Without much effort most of us could probably reel off a half a dozen or so snack foods and beverages we grew up with that had their origins in the South. Goo-Goo Cluster candy bars, Little Debbie cakes, Coca-cola, and Dr. Pepper are a few that come quickly to mind. The one sweet treat that can without question lay claim to iconic status in Dixie, though, is the much joked about and much eaten Moon Pie.
This year, believe it or not, marks the 100th anniversary of that quintessential Southern delight. It would be a shame to let 2017 play all the way out without some sort of commemoration of the Moon Pie on the pages of Mississippi Matters.
Moon Pies are still made where the first one was prepared a century ago: Chattanooga, Tennessee. The origin of the round, chocolate and marshmallow cake, though, is more properly traced to eastern Kentucky, where, according to Moon Pie lore, a coal miner told a traveling salesman that he would like a snack made from graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows. Holding his hands up to frame a circle, the miner added that he would like it to be “as big as the Moon.”
The salesman went to the Chattanooga Bakery with that request where the staff produced the first Moon Pies on April 17, 1917. The same business establishment has been turning them out ever since.
In the intervening decades the Moon Pie has entered into Southern Culture as surely as fried catfish, grits, and boiled peanuts. Country music singer Big Bill Lister inseparably linked the Moon Pie with another archetypal Southern product, RC Cola, with his song, “Gimme an RC Cola and a Moon Pie,” in 1951.
Moon Pie festivals and events are held annually in Alabama and Tennessee, and the Moon Pie has become a common “throw” item at Mardi Gras celebrations in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana. While in New York City’s Time Square the New Year’s beginning is celebrated with a large, descending ball, in Mobile, Alabama, the New Year’s commencement is marked with the descent of a twelve foot lighted replica of a Moon Pie.
Moon Pies today come in a variety of flavors other than the original chocolate. Double decker Moon Pies as well as miniature versions of the snack cake are available, as well. So you have no excuse – there’s a Moon Pie to fit your tastes and appetite. Have one to celebrate the Moon Pie centenary before the big one drops in Mobile.
James T. McCafferty is a lawyer and award-winning writer who grew up in the Mississippi Delta and now resides in McComb. He is the author of many magazine and newspaper articles, two children’s books about Delta bear hunter Holt Collier, and the full-length The Bear Hunter: The Life and Times of Robert Eager Bobo in the Canebrakes of the Old South. For more information see his website: www.canebrakes.com.
Copyright 2017 James T. McCafferty