BIRD-IN-HAND, Pa. – Two round, textbook-thick chocolate cakes sandwich a creamy vanilla filling to create one sinfully rich snack.

It’s a whoopie pie, and it’s so good that residents in two states have cooked up a good-natured tug-of-war over which place is the rightful home of this culinary creation — Maine or Pennsylvania?

A legislator in Maine whipped up passions when he introduced a bill in January to make the whoopie pie Maine’s official state dessert. Like a group of chefs tweaking a recipe, a legislative committee has since dropped “dessert” in favor of making the snack Maine’s official “treat.”

No matter — residents in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, say that’s just baloney. They say the whoopie pie was invented by the area’s Amish families generations ago.

“We’ve had this thing going with the whoopie pie here for years and years and decades,” John Smucker, CEO of the family-run company that owns the Bird-in-Hand Bakery, said as kitchen workers put together a batch of red velvet whoopie pies. “And all of a sudden they try to enter into the picture. … It’s just a bunch of nonsense.”

Talk about a food fight.

“We do the original,” Nancy Rexroad, 45, a baker at the S. Clyde Weaver store in East Petersburg, said after staff there pieced together their version of the snack. “When something’s the original, you can’t improve on it.”

This gastronomic grudge match got its start with Maine state Rep. Paul Davis’ bill to laud the whoopie pie. Davis got the idea from speaking with people at the Maine Whoopie Pie Festival, which last year attracted 4,000 visitors to Dover-Foxcroft, part of Davis’ district.

Amos Orcutt, president of the Maine Whoopie Pie Association, was one of the Mainers who lobbied Davis to make a stand. In a phone interview, Orcutt, whose full-time job is president of the University of Maine Foundation, said he got steamed after reading a New York Times story on whoopie pies in March 2009 that cited food historians on the likelihood that the whoopie pie got its start in Pennsylvania.

“Having grown up in Maine, I used that well-worn term, ‘appalled and aghast,’ so I started looking into it,” Orcutt said. “A lot of our older alumni said, ‘Oh no, I remember whoopie pies as a child.”‘

Davis said he’s been told that Maine whoopie pies may date back as far as 1925. The web site for Labadie’s Bakery, in Lewiston, Maine, says bakers there started making whoopie pies that year.

About the time he read the Times story, Orcutt said a local high school’s mock legislature exercise proposed a “bill” to give the whoopie pie the official dessert designation.

A sweet idea was born.

“One thing led to another, and folks kept saying, ‘Well, gee, you’ve got to do something about it,”‘ Orcutt said.

Word of Davis’ bill soon reached the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors Bureau in Lancaster, and organizers there decided to answer back.

They touted a web site, www.saveourwhoopie.com, that likened Maine’s actions to “confectionary larceny.”

And now both sides are turning up the good-natured heat in good fun.

“They can have their lobsters,” said Josh Graupera, 21, of Lancaster, who organized a rally in downtown Lancaster on Feb. 19. “You’re not going to take our heritage from us.”

 


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