I suppose it is a sign of the times that Hostess Brands, makers of such dainty, dessert delicacies as the Hoho, the DingDong , the Sno-Ball and, of course, the Twinkie, has filed for bankruptcy protection. It’s the company’s second foray into bankruptcy in three years. They just emerged from Chapter Eleven in 2009. (Does that mean they’re in Chapter Twenty-two now?) There is a growing consciousness amongst consumers regarding calories, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and artificial colors and sweeteners. Many people are now focusing on eating fewer processed foods, supporting farmer’s markets and generally eating healthier. Let’s be honest folks, nutritional excellence has not been Hostess’ strong suit, the website Calorie Count gives Twinkies an F (click to see more).
I can’t help being a little bit sad for Hostess and for us. Those products do represent something pure and fun from my childhood, despite the now mythical shelf life of these little cakes, pies and donuts. They sold their confectionary souls for that shelf life, systematically replacing every fresh, recognizable ingredient for something processed and artificial. These goodies were the ultimate treat, the thing that absolutely, totally would ruin your dinner and we tore into them, we couldn’t help ourselves.
Then, there were the mascots. Boy, oh boy, what a dorky, loveable bunch! There was Twinkie the Kid, obviously an attempt at a super cool would-be bronk bustin’ stud of a sponge cake facsimile. Then there was Happy HoHo who looked sort of like a black, cake version of Errol Flynn sans the mustache. Next was Captain Cupcake, who frankly owes the Skipper from Gilligan’s Island a LOT of royalties (Interestingly, he does sport a ‘stache.) Who could forget Fruit Pie the Magician? Of course, the “fruit” quotient is debatable, but the name remains the same.
And how can one have a fictional world of walking, talking desserts without a leader? Meet King Ding Dong, again, I promise I did not make this up. (Who was on the naming committee anyway?)
Next, allow me to introduce you to Chauncey the Choco-dile. Sorry for the image quality but there are fewer pics of him available. By the way, a Choco-dile is actually a chocolate covered Twinkie. I did not know that.
Does anyone else suddenly feel like it’s Saturday morning and we should be watching the Justice League battle the nefarious Legion of Doom?
There was one character that I was unable find an image of, even in these days of the wonderful internet, and that is Soul Bro, a black version of Twinkie the Kid. I’m unclear as to whether he was chocolate covered (thus effectively making him a Choco-dile) or dark cake or simply a cartoon character colored brown. I’m not sure how effective Hostess’ foray into racial diversification of their mascots was. Notice, though, no girls. Not positive I can muster any indignation over that oversight either.
It has been years since I have indulged in a Hostess dessert goodie. I used to love their chocolate cupcakes with the cream like substance in the middle. My all-time favorite guilty pleasure in college were the glazed turnovers filled with a chocolate-ish, pudding-ish, yummy material. (I now know better than to think that there is any actual cream or real pudding in the center of Hostess products, but it sure tasted good at the time.) My flirtation with Hostess was brief. You see, as a child my mom usually refused to buy these longed-for products, no matter how my sister and I begged. Basically, the only time we had them was when we went to someone else’s house. Although, I seem to recall my dad sneaking a few here and there. Then in college I did the shopping and would sometimes indulge. Once I graduated and became a “grown-up” with an adult’s slower metabolism, well, I soon realized that Twinkies were just not going to work, not if I wanted to fit in my jeans.
Hostess also makes Wonder Bread, another item my mother would not purchase. We always had wheat bread, sometimes sour dough. My kids beg for white bread but I’ve never bought it. (See Mom, I paid attention.) To me it’s pretty tasteless stuff but I guess for kids it’s like crack.
I find it odd that we seem to be living in an age of polarities. Take, for instance, the gulf between The Republican and The Democratic Political Parties, the growing disparity between the Have’s and the Have-not’s and the shrinking size of the typical fashion model versus the widening waistlines of many Americans. I guess another polarity would be me getting a tad sentimental over a dessert I rarely had. I guess I just always thought they’d be there, one of those cultural consistencies like Oreos, marshmallow fluff and bologna, none of which I eat. After all, they are a part of our shared cultural experience. Who remembers The Twinkie Diet? And where would the legal world be without The Twinkie Defense? How about that fine culinary creation, The Deep Fried Twinkie? (Not as good as Deep Fried Butter, but then what could be?) Ugh, I think I just threw up a little bit.
Actually, it strikes me one would have thought that Hostess would have been all right, I mean what with those ever-expanding waistlines, but the company says competition from Entemann’s and Little Debbie is hurting them. The eighty-two year old company also has more than 19,000 workers of whom about 95% are unionized. Hostess says the pension plan is contributing to their inability to restructure their debts. (Sorry guys, no sympathy from me here, you make promises, you plan accordingly and you keep them.) We’re left to wonder will the Twinkie go the way of the rotary phone, the Walkman and the video store?
Personally, I’m rooting for Hostess Brands. They’re an American company and 19,000+ is an awful lot of families depending on Hostess. Besides, some day, when I am an old lady and I wear purple, speak my mind and dance how I want whether any one is watching or not maybe I’ll want one of those pies I used to love.
Then again, I do all that now, so maybe I’ll want one sooner.
Hostess wishes to reassure America that as they attempt to climb out of this hole they’ve dug for themselves your supply of Twinkies will be uninterrupted. Heck, you might even want to stock up… after all… we know they’ll keep.