foods on their State Food chart, including watermelon as the official state vegetable. (If you are confused by the veggie designation, Oklahoma is correct - watermelon is a member of the cucumber and squash family.)
California, a state often seen as filled with senseless bureaucratic structures has not one.