The “Scoopers” are a quirky American phenomenon; a group of dedicated individuals who scour the country in search of the nation’s finest chocolate and marshmallow delights, bringing them back with them to their nests to be feasted upon by their adoring fans.
And so it was that in the early months of 2018, a group of intrepid souls set out on a journey to find the best Peanuts characters available to be melted down and molded into the shape of a heart or a star or whatever other weirdness an over-excited four-year-old child might dream up. The result of their travels is a gallery of adorable and unusual chocolate sculptures, a testament to the endless ingenuity of the American melting pot.
If you’re an aspiring scooper or just want to know more about this fascinating hobby, read on.
What Is Scooping?
Scooping is the art of creating various confections from molten chocolate or marshmallow. It can be a lot of work, but the rewards are priceless. For example, one of the most celebrated scoops is the Joe Palma “Pistol-Packing Momma” Peanuts character, a tribute to the late Joe Palma, creator of the comic strip that would become famous worldwide. Not surprisingly, given the extraordinary nature of the food they deal with, many scoops work in the culinary field and are definitely food-obsessed.
But beyond that, it’s about a love of all things sweet and a penchant for creative culinary arts. So, as we’ve established, it’s not everyone’s ideal job. However, it’s a fantastic way to travel the country and have fun with your friends and family. So, if you’re looking for a new and engaging hobby, consider scooping.
Why Are They Called Scoopers?
The name “scooper” comes from the tool that is commonly used to harvest chocolate – a device known as a “scoop.” However, the tool wasn’t always called a scoop. Back in the day, chocolate makers would bring their ingredients to “graveyard” shifts, where they were meticulously hand-sorted and ground to order. One of these shift workers is said to have invented the scoop, which was first used to harvest chocolate in the 17th century, thus earning him the nickname of “The Scooper.” As the technology advanced and automated sorting became available, “scooping” took on a different meaning: the act of collecting and disposing of garbage, or taking something apart and putting it back together in a different way. As time went on, “scooper” became synonymous with “scrapper,” and even today the terms are used interchangeably.
In any case, it’s what we in the culinary world affectionately call people who spend an obscene amount of time doing something that doesn’t require much thought or skill. It’s kind of like how we in the art world call people who are obsessed with money or power “authocrats.” It’s what Thomas Jefferson meant when he wrote “all politicians seek popularity, even if they don’t always want to admit it,” and it’s something we all aspire to, whether we like it or not.
The creation of Joe Palma was inspired by a love for peanut butter and milk, and an appreciation for classical music, according to the artist’s wife, Amy. He began drawing Peanuts in 1976 as a way of dealing with his depression following the death of his young son. In 1980, his wife became the new baby’s primary caretaker, and it was at this time that Joe began experiencing the ups and downs of parenthood and the challenges that come with it. This dark time in his life is documented in depth in Richard Scarry’s biography, Imaginary Friends (2001).
As a parent, you learn that your children aren’t simply miniature versions of adults; they have their own distinct personalities and needs. One day, after his son, Charlie, had trouble settling down and would not stop wiggling around, Joe decided that something was needed to distract him. Enter: his wife’s freshly made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which the boy proceeded to demolish, one after the other. After that, the idea for the Pistol-Packing Momma character was born.
Pistol-packing Momma was introduced into the strip on October 4, 1980, and her name, according to Richard Scarry’s biography, was chosen because “many mothers use a.45 caliber handgun for home protection.” She was a very short-lived addition to the Peanuts universe, only appearing for a brief period before being retired due to low sales.
The strip’s fan base, however, did not forget about Momma; they lobbied for her return, and in 1986, she was brought back as a guest star. It’s only been rarely since then that Palma has had a Peanuts character stand out from the crowd, but when he did, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Over the next two decades, Momma would become the most popular character among readers, regularly appearing in the top three of Gallup’s annual survey of character popularity. She currently resides in the comic’s version of heaven, the Park Bench, alongside other deceased characters. She is lovingly referred to as the “Matriarch of the Park Bench,” and spends her time there happily dispensing advice and chewing the fat with her fellow deceased pals. As Richard Scarry notes in his book, “Momma’s appearances are frequent enough that fans have gotten to know and love her, even though they may not always agree with her advice.”
How Do They Keep Track Of All The Characters?
It might seem daunting to keep track of, what is now, literally, decades’ worth of characters. So, let’s break it down. First, there is a cast of thousands, so they must have some form of character database somewhere that houses all the information on everyone. This, of course, would be a massive undertaking, and considering the fact that some of the characters have been around for decades, it would be difficult to keep track of every single detail. Fortunately, the professionals at thecharactersdatabase.com were kind enough to put together a comprehensive list of all the characters, along with their defining characteristics. To save you the time and effort of trawling through this mammoth list, here are the essentials:
- First name
- Last name
- Character type (e.g., Charlie Brown, Lucy Van Pelt)
- Eye colour
- Hair colour
- Birth date
- Physical description
- Facial hair
- Likeness to individual (e.g., Charlie Brown)
As you can see, there is a lot of information to keep track of. Not only that, but with some of the characters having appeared in several films and television shows, their appearances change from one medium to the next. So, to ensure that you get the most up-to-date information, it would be advisable to consult the IMDb character page for each and every one of them.
What Is The Appeal Of The Characters?
Inevitably, over the years, as new generations of fans have discovered the comic strip, certain characters have become more popular than others. It’s not just that people love to eat peanuts or jellybeans – it’s that there is clearly something quirky, endearing, and even entertaining about some of the characters, something that makes them stand out from the crowd.
Here is a list of the top five most popular Peanuts characters, according to Gallup’s annual survey: