Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Southern Snacking: RC Cola and a Moon Pie

When it comes to snacking, the South beats them all. This is the land which brought PORK RINDS to the world. But the true Suthun Hit, the basis of all Suthun Snacks: The RC Cola and a Moon Pie. What a combination!

The MoonPie hit the markets of Chattanooga Tennessee in 1917 and R.C. Cola arrived in Columbus, Georgia in 1934. They were an instant success when they finally (somehow) combined forces in the 1950's. At that time, you could buy a RC (Royal Crown) Cola and MoonPie special for 10 cents. That was a full 16 ounces of soda and the MoonPies weighed about near (that's Suthun for approximate size) a half pound.

This combo was soon labeled as the "Working Man's Lunch" of the fifties - although it's never been stated whether the merging of the two was a planned marketing strategy or just plain luck. I'll go with luck, though the founding cities of the two aren't really that far apart, both located in the deep south.

This combination has inspired many to write, sing and celebrate in its existence. Songs such as the 1950s hit "Gimme an RC Cola and a Moonpie" from Big Bill Liston to today's version from NRBQ called "RC and Moonpie" and "Moonpie" by Edwin Hubbard, as well as the popular children's musical version by Bill Harley called "Weezie and the Moon Pies".

Oh but there's more... (and you knew there would be, now didn't you?)

The World Championship Moonpie Eating Contest is held annually in the town of Oneonta, Alabama, where you can bet they wash down those MoonPies with an ice cold RC Cola. Every year in June there is the RC-MoonPie Festival in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. Rated a Southeastern Tourism Society Top 20 Event, this local festival is a jam packed day of fun for the whole family. There is plenty of country and bluegrass music, a parade, clogging dancers, Moon Pie games, crafts, contests and the ever popular Synchronized Wading.

(Wait, Crafts? What kind of craft can you do with a moon pie? The mind fairly boggles at the thought....)

It's obvious that the South LOVES MoonPies.

Millions of special made mini MoonPies are thrown every year during the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. This tradition has newer beginnings that date back only to the mid 1970's when Mardi Gras revelers were hunting for lighter items to toss (less damage when tossed and easier to transport.) Also during the seventies came a new style of eating the MoonPie: "heated". The invention of the microwave took eating a moon pie to a higher more wonderful and sinful level. (Whoever invented the microwave, let me say "Thank You".)

The MoonPie and R.C. Cola combination has held fast in our southern states over the decades. Every southerner has fond memories of the MoonPie and RC Cola. The occasional afternoon walk to the local store to retrieve a MoonPie and an R.C.Cola with a parent was commonplace. Some of the most important parental conversations took place during the enjoyment of this delightful combination. The hurried traveler while stopping for a gas fill up, would regularly purchase a R.C. Cola and MoonPie to tide him or her over. (Might I add that a hurried stop in Tennessee is equivalent to about 20 minutes or so.)

I venture to say that every store in Nashville that carries food still sells MoonPies and R.C. Colas within it's walls, from the local grocery store to gas stations to dollar stores. Not only have the R.C. Cola and the MoonPie survived and flourished throughout the south, their popularity is still growing globally. You can now order these treats anytime, via the Internet, shipped to anywhere in the world, although it is best to order during the winter months when local demand is somewhat less.

Just in case you didn't know, R.C. Cola was an innovator in many areas. They were the first to introduce their beverage in an all aluminum can, the first to make a low calorie diet cola (Diet Rite) and the first cola manufacturer to make a caffeine free Soda (R.C. 100).

Innovation, ice cold Cola and Sweet Snacks. (It's the "Working Man's Lunch!") It's no wonder I love living in the South.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Invention Intervention - The Suthun Smoker

When I first saw this photo I figured that some intelligent Suthunah had found a way to heat his 'external toilet.' (For those not in the know, that green building is what is known as a "Port-A-Potty." It's a mobile outhouse, usually found at concerts or fairs and even at large construction sites.) But a closer looks tells you that the owner is not trying to heat his outhouse, cuz you can see... 'hey, the smoke is going up into that thing!' Ok, then it makes sense. This isn't an outhouse, it's a smoker.

Now, for those who do not know, smoking meat is an ancient method of preserving food that has been practiced throughout history and most Suthunaz are practiced masters at this art. Archeologists have found proof that the earliest Medieval Europeans, as well as some primitive South American and Asian cultures, smoked meat as well as substantial amounts of fish and poultry. They got nothing on ol' Bubba's smoker above.

How about a little more history, yes?

Caribbean natives smoked meat to ward off flies. Early Caribbean communities hung meat from spiked sticks on a rack over a smoky fire, a system that they referred to as "barbacoa." In fact, the word "barbacoa" may be the origin of our contemporary word "barbecue", as well as the impetus for the trend toward grilling meat versus smoking meat. (NOW we're talking Suthun!)

Smoking effectively works as a preservative for raw meat, too; because smoke contains chemical compounds that prevent the growth of bacteria. Phenolic compounds in smoke halt the oxidization of meat, carbonyl compounds result in the distinctive smoked flavor and aroma, while carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide assist in the rendering of fat, the breakdown of connective tissues and collagen and the production of pigment in the meat. Now that there is a mouth-FULL! And speaking of mouthfuls, turkey, brisket and other meats are excellent choices for enjoying the results of traditional smoking. (Or, in the case of the above smoker, NON-traditional smoking.)

