Cumberland Times-News

January 3, 2013

A bit crabby

Md. official sandwich bill leaves bad taste in some mouths

Cumberland Times-News

— When the Maryland General Assembly opens its annual 90-day legislative session next Wednesday, it will deal with a host of major issues — including capital punishment, transportation needs, gun control and alternative energy.

Then there is the question of what should be the official “state sandwich?”

Really. Legislation has already been pre-filed by Eastern Shore legislators to make the soft-shell crab sandwich Maryland's official state sandwich.

The measure has already provoked considerable angst among fans of the plain old crab cake sandwich. The Baltimore Sun said John Shields, owner of Gertrude’s restaurant in Baltimore, surveyed his customers and found little support for the soft-shell. “It’s amazing how many people don’t want (soft-shell) to be the sandwich,” he told the Sun.

Although some Marylanders might think designating an official sandwich is a waste of time, the bill’s sponsors — Sen. Richard F. Colburn (R-Dorchester) and Del. Rudolph C. Cane (D-Wicomico) — said the designation will be a boost for the Eastern Shore seafood business.

The state has many “official” emblems and designations, but few dealing with food. The Smith Island Cake became the official state dessert in 2008 and milk has long been an official state drink. On the other hand, there are a number of official state animals, including the state dog, Chesapeake Bay retriever; bird, Baltimore Oriole; crustacean, blue crab; and fish, rockfish.

There also is the official state cat — the calico — that received the official designation in 2001 after a group of Westernport elementary school students convinced Delegate Kevin Kelly to introduce a bill proclaiming the calico Maryland’s official cat. The legislature concurred and the calico now reigns as Maryland’s top cat.

But Colburn, who now is pushing the soft-shell crab sandwich, voted against the calico when Kelly introduced the bill. “I never thought we needed a state cat. I voted against it, and my wife didn’t talk to me for a week. She loves cats,” Colburn told the Washington Post.

Will Kelly seek payback by voting against the soft-shell crab sandwich? It’s just a bit of the intrigue facing lawmakers when they return to the capital next week.