Moon Pie madness: Author delves into history of the marshmallow pie in Mobile's Mardi Gras
By Dave Helms
January 25, 2010, 4:43AMThere’s no shortage of stories in Mobile about how the Moon Pie became the city’s most beloved Mardi Gras parade throw.
Until now, the shortage has been in experts willing to sort out all those stories.
Enter Emily Blejwas, author of the forthcoming “Savor Alabama: History and Culture through Nine Food Traditions” from The University of Alabama Press.
Blejwas, 31, became involved in the book project after a discussion with the publishing house about new ways to examine Alabama. Looking at the state through the lens of food, they agreed, was promising, but they didn’t want to include too many restaurants, since eateries come and go often.
The author, a native of Charlottesville, Va., has lived in Mobile for the past two years, working on this and other writing projects.
“Savor Alabama” will include a recipe and a photograph of defining foods in each chapter, and some will detail Alabama festivals, but the focus will be the history and culture the food represents.
One chapter should be devoted to Moon Pies, and Blejwas is searching for people locally who have celebrated the confection in story, song, poetry or art.
Moon Pie Memory Contest
Have a Moon Pie memory? If so, Emily Blejwas, author of the forthcoming book “Savor Alabama: History and Culture through Nine Food Traditions,” wants to hear from you.
One chapter will include an oral history from those intimately involved with the throwing of marshmallow pies during Mobile’s Mardi Gras.
Moon Pie memories can be from children or adults, and may be pictures, drawings, essays, stories, poems or songs.
Besides having a shot at inclusion in the book, the Press-Register may reprint Moon Pie memories in a future news story. Toomey’s Mardi Gras has also agreed to supply a free case of Moon Pies to the person deemed to have the best submission.
Call 334-414-2323 with any questions related to the project. The deadline for submitting is Mardi Gras Day, Feb. 16. The submission address is:
Another Mobile connection in the book is expected to be Mobile’s banana docks, located roughly where the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center now stands. The Port of Mobile cornered the banana importation market from the Caribbean and Central and South America from the late 19th century through the 1940s.
Times changed and the banana docks were eliminated in the 1970s. Blejwas is still pondering the banana docks connection, but thinks banana pudding might crop up somewhere in the book.
There might also be a gumbo chapter, with a nod to Mobile bon vivant Eugene Walter and Bayou La Batre’s fishing tradition.
Sorting out the origins of the Moon Pie in Mobile could get interesting, she allows.
The Comic Cowboys, an ancient and honorable mystic society traditionally led by the city’s ugliest cowboy, has been quick to take credit for introducing throwable party pies here.
According to that legend, back in the 1950s, a Comic Cowboy whose father was a baker became the first mystic to toss baked goods. But he wanted a more aerodynamic throw to better hit well-positioned targets behind second-floor iron balconies.
Another story hangs the Moon Pie’s popularity on motherly concern for safety. That tale holds that the Maids of Mirth first pitched the treats in the 1970s, preferring the safe round shape to the other popular throw of the time, Cracker Jack.
The Maids perceived that Cracker Jack boxes had too many sharp edges, and someone might put their eye out.
The author hopes the book will capture Alabama’s geographic diversity — from the mountains up north to the Black Belt, piney woods and Gulf Coast.
“The Deep South tends to get simplified as a region, and Alabama gets very simplified,” Blejwas said.
“All these traditions are very fascinating to me, and they’re very localized,” she said.
She’s still gathering source materials but hopes to have the book finished by late this year or early 2011.
And her favorite Moon Pie flavor? Does she go for the new trendy mint?
“Chocolate,” she said, laughing. And that goes for her 4-year-old son as well. “He’s got the whole parade thing down.”
Blejwas earned her master’s degree from Auburn in 2006 in rural sociology/economic development. Since then she’s been working for Auburn’s Economic & Community Development Institute.
Her main project there was creating the “Alabama Civil Rights Trail Guide,” a comprehensive travel guide to civil rights sites in Alabama. That book is forthcoming from New South Press.