Rhode Island lawmakers push to designate official state appetizer

February 13

(Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post)

If two Democrats get their way, Rhode Island will soon recognize “Rhode Island-style” calamari — squid rings tossed with pickled hot peppers — as the official state appetizer.

State Rep. Joseph McNamara (D) of Warwick and state Sen. Susan Sosnowski (D) of South Kingstown say squid fishing contributes $18.5 million to the state fishing industry’s bottom line. Rhode Island’s squid fishermen take in about half of all squid caught along the entire Eastern Seaboard, the two lawmakers said.

A similar bill, introduced by McNamara last year, passed the state House but died in the state Senate on the last day of the legislative session. This time, with support from Sosnowski, McNamara told the Providence Journal he thinks his legislation has a better chance to pass.

Calamari would join a host of Rhode Island state symbols, such as the official state bird, the Rhode Island Red Chicken; the state fish, the striped bass; the state fruit, the Rhode Island greening; and the official state drink, coffee milk. In 1966, lawmakers named Bowenite the official state mineral.

If lawmakers pass the measure, Rhode Island would be the first state to formally claim an official appetizer. Other states have designated official desserts, candies, treats and snacks (the whoopie pie is Maine’s official state treat, while tortilla chips and salsa are the official state snacks of Texas). But no state has designated an appetizer.

A few more of our favorite state symbols: Georgia’s official prepared food is grits. Popcorn is the official snack food of Illinois. Natchitoches meat pie is, of course, Louisiana’s officially-designated state meat pie. Mainers who don’t like whoopie pie can opt for blueberry pie, the official state dessert, and wash it down with Moxie, the official state soda. Massachusetts has an official state muffin (corn), dessert (Boston cream pie), cookie (chocolate chip) and doughnut (Boston cream). Missouri’s official state dessert is the ice cream cone. North Carolina’s state fruit is the Scuppernong grape.

Oklahoma does it best; in 1988, the legislature designated an official state meal. The menu includes fried okra, squash, cornbread, barbecue pork, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken fried steak, pecan pie and black-eyed peas.

Reid Wilson covers state politics and policy for the Washington Post's GovBeat blog. He's a former editor in chief of The Hotline, the premier tip sheet on campaigns and elections, and he's a complete political junkie.
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