Lawmakers aren’t just plating up a slice of strawberry shortcake. They’re dressing it with a dollop of Florida dairy topping.
A measure naming strawberry shortcake the state dessert (HB 567) is ready to be served on the House Floor. Members of the House State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to approve the bill, prepared by Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure.
While St. Johns Republican Rep. Cyndi Stevenson praised strawberry shortcake as “within most everybody’s culinary ability,” the committee added an extra step to the recipe. A change to the bill from Committee Chair Ralph Massullo, a Lecanto Republican, specified “strawberry shortcake with natural Florida dairy topping” would be the state’s official post-dinner treat.
Floridians would be free to put as much or as little topping on their cake as they would like, Massullo noted.
“The dollop amount would vary based on the individual,” he said. “And in Florida, we believe in freedom, so you’ll have your choice of the amount of whipped cream you want to put on your strawberry shortcake.”
However, members on both sides of the aisle had concerns that specifying a dairy topping might be exclusionary.
Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, speaking on behalf of fellow Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, asked Massullo whether the honorific allows for vegan options. Massullo stressed the amendment was about Florida dairy but left open the possibility that you could construe milk to be vegan if it comes from a grass-fed cow.
Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer noted he is allergic to dairy. Massullo, a physician, said recent studies show people might actually be allergic to a protein in dairy products, not the lactose itself.
“You may be able to try some testing at Mayo or wherever your allergist might be,” Massullo said.
McClure hails from Dover. In neighboring Plant City, the strawberry industry is worth about $1 billion, he said. More than 10,000 acres of strawberries are planted annually in the Plant City area, accounting for nearly 75% of the nation’s winter strawberry crop.
“Every strawberry that you eat has been handpicked, inspected, washed, packaged and then cooled,” McClure said.
Passing the bill has been a sweet treat for lawmakers — leadership slated it to move through the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee, or PIE, for short. But the measure has received consternation from some who pledge allegiance to the state pie, the Key lime pie.
For now, McClure and his Senate partner, Zephyrhills Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, are sticking with their plan to call the strawberry shortcake the state dessert rather than the state cake.
“We’re not stepping on the pie,” McClure said. “Actually, I think we’re talking about Key lime pie maybe more than we have since it became the state pie.”
Burgess’ version (SB 1006) doesn’t include the natural Florida dairy topping distinction. Could that lead to a food fight across the Rotunda? That could be answered soon, as the Senate is expected to pass the bill either Thursday or Friday.
Before leaving, McClure offered an extra helping of praise for Florida’s growers, maybe to ensure his main message isn’t smothered under whipped cream:
“When you’re in the grocery store, look at the label. Where’s it being produced?” McClure said. “If you have a choice between Florida and California or Florida and Mexico, purchase Florida berries.”