AUGUSTA, Maine — Whoopie pies should be declared Maine’s official state dessert before Pennsylvania tries to snap up credit for the tasty chocolate cakes oozing with creamy white frosting, a legislative committee was told Monday.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, warned that residents of the Keystone State may try to make a move if Maine lawmakers are unwilling to act. The hearing featured fresh whoopie pies, someone wearing a whoopie costume, and even a song praising the product as “a slice of happiness.”
While conceding that they’re a New England tradition, a number of sources trace the original whoopie pie recipe to Amish country in Pennsylvania. Whoopie pie festivals are held in both Maine and Pennsylvania.
Supporters urged the committee not to blow off the bill as too trivial, as one Maine newspaper has done. The Sun Journal of Lewiston in a recent editorial wondered what a legislative session would be without the occasional “nutty, pointless, irrelevant bill” making its way into law.
“It builds pride in our state, it capitalizes on our unique and wonderful foodstuffs,” University of Maine Foundation President Amos Orcutt told the State and Local Government Committee.
Maine already has a state berry — the wild blueberry — and has designated the quirky beverage Moxie as the state soft drink. There’s similar nostalgia for the homemade sugary confection, giving them standing to be the state dessert, said Amy Bouchard, whose Isamax Snacks ovens in Gardiner turn out 10,000 of them a day.
“The whoopie pie brings back childhood memories of growing up in Maine,” Bouchard said.
Whoopies are responsible for many of the 300 jobs at LaBree’s Bakery in Old Town, which produces 100,000 whoopie pies a day under different labels, along with other baked goods, said company President Bernard LaBree.
“It’s little products, little opportunities” that are important to Maine, noted George Smith of Mount Vernon, a private citizen who has a government-watching website.
University of Maine food and nutrition professor emerita Katherine Musgrave tried to convince listeners that whoopies are good for you. She said the chocolate in whoopies (they come in a range of other flavors too) is high in flavonoids as well as antioxidants that ease blood pressure and have other beneficial effects.
Not everyone was buying it, however.
Whoopies contain too much lard to be seriously considered as an official food in a state with an obesity problem, said the lone opponent to Davis’ bill, Rep. Donald Pilon. The Saco Democrat dismissed whoopies as “frosting-delivering vehicles masquerading as food.”
Besides, he said, the real birthplace of the whoopie remains in dispute, with some reports that it originated “in that den of iniquity to our south,” Boston.
He suggested a different state dessert. A more honorable candidate for state dessert, Pilon said, would be “blueberry pie made from real wild Maine blueberries.”