Whidbey Islanders push mussel as official state mollusk
March 11, 2009 · 3:53 PM
Penn Cove mussels aren't the prettiest critters in Whidbey Island's waters, but their culinary fame could earn them the official designation as "state mollusk."
Plans for a grassroots mussel campaign were announced by Island County Tourism Monday, in Olympia.
Advertised as the "mussels of choice by discriminating chefs," Penn Cove mussels prefer Washington bays where snow melt keeps the salinity lower than the open ocean, producing tastier mussels.
Tourism marketing coordinator RoseAnn Alspektor said the aim is to use the widely recognized brand to promote culinary tourism on Whidbey.
The Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce has already drawn up a mussel logo, a blue mussel with cartoonish eyeballs, which tourism leaders brought to the capital.
While Washington has never designated an official mollusk, HistoryLink.com reports that many favor the banana slug.
Another competitor for state-designated notoriety is the geoduck, said Paula Spina, a Central Whidbey representative at Olympia's "Tourism Day." The geoduck is the state's largest clam and is the official mascot of Washington's Evergreen State College, lending to its Latin motto, "Omnia Extares" (or, "let it all hang out"). The reference is allegedly to the creature's risque appearance.
"Bring it on, we'll go toe-to-toe with geoducks," Spina said.
Alspektor said mussels are delicious, and there is interest as well in their culinary heritage.
"People are interested in what was eaten when history developed here," Alspektor said.
She added that she would find it amusing if someone began a geoduck campaign for state mollusk, and she welcomes discussion on the topic.
As for herself, she favors the comparatively slim and trim mussel, not the fat, elongated, geoduck.
"I don't know if it would be as aesthetically pleasing," she said.