Sunday, April 7, 2013

RC Cola and a Moon Pie

It seems that there are an inordinate number of these blogs that discuss food, especially favorite foods from back in the day. Well, this one is going to be another of those foodie blogs. I’m going to talk about the uniquely southern delicacy, the Moon Pie! And just to be upfront about it, no self respecting southerner can talk about Moon Pies without talking about its loyal sidekick the Royal Crown Cola (RC Cola).

Today, there are very few colas around besides Coke and Pepsi. The cola wars are famous and hard fought. There are a couple of store brand colas but they don’t really amount to anything more than attempts by the supermarket chains to sell a full line of products in the store’s name. But back in the day there were a couple more cola brands that had regional acceptance in the southern market. One was the Howard Johnson’s cola, called Ho-Jo Cola. It was available only in the hotel chain’s restaurants and in my opinion, helped to suppress the hotel chain itself. Can you tell that I didn’t like Ho-Jo Cola? But that is just me, some of my friends loved it. However, the other southern cola, Royal Crown Cola, was something else; It was a little sweeter than Pepsi Cola but not as sweet as Coca Cola. I loved the taste of an RC almost as much as I did my favorite, Pepsi!

But I almost never had an RC without having a moon pie. For the uninitiated in southern cuisine, a moon pie is a pastry which consists of two round graham cracker cookies, with marshmallow filling in the center, dipped in a chocolate flavored coating. The traditional pie is about four inches in diameter. Today you can get mini moon pies, double-decker moon pies and even moon pies with banana, vanilla or other coatings. But for me, only the chocolate moon pie was a true moon pie. Moon pies came out of the depression, first appearing in Chattanooga, Tennessee without the chocolate coating, which was added soon after. Precisely how and when people began the custom of eating Moon Pies with RC Cola is unknown. Some folks say that their inexpensive prices, combined with their larger serving sizes, contributed to establishing this combination as the "working man's lunch". The popularity of this combination was celebrated in a popular song of the 1950s, by Big Bill Lister, "Gimmee an RC Cola and a Moon Pie." Andy Griffiths also popularized the “R-o-C Cola and a Moon Pie” in his comedy routines.

I didn’t care, to me there was no better snack on a hot summer afternoon that an RC and a moon pie. Mom had a secret of keeping our moon pies in the refrigerator until just before serving them to us. That was brilliant; we would have those suckers wolfed down and the RC cola half drunk before the chocolate coating would even get soft. Oh, I almost forgot, one just didn’t put ice in an RC Cola. Those were meant to be drunk directly from the bottle and do it quickly before the carbonated fizz wore off too. It seemed to me that RCs went flat faster than Pepsis or Cokes and there was nothing worse than a flat cola to a pre-teen boy on a sweltering summer afternoon.

These days there are moon pie festivals all over the south. Since New Year's Eve 2008, the city of Mobile, Alabama raises a 12-foot-tall lighted mechanical moon pie to celebrate the coming of the New Year. But that is a banana flavored moon pie, I suppose because banana shows up better at midnight than chocolate does. So I’ll give them that. There’s an annual RC & Moon Pie Festival in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, and a Moon Pie Eating Contest is held in Bessemer, Alabama every year and I hear that on October 16, 2010, Sonya Thomas, a competitive eater known as the "Black Widow," ate 38 moon pies in eight minutes in Caruthersville, Missouri. Now that is some kinda woman.

Festivals aside, there is nothing that can compare with the fond memory of my brother, sister and I, sitting on the back porch, escaping the raindrops from the daily mid-afternoon thunderstorm chewing down a cool moon pie and sipping an RC Cola straight of the bottle before the fizz wears off. Oh MY!

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