Pass the nabs and redneck Gatorade

Published 10:30 pm Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Any Southern man or boy worth his salt grew up eating snacks from two major suppliers: Tom’s and Lance.
At one time, the two snack suppliers were competitors. These days, Tom’s is a subsidiary of Lance.
Tom’s traces its roots to Columbus, Ga. Lance traces its roots to Charlotte.
Both made plenty of money by selling snacks like peanuts, potato chips and “nabs.” For the uninitiated, “nabs” is Southern for National Biscuit Co. Nabs are cracker creations — usually with a cheese or peanut butter filling — that range from Toastchee to Nipchee to various other sandwich crackers. Nabs, for the most part, are the province of Lance, which makes 16 variations of sandwich crackers. Tom’s is better known for its salted, roasted peanuts.
Nabs or Tom’s peanuts go well with a soda. In the South, before the University of Florida developed Gatorade, we had “redneck Gatorade,” which was a package of Tom’s peanuts poured into a bottle — that’s bottle, not can — of a Dr Pepper, Mountain Dew, Coke, Pepsi, RC Cola, Cheerwine or grape Nehi. The redneck Gatorade helped replenish the salt one would sweat out of his or her body while working in tobacco fields, hauling hay or trying to hook and land the granddaddy of all catfish.
While Southern accents vary throughout the South, walk into any country store and say: “Give me a pack of nabs.” Everyone in the store, unless they’re not from the South, will know what you mean. All you have to do is specify which one of the 16 variations you want.
As for the MoonPie, which must be consumed with an RC Cola whenever possible, that snack cookie/cake combination, traces its roots to Chattanooga, Tenn., and the Chattanooga Bakery, a part of The Mountain City Milling Co. A MoonPie and an RC Cola is about as Southern as grits and collards.
How did the MoonPie get its name?
When Earl Mitchell Sr., a salesman for the bakery, visited coal miners in the early 1900s, they told him they wanted something solid and filling to eat. When Mitchell asked about the size of such a snack, one miner held out his hands and framed the moon and said, “About that big,” according to the MoonPie website.
When Mitchell returned to the bakery, he noticed some workers had placed graham cookies that had been dipped into marshmallow on a windowsill to harden. The idea of adding another cookie and a coating of chocolate worked out well, so samples of this “MoonPie” concoction were distributed. What response did the MoonPie get? MoonPies quickly became a regular item for the bakery. Since then, the MoonPie has been known as the working man’s lunch. Back in the day, for a nickel each, a miner and anyone else could get a MoonPie and 10-ounce RC Cola, although RC Cola did not debut until 1934.
Since they got together, an RC Cola and MoonPie have been an unforgettable pair, like Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan and spaghetti and meatballs.
I could go on and on about Southern snacks, but it’s time to visit the vending machine, insert some coins and push the button for some nabs — Nipchee, if you please.
Mike Voss covers the city of Washington for the Washington Daily News. He’s had his share of redneck Gatorade during the heat waves this summer.

About Mike Voss

Mike Voss is the contributing editor at the Washington Daily News. He has a daughter and four grandchildren. Except for nearly six years he worked at the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va., in the early to mid-1990s, he has been at the Daily News since April 1986.
Journalism awards:
• Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service, 1990.
• Society of Professional Journalists: Sigma Delta Chi Award, Bronze Medallion.
• Associated Press Managing Editors’ Public Service Award.
• Investigative Reporters & Editors’ Award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Public Service Award, 1989.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Investigative Reporting, 1990.
All those were for the articles he and Betty Gray wrote about the city’s contaminated water system in 1989-1990.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Investigative Reporting, 1991.
• North Carolina Press Association, Third Place, General News Reporting, 2005.
• North Carolina Press Association, Second Place, Lighter Columns, 2006.
Recently learned he will receive another award.
• North Carolina Press Association, First Place, Lighter Columns, 2010.
4. Lectured at or served on seminar panels at journalism schools at UNC-Chapel Hill, University of Maryland, Columbia University, Mary Washington University and Francis Marion University.

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