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Maine Senate Declines to Make Lobster Roll the Official State Sandwich

Food & Wine logo Food & Wine 10/27/2021 Jelisa Castrodale
Rebecca Fondren / Getty Images © Provided by Food & Wine Rebecca Fondren / Getty Images

Earlier this month, Maine Senate Majority Leader Eloise Vitelli proposed a bill to make the lobster roll the state's official sandwich. Although lobster rolls — along with lobster and at least two-dozen terrifying Stephen King books — might be among the first things that you think of when you hear the word "Maine," the bill was slightly controversial even before it was pushed toward the state's Legislative Council.

For starters, as the Bangor Daily News pointed out, the lobster roll actually originated in Connecticut. And secondly, there's strong competition for the state sandwich title because the Italian sandwich actually was invented in Portland, Maine. Italian baker Giovanni Amato had been selling his sliced sub rolls topped with sliced meats, provolone, tomato, onion, and peppers for more than two decades before the first lobster roll was even served in Connecticut, let alone in Maine.

On the other hand, Connecticut may not even be interested in giving the lobster roll an official 'state' designation: in May, their state House of Representatives passed a bill that would've made pizza its official state food, but the Senate declined to approve it before the end of the legislative session. ("Maybe next year," Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said.)

But regardless of how residents of either state feel about the Lobster Roll and its origin story, the Legislative Council didn't think this bill was worthy of moving forward. Maine Public reports that they voted to advance more than 70 new bills on Monday, but the State Sandwich thing wasn't one of them.

Maybe it was because they just didn't think that should be a priority right now. Maybe it was because the lobster itself has been the official state crustacean since 2016. Maybe it was because some unnamed politician secretly prefers Connecticut's hot lobster roll over the chilled version they serve in Maine. Or maybe it's because they already have a state berry, dessert, treat, soda, and sweetener, and adding a state sandwich just feels like overkill. (The things that have already been okayed are the wild blueberry, a blueberry pie made with wild Maine Blueberries, the Whoopie pie, Moxie, and Maine maple syrup, respectively.)

Maine and Connecticut aren't the only places where legislators have food on their minds. In April, West Virginia's State House of Representatives passed a bill to make the pepperoni roll its official state food. "Today, the humble pepperoni roll is ubiquitous around the Mountain State and may be found in restaurants, bakeries, convenience stores and family kitchens," the legislation read. "Eaten cold or hot, this simple food continues to sustain West Virginians from every walk of life, coal miners, artists, business people and students." The bill was ultimately sent to the state Senate rules committee, but according to TrackBill, does not seem to have gone any further.

Despite the state's association with lobster, the roll wasn't even invented there. © Rebecca Fondren / Getty Images Despite the state's association with lobster, the roll wasn't even invented there.

If Vitelli still feels strongly about the State Sandwich thing, she has until November 1 to appeal the Council's decision. And if she feels super-strongly about it, she should probably bring everyone some free lobster rolls.

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