Excerpt from the book “They Call Me Orange Juice” by Audrey McDonald Atkins
What is so good, so delectable, so prized that a seemingly sane person will jump a police barricade and run out in front of a moving vehicle to pluck it out of a horse-apple-tainted street and eat it?
A MoonPie, of course!
Originally intended to be a filling snack for miners, the MoonPie was first made in 1917 at the Chattanooga Bakery in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It is said that a bakery salesman was visiting a local company store and talked to a miner who complained that he often didn’t get a lunch break. The hungry man wished he had a substantial snack to hold him over during the day.
“How big should it be?” the salesman asked.
The miner held up his fingers framing the moon and told the salesman that he wanted a snack just that size. The salesman went back to the factory, relayed the request, and so it was. Now, nearly a hundred years later, this iced, marshmallow-filled cookie sandwich has become a southern snack staple.
Originally the MoonPie came in three flavors: chocolate, vanilla and banana. Now you can get them in strawberry, lemon, and orange was well as the ultra-trendy salted caramel, but somehow these new flavors don’t seem right to me. Too fruity. Too fancy. Vanilla is my favorite, followed closely by chocolate. I have never been able to wrap my mind or my mouth around artificial banana flavoring, but my husband prefers that one to all the rest.
The MoonPie is now the edible “throw” of choice for Mardi Gras revelers partly because it doesn’t hurt much to get hit by one (unlike the Cracker Jack boxes they replaced) and partly because they are just dang good. Sometimes they will throw you extras if you holler “MoonPie, MoonPie, Fly to Me” as the floats go by. You can also ring in the New Year by watching a 600-pound, electric MoonPie light up the night sky right here in downtown Mobile where we also have the longest running Mardi Gras tradition in the United States. Need a new vacation destination? Try the MoonPie Festival in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.
How do you know if you are a true southerner? Aside from the requisite y’allin’ and drawlin’ and heart blessin’, if you’ve ever eaten a MoonPie and washed its waxy, sticky goodness down with an ice-cold RC Cola, your card can never, ever be revoked. You’re southern to the bone.
Fortunately for the MoonPie lovers among us, you don’t have to wait for Mardi Gras or risk life and limb and possible arrest to get one. MoonPies can usually be found at the corner store, the Pig and any other similar purveyor of fine foods. And when you do get one, peel back the plastic wrapper to reveal this delicacy in all its round, gooey glory, inhale the sweet smell of this timeless treat, and thank your lucky stars (and moon) for that enterprising salesman and the hungry miner.
Born and raised in Citronelle, Atkins shares stories about growing up and living in the South in her book, “They Call Me Orange Juice,” and at her blog folkwaysnowadays.com.