20 January 2012

Eat Us: Hostess Twinkies/Fruit Pies/Cupcakes/Lardy Squares

Eat Us takes great care to showcase the finest food and drink the Midwest has to offer. And occasionally some of the worst.

Last week, the Hostess Company filed for Chapter 11 for the second time in less than a decade. As an adult, what stands out is that an insane 97 percent of claims are for employee pensions. Almost a billion to the Bakery & Confectionery Union, which is apparently a thing that exists. Organized labor killed the fucking Twinkie.

But that's really beside the point. Here at the Midwesternist, we're more concerned about losing easy access to industrial-grade fried pies, eminently fry-able Twinkies, and the rest of the interchangeable, occasionally holiday-themed snack cakes. These are Serious Issues we deal with.

The Twinkie, in the least surprising historical factoid ever, was invented right here in the Midwest. Schiller Park, Illinois, to be precise. It was a banana-filled shortcake that only switched over to its current form when bananas were rationed during WWII. If I recall correctly, there was also a nasty strawberry version that existed during my childhood. And what a Hostess-filled childhood that was.

Quest Item!

You see, in the small town of McHenry, Illinois, there is a Hostess Bakery outlet. It's basically one big day-old bread store. Everything's months from the coded date, but not quite far away enough for grocery stores and other large retailers to buy. So you get a box of HoHos for ROCK BOTTOM PRICES! Kids have nowhere to go and no money, so the bike ride to the Hostess store constituted 43 percent of available entertainment options for the younger demographic in my tiny far-flung Chicago suburb.

It's how I spent a large part of my time during childhood, and how I completed the 1993 Hostess Baseball Card set, one of my proudest achievements. You got two cards per dozen box of baseball-decorated Hostess Cupcakes. Ryne Sandberg and John Kruk were particularly elusive. Motherfucking Pat Listach was not. I would open a box, check out the cards, and start eating my way to the next couple cards to complete my set. When cupcakes got tiresome, I'd put the box in the freezer and open up a whole new world of frozen cupcake flavors. My parents supported my quest because parents weren't over-worried morons back then, and kids weren't gluten-averse pussies. I still have the complete set of cards to this day.

Why, you ask? You're starting to sound like my wife.

Not to get all Andy Rooney, but we're facing a serious loss here if Hostess and its component lardy treats disappear forever. The Twinkie is a link to our collective Midwestern past. A simpler time, some pure Norman Rockwell-porn stuff. And, really, what's more wholesome than a familiar snack from childhood? Nothing in it but warm memories, a touch of innocence, and also enriched wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, niacin, water, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable and/or animal shortening – containing one or more of: partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed and canola oil, and beef fat, dextrose, whole eggs, modified corn starch, cellulose gum, whey, leavenings (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate), salt, cornstarch, corn flour, corn syrup, solids, mono and diglycerides, soy lecithin, polysorbate 60, dextrin, calcium caseinate, sodium stearoyl lactylate, wheat gluten, calcium sulphate, natural and artificial flavours, caramel colour, yellow #5, red #40.

I'd pour one out for the company, but I don't think you're allowed to dump some of those chemicals.


O'Connor said...

My favorite, Sno Balls came two to a pack. Meant for sharing? I think not. Save our snacks!!

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