It is also good to note that the use of 're-purposed' items in the photo above makes this a really 'green' project. (You see what I did there? Green? Oh, ok, keep reading...) The cast iron fire-pot is well made and well connected, as there is no smoke leaking out anywhere it's not supposed to. And we have to agree, the smoker unit is large enough to hold the biggest...uh...biggest... yikes! What on earth would you need a smoker that big for? Maybe a full sized deer carcass? Still on the hoof? Maybe two or three at one time?

(I also have to wonder if the thing still has the seat! )

You know, I know that guy isn't smoking any of them chickens in a smoker that big - unless he's doing a dozen at once. Though I'm sure what ever he's smoking it's delicious...(depending on whether or not that thing was cleaned before he turned it into a smoker) I guess I really don't need to know what it is he IS smoking, but I want to know what he was smoking...if you know what I'm sayin....

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Lawn Ranger Rides Again!!

It's that time again.The rains let up and the air became cool and the grass grew forth. Weeds grew forth too. It is the time of year to dust off the fossil fuel powered tools and dig into the tool shed. It is time for the Lawn Ranger to ride again!!

I can almost hear the Lone Ranger Theme playing as I throw wide the doors to the big wooden shed where I keep the Lawn Beast. Sadly, I don't ride the beast, I walk behind it, but that doesn't keep me from wearing a green mask and calling my cat Tonto. Humming the William Tell Overture as I pour in the gas and pull the rope, the Turf War has begun! (Ok, so I really don't have a green mask, but the visual is a killer, isn't it?)

I really love working on the lawn, though many times I can barely work in the heat and humidity of the South. Days like this, a beautiful 72 degrees, I actually enjoy the outside. Looking up at the cloudless blue sky as I walk easily along behind the lawn mower somehow makes me feel that maybe I am a Suthunah. That lawn mower runs almost by itself as I follow it across the lawn, back and forth...

Then, it's done. Front and back. Short work and no heat stroke. What now? The heat of the summer is still a few days off, so let's have at it. Ok, how about cleaning out the gutters? They catch those nifty helicopter seeds and if I don't clean them out regularly things begin to grow. Then..what else? I couldn't believe it. All in all I got the lawn mowed, the back driveway swept of leaves and junk from the winter, covered the garden in garden fabric, cleaned out the gutters, cut more branches from the big tree in the front yard so they don't keep hitting me in the head when I mow and even dug up two (yes, that's right - TWO) bushes out front of the house. They were old and small but I am big and strong. Quite a weekend all in all.

Neighbor Bubba may look askance at me when I mention my cats or my dream of an electric pickup, but NO ONE can fault my first Battle of the Summer Turf War 2011.

And with a "Hearty Hi Yo Silver, the Masked man of the turf heads into the setting sun! The Lawn Ranger Rides Again"

"Who was that masked man, Pah Pah?"
"We may never know, Billie. We may never know."

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Public Transportation and the Suthunah

It comes as no surprise to any one who has read this blog that I ride the bus to work every day. Like Dagwood Bumstead I walk to the bus stop (about a mile and a quarter for me) and hope to get there before it pulls away (mainly because I'm not about to be chasing down some bus in the middle of oh-dark-thirty!) Those buses that Dagwood took every day are not in the South. Here, if the driver sees me hot-footin' it trying to catch the bus, they wait. Amazing - and quite Suthun.

In movies and TV and yes, even the news, riding public transportation in places such as New York City you basically take your life in your hands each and every day. Muggings, Vandals, creepers and surly dead-beat-ne'er-do-wells of all kinds seem to consider this their private entertainment area. In the South, this is totally different.

Now, don't get me wrong, there have been some truly 'nawthen' moments on our bus in the years I've been riding. Usually just homeless types who haven't had a shower, or the occasional surly construction worker who's just looking to take a bad day out on someone. These are the exceptions and are far and few between.

Here are some examples of the kinds of things I've experienced.

Early in my bus riding experience, I had a couple of long days. Couple that with the gentle sway of the bus and soon I was dozing. No one stole anything of mine. No one attacked me, and in fact, one of the other regular riders woke me in time for my stop. I thought this was a fluke, but yet, another time again I fell asleep and this time the bus driver herself knew my stop and pulled over and gently woke me. It's an amazing dynamic I've found no where else.

Most importantly is this camaraderie that the regular riders share. We tell stories of our weekends, share book titles, pass photos around, discuss local news and yeah, joke around a lot. I had to take a day off once and the next day one of the other riders told me that she missed her stop because she was so used to getting off when I did. Since I wasn't there, she forgot to get off the bus at her stop downtown!

I've ridden buses in Los Angeles (The City of Angles) on a regular basis and rode buses in my native Colorado and I've compared these with my experiences here in the south.

There. Is. NO. Comparison.

Here in the south, riding the bus is not public transportation, it's riding to work in a big carpool. Even the driver will joke around with you and is part of the group. When they are transferred to another route, we bring donuts and have a good-bye party. It's one of those things like a free gift with purchase. It's not expected, and not really noticed if it's not there at all, but really appreciated when it is.

I'll be on the bus again tomorrow. Hope to see you there!