As summer slips into early fall, I set here on the old style southern porch with its big wicker chairs and I ease into yesterday.
The heat index is about 100 degrees in the shade. With a new glass of A&W crème soda, my mind drafts back in time to another place and era.
As I close my eyes with a small breeze against my face, memories of my youth take control. Gently I move back to the year 1961. I was 14. This was the year Dad started a farm operation in the Smoky Mountains.
A few miles out of McMinnville, Tennessee, we had 129 acres of what passed for farm land. After working hard during the day, often my brother and I would walk the one mile distance to the local general store.
Almost every day on our walk, we would see no one. It was a remote place. Try to image a single lane rural dirt back road with nothing but trees and open pasture for as far as the eye could see. That was our play pen.
The general store was a place carved out of the early 1900s. Run by big men with bigger beards and hands, the store was built with roughly cut logs.
The counter or central point of commerce was a single slap of thick wood, some 3 ft. by 18 ft. This was the point where the money changed into goods. For a nickel, I could secure a very cold Kist Clear Crème Soda. For another five cents I could wrap my hands around a chocolate Moon Pie. Getting the Moon Pie was easy. You just grabbed from the counter.
However, the drink was a bit more work involved.
First, the drink machine was a large metal container for holding ice cold running water. The drinks were lined up in rows along a metal rod. In order to secure the bottle, one had to put your hand into the ice cold water and grab hold of the bottle. You then pushed the bottle down a long exit, out of the rod’s control. Always, the process was wet and messy. But on a really hot day, it was well worth the trouble.
The experience of setting on the steps of the porch was beyond simple day pleasures. Two massive wooden steps was our favorite place for “that first taste of soda.”
In my innocence, this was the first time I realized the meaning of a different kind of pleasure. Later in life, I would call this time, “sensuous.” The art form of good southern dinning on wooden porches was the first three gulps of drink.
With ice crystals of crème soda exploding upon my lips, I experienced the magic of allowing my entire body to share the act of taste.
As the taste from the first three gulps faded, I just set there to allow the moment to last longer than it should. Only then, was the first bite of moon pie allowed. The powerful taste from the crème soda would sooth over with the deep and rich feeling one gets from chocolate. The Moon Pie was my first love affair with chocolate. It would be years before I discovered Hersey’s dark chocolate candy bars.
As I grew into manhood, my taste for a summer delight changed. I moved from Moon Pies over to enjoying the pleasures of Hostess Cupcakes and Ding Dongs.
Long gone are those early days of walking the dirt roads of rural Tennessee, in search for that perfect afternoon break, with Crème sodas and Moon Pies.
Life is now measured in seconds and not long hot afternoons. More the petty, somehow, the rich experiences of stopping to enjoy the simple pleasures of life should not be cast out of our lives so easily, as it is, in the grind of modern life.
As I get older, a familiar yearning is felt more and more. Maybe time is a friend and not an enemy.
Go back to your roots. Search out that rare moment when you first tasted pleasure on a front porch. Every now and then, allow time to slow down, to yesterday’s desires.
That is the new art of southern cupcake dining.
Enjoy, simple pleasure in three bites of crème and chocolate!