“With the live oak trees and the sweet magnolias / Eatin’ MoonPies and drinking RC Cola” —Alabama, “When It All Goes South”
It’s the stuff that soothes you in the simmering haze of August after a long, hard day of swimming in the lake and soaking up the sun. It’s pick-up trucks and lunch pails, a side trip to the corner store just because, and a Little Leaguer’s refresher between innings.
Two graham cracker cookies, lush with marshmallow, dipped in chocolate: that’s what we’re talking about. The MoonPie, part of the Southern food scene for just shy of a century now, has achieved iconic status.
A sip of RC Cola from a bottle plucked out of a cooler chock-full of ice is what washes a MoonPie down best of all. As local author Bret Lott, whose father sold RC, likes to say, “The two together are magic.”
It has been immortalized in song (Big Bill Lister’s “RC Cola and Moon Pie,” Tom Petty’s “Moon Pie,” Father Goose Charles Ghigna’s “The Moon Pie Song,” the list goes on), given its own annual festival (The RC and MoonPie Festival in Bell Buckle, Tenn.), and is a common throw for Carnival krewes throughout the Gulf Coast.
There’s even a book on the shelf (MoonPie: Biography of an Out of this World Snack by David Magee, Jefferson Press, 2006), and now a MoonPie General Store here in Charleston, S.C.
That’s a whole lot of attention for a snack.
If you’re looking for a rational explanation, you could chalk it up to the relative heft of the product. Back in the days when a MoonPie and RC Cola could be had for a nickel each, it was the pick-me-up of choice for an entire generation of Southerners. Toss in a pack of “Nabs” (i.e. Lance crackers), and, hey, that was a full three-course working man’s lunch.
But the truth is that reason has less to do with it than emotion. Mention the word “MoonPie” among a certain crowd, and you can just see the faces light up. As with so many foods that we love in the American South, it’s all about the memories a taste evokes.
During the MoonPie General Store grand opening on June 6, newlyweds Daniel and Airen Hartis of Monroe, N.C., stopped in while honeymooning specifically because of those kinds of memories. “When I was growing up, me and my dad would stop for an RC and a MoonPie everywhere we went,” he says. “We saw the store and knew we had to come in to find something for him.”
That’s no surprise to store owners Tom Coker and John Shoffner. They designed it as an old-fashioned general store for that exact reason. “It’s about remembering the good times of yesterday,” Coker says. “Everybody who walks in has a favorite memory to share.”
Shoffner agrees. “MoonPie is associated with fun experiences, like going to the lake or sharing a snack with a friend.”
With a vintage-style soda fountain, locally-made Wholly Cow ice cream, Young Plantations pecan treats, and Carolina Gourmet foods — not to mention more MoonPie shirts, hats, and toys than you could fit in the bed of a pickup truck — the store isn’t afraid to let either its Southern or its whimsical side show.
And, hey, if nothing else, it’s refreshing in its unabashed kitschy charm.
Trying to pin down exactly why the MoonPie or a store devoted to it gets so many of us giddy is a moot point. As Jonathan West of Columbia sums it up, “It’s just something we grew up with in the South.”