I suppose it’s another sign that I am not a serious student of world affairs, but I kind of like it that the state in which I live has a state pie. I have not consulted the public record to see if there was a major debate concerning carbs or calories or fat content; I like the idea that as long as our representatives are dealing with matters which are within the grasp, the less time they have to mess up on scarier issues.
It was just a side note in a long article about Illinois declaring an official state rock (which surprised me, because the state where I grew up declared ITS state rock decades ago…even though two of my grandparents, highly regarded amateur geologists, pointed out that the chosen rock was not a rock at all, but a crystal formation, and thus one more example of how scientifically uninformed people who go into politics can be, which shows they can’t be trusted with matters of environmental…where were we?) I found that not only does Illinois have the pumpkin pie as it official state pie, but also named popcorn as its official state snack food. (The choices were not utterly unbiased: Illinois is a major grower of popcorns and popcorn.) I did not think the choice of pumpkin was terribly original, but I find that although numerous states have, indeed, chosen state pies, no one else picked pumpkin.
The Interwebs, as usual, is as much hindrance as help in this subject. Several websites state clearly that every state has a state pie, while others note that twelve states do not have ANY state foods at all. (One of these, however, is listed as having a state fruit, which shows that it’s all a matter of your point of view.) To make matters more complex, some states which do NOT have a state pie DO have a state dessert, which is occasionally pie. (And one state has honored Whoopie Pie, which, as far as I’m concerned, is a cookie, or, at best, a specialized cake.) Some states, if you’re interested, call their pie a State TREAT, and Oklahoma has an official State Meal, which ends with Pecan Pie after going through a list of other courses which sound like a really good afternoon at the county fair.
Pecan Pie, to my surprise, is the only pie on more than one state’s list (which in some states include a State Muffin, but we can’t talk about this all day long.) Pecan also gets the nod in Texas (whose state snack is salsa and tortilla chips, by the way.) The pecan is that state NUT in a couple of places, but they leave you to decide what to do with it.
Again, none of this is accidental. Maine, where you’ll find plenty of blueberries, made the blueberry pie its state pie. Massachusetts has so designated the Boston Cream Pie (and the State Doughnut is, wait for it, the Boston Cream Doughnut.) Wisconsin salutes one of its less famous state crops with Cranberry Pie, and Michigan wants you to remember Cherry Pie. I cannot find that Nebraska has named a state pie, which is disappointing, because as they have made Kool-Aid their state beverage, I had great hopes for Hostess Fruit Pies there.
Sometimes patriotism or local pride are the motivating forcers behind the designations. Maybe nothing is “as American as Apple Pie”, only Vermont has given that the state nod, AND specifies that it MUST be eaten with a glass of cold milk and a good piece of cheddar (OR, at the behest of the younger generation I guess, vanilla ice cream.) But some state pies are found only in their home state, or in the homes of expatriates. Indiana has honored the Hoosier, or Sugar Cream, Pie (main ingredients: heavy cream and sugar) while Louisiana went savory, with a deep-fried pie stuffed with ground beef and ground pork. Arkansas honored the Possum Pie, but this is a sweet pie containing no possum at all, at all It has chocolate pudding on top of cream cheese beneath whipped cream and, well, pecans, which brings us back where we started.
If all of this is a bit too much for you, you could always head to Utah, where the State Senate has made been working to declare the state snack food as Jell-o.