February 17, 2011

Letters to the editor, Feb. 17, 2011: Whoopie pies face house divided

I was startled and confounded by a quote I read in an AP story (printed Jan. 31 in your paper) about the debate over a bill to designate the whoopie pie as Maine's official state dessert.

click image to enlarge

Workers in Gardiner prepare whoopie pies for sale. Once considered for Maine's official dessert, they are now on course to be its official treat – pleasing one reader and disappointing another.

2011 Press Herald file

In the story, "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, antioxidants that ease blood pressure and have other beneficial effects."

These words made me feel like I was in Wonderland, where down is up and up is down. I don't understand the need to designate a state dessert (or, as the bill has now been amended, a state "treat").

But if it's going to be done, could we at least pick a treat less apt to add to the obesity, heart disease, cancer and diabetes numbers in this country?

If this nutrition professor wants to sing the praises of antioxidants, how about using a bowl of delicious, sweet Maine blueberries instead?

Another plus: We know Maine blueberries are native to Maine, and the jury is still out on the origins of whoopie pies.

Meg Wolf
Cape Elizabeth 

Some people seem surprised that legislators would hold a hearing on making the whoopie pie the state dessert (now amended to be the state "treat"). The greater surprise should be why this didn't occur before now. I would argue that the whoopie pie is more than a dessert; it is an important contributor to the Maine economy.

The efforts of Rep. Paul Davis, who sponsored LD 71, "An Act to Designate the Whoopie Pie as the State Dessert," have raised the awareness of this historic dessert, which is unique to Maine and an icon that has received national recognition for its culinary appeal.

According to a March 2009 New York Times article, "Whoopie pie is having its moment." The article went on to say, "The whoopie pie would probably be Maine's State Dessert if it had one."

The designation as the state "treat" in this amended legislation will help hundreds of small businesses – the whoopie pie makers, bakers and store keepers in every county in Maine.

As testimony at the public hearing revealed, the number of jobs associated with this industry is substantial; it is economic development at its finest.

We need to focus on those niches that make Maine so special. Capitalizing on the current interest in whoopie pies is one way of promoting the excellence of food products created and made in Maine. Other states have decided long ago to promote their unique foods.

Massachusetts has the Boston cream pie, Maryland has the Smith Island cake, Vermont has the apple pie and Minnesota claims the blueberry muffin. So let's promote an array of special and unique food categories and have a state pie, wild blueberry; a state cake, molasses gingerbread and, of course, a state doughnut, chocolate.

Desserts are here to stay. Most have sugar, many are made with fat (vegetable shortening) and all have calories. Like other desserts, the whoopie pie can be eaten in moderation. You can buy sugar- and gluten-free. They also make a blueberry whoopie pie for those who want to have their antioxidants.

Dr. Katherine Musgrave, a highly respected nutritionist at the University of Maine, says it is not about nutritional value – a dessert should be fun and enjoyable.

Lighten up and have some fun; everyone needs a treat during these difficult economic times. Have the whoopie pie join Moxie, our state soft drink, and the Maine wild blueberry, our state berry, to build pride in our state. Let's claim our rightful heritage before another state makes the whoopie pie their state sweet.

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