I was in Bass Pro Shops last week admiring the MoonPie retail display cube under a large stuffed moose staring at a deer glancing back at a small bear above the checkout registers, and a man walked up and asked me about MoonPies.
“You like MoonPies?” he said in an accent that was more Brooklyn than Southern.
“I do,” I said, in an accent that was definitely more Southern than Brooklyn.
“My wife does too,” he said. “She’s from Georgia. Down near Atlanta. You know where that is?”
“Atlanta?” I said. “Yes. They have a baseball team there, I believe.”
“Not like the Mets,” he smiled in a way that was unclear if he meant it as a compliment to the Braves or an insult to the Mets, or the other way around.
“I know what you mean,” I lied.
I had no idea what he meant. He went on to tell me why he was driving through the area and how many kids he had and what they did and how much he liked fishing and how much he hated camo and how much is the right horsepower for a bass boat and where you could fish in Brooklyn if you know where to look. I listened intently, nodding. That’s what you do when a man is dead set on saying his piece and hardly breathes while saying it.
“Do you like MoonPies?” I asked when he finally took a breath.
“Never had one,” he said, winded.
I reached out and pulled a chocolate one from the display. “Here,” I said. “This one’s on me. A little bit of Southern culture for you.”
He took it and examined it as if it had truly come from the moon.
“Saw you looking at them. I’ve heard about these from my wife ever since we got married,” he said. “If I eat this, I won’t turn Southern will I?”
“You married a girl from Georgia, you already turned Southern, my friend,” I said.
That’s cultural gravity. MoonPie has baked a lot of it in our little plant in Chattanooga since 1917, and much of that experience has become engrained in every part of American life. That’s how we got a part in the History Channel’s 101 Foods That Changed America. When a guy like me doesn’t know the exact date and time of such things, he always says, “Check your local listings for date and time.” There I said it. I can tell you the show is the result of a group of historians, writers and gourmet chefs choosing foods that have moved past our tongues and changed our lives. I can’t tell you where we ranked yet, but we’re pretty honored about it.
Word of mouth is a powerful thing. So much so that somewhere in Brooklyn right now, a man is saying ”y’all” while fishing, and he means every bite.