Alabama recently eliminated a long-standing gap in its legal and statutory framework, which previously included not a single officially recognized cookie, by designating the “Alabama Yellowhammer” as the state’s official cookie. The Alabama Yellowhammer was enshrined as such when Gov. Kay Ivey signed HB 421 into law on June 2.
This was the culmination of a whirlwind legislative process that saw the cookie bill become law in a mere 23 days. This suggests a remarkable improvement in the efficiency of Alabama’s legislative system, given that it took 120 years to finally get the racist language out of the state constitution. See “Alabama’s Ginormous Constitution Will Be ‘Recompiled,’ Made Less Racist” (Nov. 10, 2020). The constitution is still ginormous—most likely the longest one in the world; longer than India’s, which is really saying something—but has in fact become less racist. So things are looking up in a number of ways.
As is usually the case with bills of this kind, students are the people to thank or blame for HB 421. A school in Montgomery decided that a state cookie would be a good idea (the reason is not reported) and had students submit recipes. Seniors in the school’s government class pitched in by lobbying Rep. Reed Ingram to sponsor the bill, which he bravely did. The bill then “rose like a well-baked treat” through the legislature and was swiftly passed and sent to the governor.
The fourth-grader who submitted the winning recipe was present at the signing ceremony, as this statement from the governor’s office noted:
Earlier today, Montgomery 4th grader and recipe creator Mary Claire Cook brought a batch of the cookies to Governor Ivey in her office. As the governor reviewed the legislation, she taste tested the cookie for herself, gave it the stamp of approval and put her signature on the bill to officially name the Yellowhammer Cookie the official state cookie.
Governor Ivey then shared the following comment: “Sweet Home Alabama just got a little sweeter!”
I enjoyed the suggestion that this might have been a substantive evaluation of Cook’s offering, as if Ivey might have taken a bite only to break a tooth, spit out a mouthful of crumbs, shout something like “Ugh, was that made from dung?! Child, you will never bake again,” then press a hidden button releasing a trap door beneath the offending fourth-grader while tearing HB 421 itself to shreds. But if there was any risk of that, it did not come to pass. The Yellowhammer passed the taste test, and Alabama became sweeter, although the extent of the alleged increase in overall sweetness is not yet clear.
As we have seen before, sometimes the connection between the state in question and the official thing it has adopted is less than clear. For example, Alabama is one of those states that has an “official state fossil,” namely any and all remains of Basilosaurus cetoides, which can indeed be found there today but became fossils a number of years before Alabama existed. Then there’s Delaware, which has an official state star that is allegedly in the constellation Ursa major but doesn’t seem to exist. Here, the connection is at least more concrete than either of those, because the recipe includes pecans (the official state nut) and the cookie appears to be named after the yellowhammer (the official state bird).
The cookie itself has only been associated with Alabama for about two weeks, though.