Voters say shoofly slogan wonderful good

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By Dennis B. Roddy
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Shoofly pie, a collision of flour, brown sugar and molasses that is half-dessert, half tourist-destination in Amish country, has earned the highest honor possible for a Pennsylvania delicacy: its own bumper sticker.

"I break for Shoofly Pie," will now adorn the rear ends of autos crossing the state. The slogan is the winner in a contest sponsored by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.

The sticker honors an old Pennsylvania Dutch delicacy, a sort of sponge cake soaked in molasses and sugar, tucked into pastry crust and named to honor its attractiveness to household pests.

Runners up included "Pennsylvania: land of independence," "Pennsylvania is for road-trippers," and "Honk if you love road trips," a slogan that could have triggered some misunderstanding in toll booth lines on the turnpike.

The vote, apparently, was a primary.

"Shoofly pie won with 21.6 percent," explained Carrie Fischer, spokeswoman for the tourism office.

Out-of-state drivers following cars bearing the slogan might wonder precisely what shoofly pie is and why anyone would break for it.

For an answer, we turn to a denizen of Pennsylvania Dutch Country, Louie Antonellos, who was reached at what had once been Zinn's Diner. Zinn's was an Amish attraction for generations, with its giant plaster Amishman standing sentry outside. Inside, people dined on scrapple, dried corn, pot pie and shoofly pie.

After Mr. Antonellos, a Greek kid from the east coast, moved in to Zinn's, the restaurant became the Park Place Diner. The plaster Amishman was sent to a museum.

They kept the pie.

"The bakers who were still here when I arrived told me about it. I was a little skeptical in the beginning," said Mr. Antonellos, who moved to Lancaster County from New Jersey, where the state dessert is gambling. After trying a slice, he kept the stuff on the menu. He sells two or three of them a day.

Mr. Antonellos is a piker compared to Kevin Schaefer, whose Dutch Haven in nearby Ronks, sells an estimated 40,000 of the pies every year to tourists, expatriates, passers-through and locals who come by their sugar addiction honestly. When Dutch Haven opened in 1946, it was a restaurant. There wasn't enough demand for anything but shoofly pie, so the place became a combination souvenir shop and mail-order bakery.

Every year, Mr. Schaefer said, "We ship about just shy of 2,000 pies anywhere in the continental United States." The things are easy to ship. They approximate edible hardware.

"The pie's good for two weeks at room temperature, a month in the fridge and you can freeze it -- that's why you can ship it anywhere," Mr. Schaefer said. He also doesn't use eggs. He rattled off his ingredients from memory:

"Molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, vegetable shortening, salt and water."

No flour?

"Didn't I say flour? Oh, yes."

It's easy to forget. A shoofly pie contains just enough flour to hold the molasses together.

"Oh they'll last forever, I must admit. You just can't kill 'em," said Mickey Rowley, deputy secretary of Community and Economic Development who is in charge of tourism. Mr. Rowley last had a shoofly pie on his 50th birthday. He is 52.

Mr. Rowley said the state's official slogan, "Land of Independence," was leading in the online voting until a week ago, when votes from shoofly pie advocates flooded the site, marking perhaps the first time the Amish won an online vote.

"There was a shoofly pie-eating contest at the shoofly pie festival a week before," Mr. Rowley said. "I think word spread."

So did the waistline of Bob Shoudt, the winner. His eyes lit up and his tummy said howdy to 25 slices -- that's slightly more than nine pounds -- of shoofly pie in eight minutes. He won $2,000 in the June 24 contest, sanctioned by the International Federation of Competitive Eating.

Coming two weeks before a Japanese champion tucked away 533/4 hotdogs at the world Hot Dog Eating Championship on Coney Island, Mr. Shoudt's victory raises the inevitable question: Why only 25 slices?

"It's a fairly dry pie," said organizer Jarrod Walpert. "You can't just shove a slice down your throat whole the way you could with a blueberry pie. You have to work at it."

And now, you'll be driving behind it.


Dennis B. Roddy can be reached at droddy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1965.


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