Moon Pies Over Mardi Gras
Classic Southern Treats and Chocolate Mardi Gras Throws
Few food items are as identified with Mardi Gras and the American South as the combination of marshmallow sandwiched between graham cookies and then slathered in chocolate. And since its introduction in 1917, the MoonPie has become firmly entrenched in southern and Mardi Gras culture. Made popular in the 1930s “RC and a MoonPie” (workman’s lunch) campaign, and later adopted by Mardi Gras krewes looking for small, festive giveaway items, MoonPies are now thrown by the thousands from Carnival floats.
The Chattanooga Bakery was founded in 1902 as a small part of a larger mountain milling concern. In the early days, the bakery produced the popular snacks of the early 20th century, such as graham crackers and fig bars.
One day, around 1917, Chattanooga Bakery salesman Ed Mitchell, Sr. happened upon a store frequented by coal miners who often requested something portable, filing, and quick to eat. It seems they rarely had time to stop for lunch (sound familiar). Mitchell carried the miners’ plea back to the bakery.
Some time later Mitchell noticed workers at the bakery dipping graham cookies into marshmallow. For whatever reason, this reminded of the coal miners at the store. A recipe was developed, tested, and later a second graham cookie and a coating of chocolate were added. Taste tests were so successful that the new item became a regular on the bakery’s product list, and has remained popular ever since.
As for the name “MoonPie”, legend has it that when Mitchell (the salesman who came up with the idea) first spoke to the miners, he asked how big an item they were looking for. It’s said that one of the miners raised his hands and framed the moon saying, “about that big”. The rest is history.
Later, during the Second World War, Chattanooga Bakery sent thousands of MoonPies to soldiers overseas. Small, individually wrapped, and filling (just as the original miners had requested), MoonPies were thought to be an ideal portable treat that would fit neatly in a soldier’s rucksack. Chattanooga Bakery’s tradition of supplying MoonPies to men and women serving in the military continues to this day.
Mardi Gras and the MoonPie
By the 1970s, Mardi Gras krewes had long since adopted the practice of throwing things from their parade floats to expectant revelers. At that time, their snack food throw of choice was Cracker Jack. Looking for something less painful to be hit in the head with, and easier to throw, someone stumbled on the idea of using MoonPies, and they’ve been aboard Mardi Gras parade floats ever since. The MoonPie has become enough of a Mardi Gras staple that the city of Mobile has, for a number of years, had a giant lighted MoonPie drop at dusk each night on the last few days leading up to Fat Tuesday.
Today, the MoonPie is as much a part of Gulf Coast culture as jambalaya, po-boys, mint juleps, crawfish, and other favorites. They are available nationwide in a variety of styles and sizes. But the best is still the original moon-sized miners’ treat.