The sun was ducking behind the western hills into Half Moon Bay, KFOG was crankin’ on the cheesy rental car radio and I was navigating the El Camino Real in Palo Alto looking for any cuisine that wasn’t Asian or Mexican.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all foods, but I was a little tired of Asian and Mexican as I kinda over do it when I’m in the valley. You can’t get real good Mexican or Asian food of any type in Downtown Cow Hampshire so I try to get all I can when I’m on the west coast.  Indian too.  Sometimes I come home full of curry and have to sleep on the couch for days.

I cruise by a neat looking seafood place called The Fishmarket, good-and-crowded parking lot with a snaking line of patrons outside.  A good sign, as people won’t normally wait in line for crappy food, especially in the valley as there are pretty decent eats every half a mile or so.  I liked the look of the open-air seating outside, not a bad day for a little shaded outside chow.  But it was the illuminated neon ad board outside the entrance that caught my eye: Fresh Maine Lobster Dinner.

Yowza, a Maine boy on the west coast.  I get too far from the Atlantic, I start going through withdrawal.  Loves me that Lobster.  Oh, and I’ve had the argument with my friends from the valley over Maine versus rock lobster, spiny lobster, but hey you name it, I’ve cracked it open and spilled it on my shirt.  And loved it all.  But Maine lobster? Come on, it’s down-east soul food for crying out loud.

So I troll into the Fishmarket with my Celtics hat on (not a popular guy in Palo Alto) and order me up that fresh Maine Lobster Dinner.  The waitress couldn’t tell me enough about how it’s a traditional lobster feed, fresh, just the way they serve it in Maine.  Lobster is what Maine is all about she tells me.  Maybe she thinks my Celtics hat means I’m visiting from Ireland, I don’t know.  Or maybe they were all sticking to the script, as I heard another server telling the same story to a couple of German businessmen sitting behind me.  And to the Japanese couple two tables down.  And to the elderly couple near the window, probably visiting from the mid-west judging by the looks of their “I don’t tan, I burn” suntan.  So there I was in a west coast college town, surrounded by scores of folks from other parts of the world, eating a delicacy that epitomizes the great state of Maine.  And don’t you know it; there next to the ear of corn, the baked potato and the coleslaw was a big warm pile of blueberry pie drowning in a pool of melting French vanilla ice cream.

Blueberry pie.  No whoopie.  “Doncha know, they grow more blueberries in the state of Maine than anywhere else in the world”, says my college-age server who probably didn’t quite make it into college, let alone Stanford.   I peeked around the web and found one site that says Maine produces 99% of all blueberries in the country.  Geez, being from Maine, maybe I should know that fact.  But I didn’t.  Even though I do vaguely remember blueberry picking when I was younger.  Yup, spend most of the morning clam digging, then my loving father would load the slave labor back into the Impala wagon and have us pick blueberries until the tide went back out.

But Whoopie Pies?  Where the heck does that come from?  Look, I understand marketing all too well, trust me.  I just don’t get the current drive to make the whoopie pie the “official dessert of Maine”. As far as I can figure, using my own celestial reckoning- my wife- it all started around 2003 or 2004.  My wife loves whoopie pies.  She heard about Maine’s “Wicked Whoopies” on Oprah and searched about the local markets and specialty bakeries around town until she found one. (I’m still waiting for Oprah to recommend a Taylor 414-CE, but that’s another story.)  She loved it, said it was indeed one of the best whoopie pies she’s ever had.  And this, folks, is coming from a woman who can bake the apron off most people alive today.  So fast-forward to today.

Maine is going through some tough times.  I keep up with what goes on in my home state, mostly out of curiosity, but maybe because one day I might return.  But I left as most of my friends and countless other professionals did, because the job market was dwindling when I was young and it isn’t getting any better.  Most of the industries I remember, from shoes to paper to textiles, were all forced out by competition over-seas and frankly, a rather unfriendly business climate, although the state leaders like to dispute that.

So maybe I can take it on face value that the legislature is only trying to drive demand for a cottage industry in the state, not a terrible thing at all.  But I just wonder, why not spend some real efforts on long lasting changes that would be more meaningful?  You have the fifteenth highest state and local tax burden in the country, coming in at 10% of income, above the national average of 9.7%.  Maine’s 2011 business tax climate ranks 31st. Just for comparison, New Hampshire’s is 7th and Taxachusettes is currently 32nd.   Seems like maybe this could all be a “feel good” diversion to me.  How many people could possibly be employed by the burgeoning whoopie pie industry?  Sounds to me more like “let them eat cake” than anything else, or of course, let them eat whoopie.  Or let them make whoopie.  Whatever, you get it.  As long as we give them an official dessert, maybe they’ll get fat and happy on whoopie pies and hopefully won’t notice until they can no longer afford to buy them.  That way we won’t have to address any of the real issues facing the state.  Hey, you got’s Washington style leadership there I tell ya.

Sorry, guess I got off a rant.  I personally can’t stand whoopie pies.  Mouth-full of Crisco and sugar.  That’s okay, to each his own.  Still, it’d be a shame to be in some far-flung locale somewhere in the country, see that sign for a fresh Maine Lobster dinner only to have some retro-Flo tell me that Maine is famous for Lobster and Whoopie pies.  “Don’t ya know hun, them folks in Maine is known for their Lobsters and whoopie pies.   You want ice-cream on that whoopie pie, hun?”

If it wasn’t so sad, it’d be hilarious…..

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