Strawberry Shortcake vs. Key Lime Pie: The War Between the State Desserts
Yes, There Are State Desserts and They’ve Been Whipped into a Fight
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As a fifth-generation Georgian, I can still rattle off all of the state symbols I learned as a child:
State flower: Cherokee rose
State bird: Brown thrasher
State tree: Live oak
Imagine my surprise when I learned not long ago that Georgia has a state dessert—and that state desserts, in general, have become ground zero (ground pepper?) for the latest War Between the States.
Let’s go back a bit.
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Seven states have official desserts, though another fifteen have state cookies, state candies, state muffins, and other state sweets. The official designations include the following:
Alabama: Lane cake
Delaware: Peach pie
Maine: Blueberry pie made with wild Maine blueberries
Maryland: Smith Island cake
Massachusetts: Boston cream pie
Missouri: Ice cream cone
South Dakota: Kuchen
Alaska, it seems worth noting, has not named Baked Alaska as an official state treat. Also, most of these designations happened this century, with the exception of Massachusetts, which claimed Boston cream pie as the “official dessert or dessert emblem” as early as 1996, a full decade after proclaiming the corn muffin as the state muffin.
Given this harried rush to snarf up official desserts, perhaps it should come as no surprise that pies would start to fly.
In March of this year, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida took a bite of strawberry shortcake with natural Florida dairy topping (in a bowl) and signed into law Senate Bill 1006, which declared it the official dessert of the state.
"We’re the second-largest production of fresh strawberries in the U.S. and a lot of people don’t know it," crowed Sue Harrell, marketing director for the Florida Strawberry Growers Association. More than 11,000 acres of strawberries are grown in Florida each year, the association said, making it a billion-dollar business.
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But no sooner did the governor lick this spoon than a knife fight broke out.
“I don’t know how this happened—I think it’s a travesty,” Mike Martin of Mike’s Pies in Tampa told the Wall Street Journal.
“We thought it was a joke,” said Paul Menta, a Key West chef and rum maker. “Then shock set in. And finally denial. Locals were upset, but visitors were outraged—it was almost personal for them.”
What explains all the egg on their faces: They, like most red-blooded Floridians, had no inkling the red-fruited treat, which began in Europe and was popularized by Eliza Leslie of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1847, had any claim to the Sunshine State’s mantle.
They assumed the state dessert of Florida would be key lime pie.
Even Florida’s Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez had warned off one of the bill’s sponsors. “Don’t Tread On Key Lime,” she posted on Twitter in February with an illustration of a slice of Key lime pie.
Harrell pushed back, lumping in limes with oranges. “The strawberry industry has always been pushed to the side and everything was all about citrus.”
Then a group of Key Westers, calling themselves the Conch Republic Key Lime Pie Council, posted their own petition online:
WHEREAS: Key Lime Pie is a native Floridian dessert that originated in the Florida Keys, and Strawberry Shortcake is a non-native dessert that originated in Europe.
WHEREAS: Key Lime Pie was designated the Official State Pie of Florida in 2006 and has served proudly as the de facto State Dessert for 16 years, and Strawberry Shortcake has never received a state designation.
WHEREAS: The current world record Key Lime Pie title is held by Florida. The Philippines holds the world record Strawberry Shortcake title.
NOW, THEREFORE: BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA: STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE SHALL BE DESIGNATED FLORIDA’S OFFICIAL CAKE, AND KEY LIME PIE SHALL REMAIN FLORIDA’S OFFICIAL PIE. TOGETHER THEY CAN SHARE THE LIMELIGHT AS FLORIDA’S OFFICIAL DESSERTS.
Team Lime and Team Strawberry both converged on Tallahassee, hoping to claim the top cheese. Or, as the Key Westers said, dreaming that both could “share the limelight.”
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They failed. What the senate called a “berry important piece of legislation passed” 36-0 in the senate and 109-4 in the house.
Florida now has a state dessert and a state pie, which may be a model for those of us located just to the north in Georgia, which has a state fruit—peach; a state nut—pecan; and a state crop—peanut. Maybe peach cobbler can be our state sweet, pecan pie our state pie, and peanut brittle our state candy.
Or maybe we can call the whole thing off and celebrate red velvet cake instead.
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