A Moon You Can Hold

Moon PieThe Original Marshmallow Sandwich

My only knowledge of the legendary Moon Pie was vague mentions and a certain song from decades ago that paid homage.

My knowledge advanced like a moonshot recently when I was in a quaint little store in charming Bluemont, Virginia. There on the counter were individually wrapped . . . Moon Pies! I suddenly found myself on a precipice – leap or forever remain amongst the uninitiated. It didn’t take long to leap. I held in my hand a piece of American snack history. Sadly, I looked around for an RC Cola (which I had tasted in my youth) but didn’t see any.

Growing up in New Jersey, I never saw a Moon Pie. We did, however, have Scooter Pies, made by Burry, no doubt a copycat product that appeared in the 1960s.

The Moon Pie first appeared in 1917, made by Chattanooga Bakery in Tennessee and was sold largely in the South. The attractive logo features a golden crescent moon on a blue background. I suppose when you hold your moon pie, you first observe a full moon. After you take a bite, you have a half moon! What a concept!

However, the origin is given that a coal miner in Kentucky asked a traveling salesman for a snack “as big as the moon.” Some time later, the miner got his wish when the first Moon Pie appeared. They were filling and fit in a lunch pail. The snack was a cosmic hit.

It was a simple concoction, made of marshmallow filling sandwiched between two round graham cookies. It was traditionally covered in chocolate. Now, the first ones seem to have had only two cookie layers with thicker filling, but the one I bought was a “double decker,” with three cookies and two thin layers of marshmallow.

You can buy either version today, plus in different flavors like vanilla, banana and even seasonal pumpkin.

I had consumed many a Scooter Pie in my younger years. These chocolate-coated disks were named for New York Yankee Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto. They can be still be bought in some areas.

And then there were Ring Dings, which were entirely different from Scooter Pies, with crème-filled chocolate cake and chocolate icing, but no cookies. They were a New York-regional thing (a college favorite of mine in Connecticut), but are now distributed in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.

Let me stray from my topic briefly once more. I suddenly recalled one of my very favorite cookies of my youth, which seemed to have disappeared from the shelves years ago … Mallomars! A dome-like confection of marshmallow and a cookie layer on the bottom, covered in dark chocolate. Wow. Not a far cry from the then-unknown to me Scooter Pies and Moon Pies. A quick scan of the internet show that these too are available online. Why not in stores? Hmmm . . .

But, on to my Moon Pie taste test. I wasn’t planning to do a blog post about it, so I neglected to photograph mine before I ate it. I opened the wrapper and gently revealed the chocolate-covered Pie. With vague memories of Scooter Pie flavors and textures, I took my first bite. Interesting texture. Lots more cookie than Scooter Pies. Not cloyingly sweet. It wasn’t horrible. It wasn’t amazing. It was a snack that fit the bill for a mid-afternoon sweet lift. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now, no doubt the Moon Pie has its diehard devotees. It was the first such product on the market, and skyrocketed to popularity during the wars and into the baby boom years. It has its logo and its cachet. But, what is it, really? Cookies, sugar, weird marshmallow filling and industrial chocolate coating. If you tried to make them yourself, with premium ingredients, I’m sure they would be amazing. In fact, the internet is loaded with recipes for homemade, mouth-watering Moon Pies.

If you’re a fan, you already know how and where to obtain them. If you are intrigued and want to try one, you can buy Moon Pies online. But it’s always more fun to buy one in an old-timey store.

Now, for some tunes!

I found this on Youtube, “Gimme an RC Cola and Moon Pie,” by Big Bill Lister. Lister was a crooner and rhythm guitarist who toured with Hank Williams in the 1950s. He was born in Texas in 1923, named Weldon E. Lister, and grew to be 6 feet 7 inches. He died in 2009. Here is perhaps the first song about Moon Pies!

But here is the song that stuck in my mind for decades. I accurately attributed it to NRBQ, a band that never achieved quite the recognition it deserved. They formed in Kentucky in the 1960s, which could explain why they knew about Moon Pies! Listen, enjoy and wait for the punch line, which I repeated while eating my Moon Pie.

Shout out to Moonpie.com for helpful stuff for this blog! To learn more about Moon Pies or purchase them and related merch, visit that website.