As a resident of Mobile, Alabama, Mardi Gras is one of my favorite times of year! Many people don’t realize Mardi Gras started in Mobile so I love to tell them. We also love to catch Moon Pies during parades so when I came across this article by Jenn Wheeler, I had to share. For some, Mardi Gras is synonomous with certain foods and places—king cake and New Orleans is at the top the list, of course. Most people probably don’t think immediately (if at all) of Moon Pies and Mobile, Alabama, but in fact, they both have a long-standing connection with Fat Tuesday. I hope you enjoy my Tuesday Tidbit! ~ Cathy
Mardi Gras’ Mobile Beginning
The very first Mardi Gras celebration in the United States was in Mobile, Alabama, all the way back in 1703, well before New Orleans was even founded (in 1718). The early processions weren’t quite the grand spectacles you see today, but they were the start of it all, and little by little, lots of specific Mardi Gras parade traditions were established and added to. Most of them are still a vital part of the celebrations.
Take, for instance, “throws”—the trinkets thrown from floats to all the people watching on the sidelines. The custom seems to have started in the 1870’s, and although beads may be the most well-known throw today, there are lots of other items tossed to spectators too, from plastic cups and foam footballs to food.
Perhaps the most popular edible item that gets chucked into the crowd is the Moon Pie. Obviously, this is a relatively recent evolution of the long-standing “throws” tradition, since Moon Pies are 20th century.
The Moon Pie—two soft graham cracker cookies sandwiching squishy-but-stable marshmallow filling, all enrobed in a thin, chocolatey shell—came to be in 1917, when a traveling salesman from the Chattanooga Bakery encountered a Kentucky coal miner who expressed a desire for a hearty, portable snack, about the size of the moon. The famous result of that request was the Moon Pie, which cost just 5 cents when it was introduced, and quickly became a hallowed Southern snack. In the 1950s, the classic combo of MoonPies and RC Cola (another good bang-for-your-buck convenience store staple) was even immortalized in a country song by Big Bill Lister.
The Chattanooga Bakery eventually added the miniature Moon Pie to their offerings, allegedly in response to parents’ grumblings that the full-size pies were ruining their kids’ appetites. Happily, these smaller treats would also prove to be perfect for throwing into crowds.
So Mardi Gras and Moon Pies both became beloved Southern institutions over the course of many decades, on separate paths. But how did those paths meet?
Well, that was in Mobile, too, where grand Mardi Gras parades continued to be held, even though New Orleans’ celebrations eventually eclipsed them in national and global recognition.
Cracker Jack had long been a popular Mardi Gras throw; it was affordable enough to give away and delicious enough to appeal to most everyone, but the bulky boxes were hard to aim accurately and the corners could be painful when they hit people. It was such a problem that Mobile banned the tossing of Cracker Jack boxes in 1972. Smaller, softer, round Moon Pies were a safer option, and they were already a long-cherished Southern delight, so they became the standard sweet treat thrown off of floats in Mobile. Once again, New Orleans followed suit—so if you’re in the Big Easy for the occasion, you’re likely to catch at least one Moon Pie when you cry, “Throw me something, mister!” And of course, you can still snatch them from the air in Mobile, too.
I hope yo enjoyed Cathy’s Tuesday Tidbit this week. To view more of Cathy’s Tuesday Tips & Tidbits, visit our blog.