Sunday, December 28, 2008

Eclipse of the Moon (Pie)

Move over, Moon Pie. There's a new kid on the block, he's from Korea, and his name is Choco-Pie.

I first saw the Choco-Pie about two years ago at one of our local Super H Marts, an Asian superstore featuring everything from bok choy to cosmetics. While browsing in a back aisle one afternoon, I came across this interesting looking package of something resembling Moon Pies. I bought a box, took them home, and was surprised to find that they were delicious. I say "surprised" because I have not seen a serious Moon Pie contender in over thirty years.

Other than their country of origin, there are a few differences between Choco-Pies and Moon Pies. Choco-Pies come individually wrapped in foil, not cellophane, packages to keep them fresh. Their texture is somewhat softer than a Moon Pie, and there is not to my knowledge the double-decker option provided by Moon Pies. I have not seen Choco-Pies in any flavor other than chocolate (of course), unlike Moon Pies, which offer banana and vanilla flavors in addition to the original chocolate variety. Nevertheless, the Choco-Pie coating is rich and dark, and an entire box of twelve pies sells for just under four dollars. I have yet to find them anywhere else in Atlanta but at Super H Mart.

Being somewhat curious about all this, I did some web research and found that Orion Confectionery, the company which makes Choco-Pies, actually supplies them to Korean soldiers once they have completed their first week of basic training. The market for the pies is growing steadily -- in fact, over twelve billion of them have been sold worldwide, and let's face it, twelve billion of anything is a lot.

I think this is another one of those cases where globalization is here to stay. But in this instance, I believe that there will always be a place for Moon Pies...after all, they are a Southern tradition. Life without Moon Pies (even if you don't eat them) would be something like the South without just wouldn't be proper in the least.

So, if you're a Moon Pie nut like me, go ahead and try a Choco-Pie. Just don't tell Aunt Bessie about it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Eight Feet Under

We just returned from a Thanksgiving trip to my wife's parents' home in Boston. For some reason (probably under the influence of large amounts of red wine) we decided to drive the 2,200 miles up and back. It was a very long haul, replete with the usual highway adventures, but that is material for another blog posting. What I really want to write about this time is "the cellar", my in-laws' basement. I love that place.

Here in Atlanta, the most common form of basement is the "daylight" variety, which is in effect a terrace level with a door to the outside. Basements are quite common here, and many are beautifully finished as media or recreation rooms. Our own basement is, at least for me, the best place in our entire suburb to watch a movie. But "up Nawth", many basements are called "cellars" and are actually dug out rooms below the main house with limited openings to the outside. They can be spooky places, indeed. In the exquisite documentary TV series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", one particularly memorable episode involved Buffy being changed into some kind of rodent and taking cover in a real cellar, where she promptly shape-shifted back into a human female, the consequences of which are another story altogether.

What I truly like about my in-laws' cellar is that is it REAL. There are shelves of packaged foods, newspapers ready for recycling, a clam pot, a washer and dryer, old books, scores of National Geographics, and a hobby room, in which my father-in-law builds incredibly detailed scale models of airplanes. At some point in every trip, my mother-in-law will ask me to fetch something from or carry something "down cellar", and I always enjoy this. To me, the cellar is like a microcosm of life at ground level, effectively a time capsule for stuff that you need at some point but which doesn't get top billing.

Don't get me wrong -- I truly enjoy my finished basement with all its accoutrements, and I can think of no place I'd rather watch a film. But when I'm in the mood to get down with it and go underground, give me that Massachusetts cellar.

Under and out.