There was a time when average was good enough, I’ll admit. Like everyone else, I held my hands out asking for more of what, in retrospect, really wasn’t all that special. But that changed a few years ago.
It started when the Mardi Gras maskers began throwing the peanut butter MoonPies. Since time immemorial we’d all been steeped in the traditions of rolling around on the ground trying to pry a chocolate or banana MoonPie out of some 7-year-old’s hands. Or leaping into the air using what little athleticism Father Time and 50 years of Pizza Hut hadn’t taken away to nab the less-than-average vanilla MoonPie or the downright disgusting caramel MP.
But that first year of the PB MoonPie changed everything. There was a MoonPie finally worth tearing an ACL for! I just remember how quickly the old standards became passé — hardly worth bending over for unless you needed something to give to one of your kids so he wouldn’t try to eat your precious PB. Some people, like my brother Brian, tried to bridge the gap between old and new by smashing the PB with a Nanner and creating a strange Elvis tribute MoonPie mashup, but I wasn’t looking back.
The next year was Mardi Gras nirvana, as not only were the PB in plentiful supply, but the mint chocolate MoonPie arrived on the scene, and it was even better. It was like someone was tossing Girl Scouts Thin Mint cookies to the unwashed masses. How could it get any better? It couldn’t and didn’t.
Before we knew it, the krewes pulled back on the reins and PB and mint became rarities. Last Mardi Gras I caught nary a one and so far, in two parades attended this year, any type of MoonPie has been tough to come by. That’s not saying they’re not being thrown, I just haven’t seen them.
Mostly what I’ve caught so far has been oatmeal pies, which despite their overall stickiness and marshmallowy ways, still seem a little like catching a Healthy Choice dinner. (Actually, looking at some of the Mardi Gras ball pics posted online it might not be a bad idea for our revelers to toss out Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine.) Just kidding! I don’t want that healthy stuff either. I want the MoonPie to move back into its rightful place at the head of Mobile’s Mardi Gras smorgasbord.
Last week there was a story about how the “Sweet Home Alabama” Tourism Commission bought billboard space in New Orleans to “troll” them about how Mobile actually had the first Mardi Gras. What they forgot is the people in New Orleans are too busy looking at naked boobs to pay attention to billboards, so the message was probably lost. Note to the tourism department: Buy some boob space next year and you’ll get more bang for your buck.
Frankly I thought the billboards were a little desperate. We need to get the Mardi Gras chip off our shoulder, Mobile! I lived in New Orleans in my early 20s, long ago, back before the advent of cell phones and indoor plumbing. Yes, there’s no way we’ll ever catch the Big Easy when it comes to raunchiness and flamboyance, but our Mardi Gras has something theirs doesn’t: thrown food.
That’s always been our edge in the Mardi Gras competition. Not family friendliness. If you want family friendly in New Orleans you can just go to the Metairie parades.
But we’ve perfected throwing food. New Orleans may have naked women, but we have Ramen noodles. They have world famous B-list celebrities as kings and queens of their parades (I once saw Corbin Bernsen as king of Endymion. No kidding!), but we have bags of slimy boiled peanuts. And MoonPies, of course.
Frankly, when I’ve been back to New Orleans after years of enjoying Mobile’s version of the big party, I miss the food. Plastic beads are fine, but you can’t eat plastic beads, unless you’re really wasted on Hand Grenades from Tropical Isle. Even so, beads will never soak up alcohol like a MoonPie or maybe even a loaf of Wonder bread. I’ve caught that before, too.
For those who disparage Mardi Gras as an elitist relic of antebellum history, the idea of the krewes literally throwing bread or whatever they cleaned out of their refrigerators to the ravenous masses may be too much to take, but for the rest of us it just brings a different level of excitement. When you see a box or bag fly high into the air and your spider senses start tingling telling you that box or bag probably contains food, the heart pounds harder and blood rushes to the appropriate food-catching muscles.
Sure, there are times the box turns out to be empty and you look like a jackass, or maybe it contains something you really don’t like — stale honey buns for example. But no matter what, when some unidentifiable food box is caught, everyone wants to see what it is. And if it’s a full box of noodles or oatmeal pies, you can form your own little fiefdom and play lord of the manor by handing out food to the strangers who clearly covet your prize and envy your skills. Give them some — but not too much! Save enough for the kids’ lunches that week.
We’ve all been ruined for parades in other towns. They’re lame events where people just line the streets to watch other people walk or drive past. Totally senseless. If someone isn’t throwing worthless trinkets or totally worthwhile food products, a parade is a snoozer.
So I just want to remind those in charge of the parade food supply that when you opened Pandora’s Box to better tasting MoonPies, you changed the game. You can’t go back now and try to put Pandora back in her box, or whatever it was Pandora let out of the box. I’m on too much of a roll to try to access the burned-out Greek mythology section of my once-wondrous brain. But you get my meaning.
We should be getting fancier with our food throwing. Bring back the good MoonPies. Start tossing freezer-packed filet mignon. Imagine how happy the crowd would be catching a 14-inch pizza. Pepperoni and sausage, please. Thin crust.
You want to give New Orleans something to envy? Keep those good eats flying. Sooner or later they’re bound to realize our fancy MoonPies are waaaay better than their half-naked college girls and has-been celebrities.