2.06.2011

Whoopie vs. Blueberry

There's a debate brewing in Augusta that some might say is a waste of time, but I find fun and fascinating none the less. Some days ago Rep. Paul Davis of Sangerville submitted a bill to make the whoopie pie Maine’s official state dessert.

This proposal has actually drawn out considerable opposition and a counter-proposal to crown wild blueberry pie as the official state dessert has emerged. The Boston Globe has done a good job covering the conflict.


Meanwhile The Coastal Packet offers a reasonable summary of the objections to the whoopie pie.
1. It doesn't taste all that good. If you're going to eat stuff that bad, let's go with the official southern breakfast: two Twinkies and a can of Coke. As a Maine farmer who had gone with his wife to the Pritikin Institute spa said of its food, "Gawd, I wouldn't feed that stuff to my hogs." 
2. It doesn't come from here. Worst, on its way north from Amish Pennslvania, it spent considerable time in the dubious state of Massachusetts. Do we really want a state desert foisted on us from Roxbury?

3. To be sure Labadie's Bakery in Lewiston has been selling them since 1925 but a check with the classic Maine recipe book - What's Cooking Down in Maine - published in 1965 doesn't even mention whoopie pies, suggesting that they're really from away.

4. There are plenty of alternatives, the best probably being blueberry pie or blueberry buckle or even Margaret Chase Smith's blueberry cake. Blueberries have the added advantage, according to recent scientific research, of lowering blood pressure which whoopie pies are unlikely to do. 
5. Another possibility would be Mr. Bean's Camp Desert which only needs 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, one cup of butter and 2 cups of sifted flour.
I have a few issues with the Coastal Packet's assessment (beyond their spelling of dessert.) First,  I adore whoopie pies and sort of consider myself a connoisseur maintaining a mental "Best of" list. (I'm sorry, Isamax, you've changed your recipe and are no longer on top.) Whoopie pies are amazingly delicious especially when you start exploring other flavors. I have to limit myself to one a month or else I succumb to devouring tons of these tasty treats.

Their second and third arguments are tied together in that they don't think the Maine Whoopie Pie is indigenous enough. While the blueberry itself (which is already honored as Maine's state berry) is certainly indigenous, pies themselves - like the contestant blueberry pie - have a European pedigree unlike the very American, Amish derived - whoopie pie - which in actuality is not a pie. Ultimately you could argue that just about any dessert doesn't come from Maine if you look back far enough.

Four and five just offer potentially better alternatives and I've never heard of "Mr. Bean's Camp Dessert." I still maintain that blueberry pie MIGHT be better but not necessarily because of nutrition. We're naming the future state DESSERT - and nutrition shouldn't be a determining factor in eligibility as most desserts are in fact sugary and lacking nutritional content because it matters little how healthy they are.

The best argument against the whoopie pie actually comes from Maine's 4th graders who assert that the whoopie pie is actually not a dessert, but rather a "snack." There may be some truth to this as I personally have eaten more whoopie pies in my car after leaving a gas station than I have at the end of a meal. Analysis of Maine's tax codes confirm that we do in fact pay $0.07 "snack tax" with the purchase of whoopie pies. If the state were to elevate whoopie pie to dessert (a final course in a meal, typically sweet) status, then it would have to tax it differently.

I'm still divided on the issue. Whoopie pies are by far my most favorite dessert - perhaps followed closely by Boston (I know, I'm sorry) Creme Pie. I do however recognize the validity of the Blueberry pie as a very Maine-like dessert, but I can't succumb to reason on this yet. And why should I? It's a friggen "State Dessert."

So what do you think?

Update: Via Facebook, my mother promptly reminded me of an incident that may further exemplify my utter infatuation and bias for whoopie pies. It began at an early age and she recalls me fast asleep one night suddenly speaking aloud the declaration in zombied tones: "I want the whoopie pie!"

4 Intelligent Comment(s):

Michael said...

Here's why you're right - This is a dessert and I don't see people actually eating blueberry pie very often. I hear people talk about blueberries in terms of pancakes and muffins, as a pie it falls flat.

Whoopie pies, however, are something I hear a lot about. It doesn't matter what the origins are. It's ours now.

And right-on about it being a dessert. The food police really need to understand that desserts are desserts. They do not exist to give us nutrician.

Bill said...

Bah, humbug, I tried to post this once but it was lost to the interwebz.

My problem with naming the Whoopie pie as Maine's state dessert is that none of its staple ingredients (cocoa, flour, sugar, Whoopie) are made in Maine on any large scale. Okay, perhaps Whoopie is, but is that really what you want in your dessert?

On the other hand, Blueberries are in EVERYTHING in Maine. I can't get food in Maine without having to check and see if there's blueberry in it. Maybe you don't notice this as much, but as someone who hates blueberries, I see it tons. This actually suggests to me that the state dessert should in fact be blueberry-anything, as it has a disproportionate share on Maine's market. Any tourist coming into Maine would surely find themselves running into far more blueberry than they would Whoopie Pie, and really, isn't that who all of these "official state-whatever"s are for?

Jeremy Corbally-Hammond said...

@Bill - perhaps that's a good argument for it to NOT be the State dessert, lol.

Abner said...

When used as a dessert base, blueberries are so not cool. Whoopie pies (good ones which are hard to find) are most stellar in all ways! I vote whoopie pies!

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