Wednesday, April 11, 2012

In search of whoopie pies.

I drove up to Maine over Easter weekend. Other than a few long drives on I-80 over the past few years and a wonderful 12 hours I spent wandering around Venice in late 2005, I have never gone somewhere new completely by myself. A last minute four-day holiday weekend and some really cheap rates on a Hertz car were all I needed to get me off the computer and on the road to my first attempt at solo travel.

That, and I had whoopie pies to find.

While there is some debate as to where the whoopie pie actually originated (some say Maine, some say Lancaster County, PA, and still others believe the town of Roxbury, Massachusetts gave birth to the dessert), it is a cold hard fact that the whoopie pie is the official state treat of Maine.

I got to Maine around 5ish on Saturday evening, and after a brief walk on York Beach, I settled in for a tall beer, a warm cup of clam chowder, and the aural pleasure of listening to the fantastic locals' accents at the hotel bar. I considered trying a slice of the blueberry pie that was offered on the menu, but after the beer and soup (and let's be honest: I may have eaten an entire bag of Chex-Mix on the drive up) I was stuffed.

Really, who can think of pie when you have a view like this?

Well-rested after a night of doing absolutely nothing and loving it, I set out into town to find some whoopie pie.

Unfortunately, it was April, and the town was all but completely closed.

Being a New Yorker, I tend to forget that some cities have "off-seasons" in which important things like stores and restaurants and pie shops close for the winter.

Nevertheless, I still managed to catch a glimpse of the country's first lighthouse.

After the Nubbe Lighthouse, I headed north to Ogunquit and the beaches that surrond it.

Just as in York, I found a would-be-charming-and-full-of-pie-had-it-not-been-April little town.

Now I was running out of time. It was after 1pm, and I wanted to be back in New Haven before it got dark (I'm not a big fan of driving at night...yes, I'm old.) I had just enough time to hit one more town on Route 1, but if they were sans-pie as well, I'd be out of luck. So with one last look at the beaches, I put my nose to the grindstone and focused on the pie at hand.

I realize at this point in my story, you're probably thinking "jeeze, Mary, the Internet probably could have helped you in your pie search, didn't you do any research before heading to Maine?!"

The answer is a.) you're right and b.) no, I did not.

I spend my days planning and scheduling other people's crazy lives, and I wanted 24 hours without pre-planning, without sticking to a schedule, without having to stay ten minutes ahead of everyone else.

So I threw caution to the wind and let the fates decide my future. In an existential haze, I headed to Kennebunkport. After declaring this the Fourth Most Fun Town Name To Say (#3 Keokuk.  #2 Sheboygan. #1 Cucamonga) I delighted upon this sign:

Though it looked exactly like Ms. Halpin's 2nd-grade classroom bulletin board, it contained all I needed to know. It belonged to the side wall of H.B. Provisions general store, and was indeed selling whoopie pies.

I hadn't intended to start a trend of buying pies at small-town general stores, but after the success(?) of Santa Fe's Frito Pie, I knew I had to keep on going.

The inside of the the store (like all general stores, I'm beginning to learn) wasn't great. But there were a handful of people sitting at tables and happily consuming food purchased from the store, so that was a good sign. I went over to the deli counter and was a little dismayed to see lots of fresh and expensive lobster rolls, but only a small table of pre-wrapped whoopie pies. I ordered a cup of coffee, grabbed a pie, and headed to a table.

There's not much to a whoopie pie. 2 cake-like rounds with creamy filling sandwiched inside. It's basically as if you took the bottom of a cupcake and put it on the top. Which isn't a bad idea, it's just not...quite...a pie.

Here's the thing. I started this blog because I like pie. If I liked cake, I probably would have started writing about cake. But I don't like cake. I like pie. And while the whoopie pie was well made with moist cake and fluffly filling, it just so happened to be comprised of two things I'm not very fond of. And, it was absolutely gigantic. I had about three bites and was stuffed, regardless of my affinity for the snack.

It's possible that I committed some sort of New England sin, but I threw out the rest of my whoopie pie. Had I a friend with me, we would have split it. But I did not, and I also didn't want to find out how well an unwrapped whoopie pie travelled across state lines in a rental car.

Oh well. Until the next small-town general store.

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