PORTLAND, Maine — In Europe, countries are consumed by debt. In Washington, the health care debate rages on. And in Maine, the whoopie pie is under attack.
Efforts to anoint the traditional Maine sweet as the official state dessert have divided residents and raised ire among the nutrition-conscious, who say that the state is beset with obesity as it is without venerating two mounds of chocolate cake bound by a sugary, creamy filling.
And now another renowned Maine treat — the blueberry pie — has been dragged into the fray.
The kitchen kerfuffle comes as a surprise to whoopie pie makers, who handed out dozens of the cakey treats to lawmakers at a legislative hearing on the matter this week.
But the whoopie pie's swift ascension to the official Maine dessert hit a snag when state Rep. Donald Pilon withheld support and derided the confection as a "frosting delivery vehicle."
"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?" Pilon asked his fellow lawmakers at the hearing on Monday.
Instead, Pilon suggested what he sees as a healthier alternative: wild blueberry pie.
Fourth graders from a Maine elementary school also challenged whoopie pies. In a letter to the legislative committee, they said the whoopie is a snack, not a dessert.
They also recommended using Maine's native blueberries (a $250 million industry) in an official state dessert because they are more nutritious.
Suddenly, the Wild Blueberry Commission of Maine found itself in a food fight. David Bell, executive director of the blueberry commission, tried to strike a compromise: appoint blueberry pie the official state pie.
But Amos Orcutt, president of the Maine Whoopie Pie Association, which represents about 60 whoopie pie makers who sell the confections in gas stations, supermarkets, bakeries, and farm stands, noted that the crust of a wild blueberry pie is not exactly nutritious. He also pointed out that whoopie pies come in blueberry flavor for those who want their antioxidants.
Maine lawmakers agreed to resume debate Wednesday at the state Capitol in Augusta.