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Soft-shell crab the official sandwich of Maryland?

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

ANNAPOLIS -- Scuttle along, crab cake. The Maryland legislature is considering making the soft-shell crab sandwich the state's official sandwich.

Just days before the Maryland crab season begins April 1, the state Senate gave preliminary approval to a bill designating the fried crustacean placed between two slices of bread -- often enjoyed with tomato, lettuce, and perhaps a squirt of lemon and some Old Bay seasoning -- the official sandwich of the state.

"Blue crabs and Maryland have long been associated," said Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Eastern Shore. "The brackish waters of the Chesapeake Bay provide an ideal habitat, and they are the state's most valuable commercial fishery."

Maryland's official mascots
-Bird: Oriole
-Boat: Skipjack
-Cat: Calico
-Crustacean: Blue crab
-Dessert: Smith Island Cake
-Dinosaur: Astrodon johnstoni
-Dog: Chesapeake Bay Retriever
-Drink: Milk
-Exercise: Walking
-Fish: Rockfish
-Flower: Black-Eyed Susan
-Folk dance: Square dance
-Fossil shell: Ecphora gardnerae gardnerae
-Gem: Patuxent River Stone
-Horse: Thoroughbred
-Insect: Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly
-Reptile: Diamondback Terrapin
-Sport: Jousting
-Team sport: Lacrosse
-Theater: Center Stage & Olney Theatre
-Tree: White Oak

Colburn said the crab cake sandwich might be the more obvious choice, but the soft-shell crab is more closely associated with Maryland -- after all, the blue crab is already the official state crustacean.

Colburn said the reason for the soft-shell crab was that it was almost guaranteed to come from the Chesapeake, while meat in crab cakes could come from as far away from Thailand. He said he hoped the designation would increase the popularity of the sandwich and stimulate the fishing industry.

The bill has an ally in Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's and Calvert counties, who called it "probably the ugliest sandwich in the history of the world" in urging his members to approve the measure.

Not everybody is thrilled with the prospect of the legislature designating an official state sandwich. Opponents of the measure have called it "frivolous" and "ridiculous."

Maryland has 23 official state mascots, from the flag adopted in 1904 to the Smith Island Cake (which consists of eight to 10 layers of yellow cake with chocolate frosting between each one) as the official state dessert in 2008.

But the state also has a number of quirky official mascots, including the official state folk dance (the square dance), official state dinosaur (the long-necked Astrodon johnstoni found in Prince George's County) and an official state exercise (walking).

The bill could be passed by the Senate as early as Monday but still would require approval from the House.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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