A Marmot and a Pie

Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. A day I’ve never understood, even though it’s fairly straightforward and goes like this. Annually, on February 2, if a groundhog emerges from his burrow and sees his own shadow, it means six more weeks of winter. If not, it means spring will arrive early. This tradition comes to us from the Pennsylvania Dutch, the same part of the country that claims to be the birthplace of whoopie pies, you know, that piece of heaven in a dessert, two mini-round chocolate cakes with cloud-like whipped frosting in between? Now, some people make that filling with butter, don’t listen to them. They are traitors of the most devious kind. The interior icing must contain Crisco. Yes, that flavorless lard in a can is essential in creating the kind of whoopie pie that will weigh heavy on your taste buds and midsection. And don’t think you can go to the store and buy one of these beauties, even though they are sold on Amazon and you could have them via prime in two days. Listen up, the only way to have an authentic culinary whoopie pie experience is to concoct them in your own kitchen, because they are supposed to look like amorphous, no-two-alike, amateurish homemade Oreos on steroids, as if made by a five-year-old cooking with an Easy-Bake Oven. I would like to wax poetic about the gumminess of the cake itself and how the next day they seem to double their weight, but I must get back to this Groundhog Day business.

The sheer fact that we have a day that is dependent on whether or not a rodent sees his shadow seems absurd. What charlatan convinced all of America that this was a good idea and did he also sell us some great swampland in Florida? First, have you ever seen a groundhog? Not I. Although around here, we’d call the marmot a woodchuck. Wouldn’t we all agree that Woodchuck Day might be easier to rally behind? I guess we’re lucky it’s a groundhog to begin with, because it could be a badger, as that’s the forecasting animal in the original weather lore. I suppose it doesn’t matter to me. I’ve seen exactly the same number of badgers in my life that I have seen groundhogs; a fact I’m not complaining about.

Worse yet, this marmot of the day has a name, Punxsutawney Phil. This increases the difficulty a hundred-fold. Instead of finding any old groundhog, it has to be this one in particular. All on his own, Punxsutawney Phil determines the weather. That’s a lot of pressure on one little guy. I mean, by the time February lumbers along, spring better be a light at the end of this frozen tunnel called winter. If Phil sees his shadow, that is one cold groundhog asking for trouble. He better hightail it back into his burrow before throngs of neck gaiter, down-wearing people threaten him to find his shadow or else.

And, more importantly, what about Ms. Punxsutawney Phil? Personally, I just love her. She stays in her burrow. Why? Because it’s cold out there, people! Maybe next year on February 2 someone can coax her out into the freeze. Rather than dithering about, determining whether or not there is a shadow, Ms. Phil would be decisive! According to a New York Times article by Therese Huston, “Neuroscientists have uncovered evidence suggesting that, when the pressure is on, women bring unique strengths to decision making.” What’s that old lyric about being a W-O-M-A-N? For a female groundhog, she can whip up the whoopie pies, jump out of her burrow, tell you the weather, ‘cause she’s a woman, W-O-MA- N! I won’t say it again. Which brings me back to the whoopie pie and this suggestion, it should have a day. Now that’s something I can swallow