Have a slab of the world’s largest MoonPie

Thing 2 at the 2008 RC Cola and MoonPie Festival. (Photo copyright Todd Pack)

Saturday, July 18, 2011, is the 17th annual RC Cola and MoonPie Festival in Bell Buckle, Tennessee, a few miles off Interstate 24 between Nashville and Chattanooga. You should go.

logo designIt’s like a lot of small-town festivals. There’ll be live music and crafts and a 10-mile run. I’m guessing the race is for people who don’t eat a lot of MoonPies.

There are contests, too, like a watermelon seed-spitting contest and a hog-calling contest. Anyone can enter.

Couple years ago, our daughter, Thing 1, gave it a try. She’s not a city girl; she’s suburban. She did OK spitting a watermelon seed, but she wasn’t much at hog calling. You’re supposed to yell, “Sooo-EEEEEEEEY!” She went, “Sooey?” like she’s trying coax a kitten out from under a bed.

But all that’s just a prelude to the main event, the thing that makes the festival worthwhile: the serving of the World’s Largest MoonPie .

If you’ve never had a MoonPie, it’s a graham cookie-and-marshmallow sandwich dipped in chocolate or some other flavor. They’re usually 3 inches across.

The World’s Largest MoonPie is 3 feet across, probably closer to 4, and it’s 5 or 6 inches thick.

It arrives at the festival bandstand on the roof of a golf cart. If it’s sunny, it’ll be warm and gooey. If it’s cloudy, it’ll just be gooey.

It’s better warm, but it’s OK just gooey.

It’s sliced and served by local dignitaries. Each piece is about the size of a silver dollar (kids, ask your parents), but it’s really rich, you probably couldn’t stomach a bigger piece if you tried.

You wash it down with a cold RC, which may be the only time all year you’ll have one.

As the T-shirts say, it’s a Southern thing.

The story goes that a salesman from the Chattanooga Bakery was talking to a group of Appalachian coal miners back in 1917, and they asked for something filling, because they didn’t always get to break for lunch.

Back in Chattanooga, the salesman saw some workers dipping graham cookies in marshmallow. Someone decided to make it into a sandwich and dunked the thing in chocolate.

By the 1930s, an RC Cola and a MoonPie were known as the working man’s lunch, which says a lot about the state of the Southern diet.

I don’t know how Bell Buckle (population 391, according to Wikipedia) ended up with the MoonPie festival. Bell Buckle is a pretty little Mayberry of a town, though. We always have a great time at the MoonPie festival, so I’m not going to worry about it.

Where the streets have one name

Image by twentysixcats via Flickr

The joke about Atlanta is that every street is named Peachtree.

Of course, this isn’t true. Only 71 streets in metro Atlanta are named Peachtree, and many of them intersect with one another, and while locals know which Peachtree they’re talking about, it isn’t always obvious to out-of-towners.

I drove to Atlanta the other day on business. I printed out my hotel reservation. It said my hotel was on Peachtree Street Northeast, but when I plugged the address into my GPS (you don’t want to drive in a city where 71 streets are named Peachtree unless you have a GPS with updated maps), it came up dry.

The hotel’s website listed the Peachtree Street address, too, so I called the front desk. The bored-sounding woman who answered said to look up the same number but search for Peachtree Center Avenue Northeast. (I’m guessing I wasn’t the first person to call for clarification.)

It turns out that Peachtree Street Northeast is one block over and runs parallel to Peachtree Center Avenue Northeast, and my hotel was smack in between them. Exit on one side of the lobby, and you’re on Peachtree Street. Exit on the other side, and you’re on Peachtree Center Avenue Northeast.

When locals talk about Peachtree, they’re usually talking about Peachtree Street, which is Atlanta’s main street. Peachtree Street, though, eventually becomes Peachtree Road, Peachtree Boulevard, Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Peachtree Parkway — 5 names, same street.

Downtown, there’s also West Peachtree Street, which runs parallel to Peachtree Street and at one point crosses it.

What’s funny is the different Peachtrees weren’t named for an actual peach tree.

According to historians (OK, Wikipedia), Peachtree was named for a Creek settlement called Standing Pitch Tree. Supposedly, the Creek used the pitch, or sap, from pine trees in its ceremonies. “Pitch tree” didn’t sound right to European settlers, so they called it “peach tree.”

Which is interesting but isn’t going to help me get back to the interstate.

When it snows in the South

We live a little outside Nashville, Tennessee, and right now it’s snowing and 24, and shortly before 5 p.m., we got a call saying there’s no school tomorrow.

Sometimes, we’ll have flurries in December, but it usually doesn’t stick. The last measurable snowfall in December was in 2008, and before that, it was in 2000.

So far today, we’ve had about 1 inch of snow, and they’re predicting another inch or 2 by morning.

Of course, in some parts of the country, 3 inches of snow would barely slow you down, but here in the South, 3 inches of snow is a big deal. When the forecast calls for 3 inches of snow, you rush to Kroger for milk, bread and toilet paper. I don’t know why, because whenever we get snow, it’s usually gone in a day, but that’s what people do.

It rained pretty much all day yesterday and got down below freezing last night. Usually on Sundays, I take Thing 1 (the 10-year-old) out to get bagels, but this morning, we stayed in. I made sausage and scratch biscuits, and then we ran errands. By the time we got home, around 2, there was barely enough snow for sledding, but that didn’t stop anyone (see picture).

We lasted about 30 minutes out in the cold.

When we came in, I built a fire and made hot chocolate and a pot of decaf, and a neighbor came over to give us some Christmas candy he’d made himself. Right now, Sweetie’s upstairs with the kids wrapping presents — Thing 2, the 4-year-old, says I’m not allowed to come up.

In a little while, we’ll have leftovers and watch a Christmas movie. Last night, we watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Tonight, the kids picked Miracle on 34th Street. The original, in glorious black-and-white. In the morning, Sweetie will go to work, and I’ll work from home so I can watch the kids.

All things considered, I’d say it’s a pretty good start to the week.