Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Demise of the Twinkie

It was not the kind of news I needed to hear at the end of a long, hard week.  I’d only been seated at my desk for a few moments, when I get the word – Hostess Brands is shutting down.  They will immediately cease production of a legion of iconic snack cakes.   While somewhere there is probably a registered dietitian rejoicing at the news, my reaction is dramatically different.  I feel an immediate and alarming sense of panic.  I leave my hot coffee on my desk, and rush to the lobby.   I’ve got to find Twinkies!!!


Quickly I make my way to three different Manhattan stores and I come up empty handed.   All I can find are bags of granola, Power Bars and gluten-free snacks.   Honesty, sometimes Manhattan is way too health conscious for its own good.

I'll be honest.  I may like to cook from scratch, but I am hardly a food snob.  I grew up in the 1960s when Swanson TV Dinners, Cool Whip, Shake ‘n Bake Chicken and Tang were considered haute cuisine.   And, then there was the Twinkie, that spongy yellow torpedo of cake filled with whiter-than-white marshmallow cream.   I would pack one in my lunchbox every day in junior high school.   The svelte blonde bombshell in eighth grade that I had a huge crush on would purse her lips, wink at me and call me “Twinkie the Kid.”   Twinkies made me a chick magnet.  

Much of the news coverage of the past 48 hours has rather cruelly categorized the Twinkie as “junk food,” but I have a different view.   The Twinkie sits squarely at the apex of edible art, culinary innovation and youthful sugar cravings.   Some culinary philosophers even see the Twinkie as a groundbreaking precursor of the molecular gastronomy trend.   I mean, foam is foam.   Why spend a lot of money if you can just pick up a pack of Twinkies in the deli. 

The Twinkie inspired some of my early culinary efforts.   I once served a dessert called “Undescended Twinkies,” a caloric suburban masterpiece created by Jane and Michael Stern for their book “Square Meals.”  A postmodern take on the trifle, eight Twinkies are floated on a lake of orange Jell-O blended with 7-Up, pineapple juice and vanilla ice cream.  The Sterns wrote, “If the gelatin is properly chilled, it will resist the Twinkies.  You will push them in; they will slowly rise.  It is a tense moment, like the scene in Psycho when Tony Perkins tries to sink Janet Leigh’s car.  But remember, you don’t want them buried.  Just semidescended in the lush, peach-colored ooze.”  

Don’t judge me.  Some of my dinner guests were horrified but I thought it was the coolest dessert ever.  If you dare to raise an eyebrow at “Undescended Twinkies,” you ought to check out “The Twinkies Cookbook”  published by Hostess in 2006 (Yes, I own a copy).   It includes recipes for “Twinkie Burritos,” “Chicken-Raspberry Twinkie Salad,” “Twinkie Lasagna,” and a “Ribbon and Bows Twinkie Wedding Cake.”   Enough said. 

But I digress.   Back at my desk, facing a bleak and Twinkie free future, I yearn to commiserate with kindred spirits.  On Facebook, my friend Allison says she’ll locate a stash of Twinkies for me in Pittsburgh.  I consider purchasing a plane ticket. Mad Me-Shell sends me a recipe for do-it-yourself Twinkies, and notes that her favorite poutine shop in Chicago will be paying homage by serving deep-fried Twinkies at their Sunday Brunch.   Zany is oddly absent from this conversation, but finally surfaces on Saturday morning with this comment:  “Sorry for the late reply.  I’ve been on a Twinkie shopping spree across Chicago.”   She also asks Mad what time she should arrive for brunch.   

Desperate times call for desperate measures.  I take to the Internet, and locate a box of ten Twinkies on amazon.com.    I am distracted for a moment before purchasing, and I note that the in-stock supplies are dropping like a stone.   So I hit the orange “Buy Now with 1-Click” button.   Better to be safe than sorry.  It’s a good thing, too, because when I get back to Long Island that night, I visit three more stores and the shelves are bare.   I’m too late.  The Twinkie addicts have been hoarding all day.   A last check of the Internet shows that Twinkies are now being auctioned at a premium price on ebay.   I’ll be pleasantly surprised if my box of Twinkies actually makes it into my hands.  There’s a lot that can happen between the warehouse and my front steps in this post apocalyptic Twinkie-less world.  

Which might mean I ate my last Twinkie this past April at a “Mad Men” style dinner hosted by my college roommate Ford MacKenzie.   I brought dessert – a platter of Twinkies served with Chocolate Pudding and Dream Whip.  The Twinkies were light and luscious – a little pillowy taste of heaven with a perky artificial aftertaste.  

Okay, so it’s not like I dined on Twinkies regularly at this stage in my life.  But, the thought of Twinkies going the way of the dinosaur, the Edsel and Gourmet Magazine is a bit unnerving.    It was comforting to know that the frothy, light Twinkie seemed to endure in an often dark and uncertain world.  R.I.P. Twinkie the Kid.  

©2012 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

16 comments:

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

It's incredible about Twinkies and Wonder Bread. And what's more incredible to me is it that wasn't the food police that brought on their demise.

I know you aren't the only one that will miss these food icons.
Sam

Matthew Kalamidas said...

I've chuckled at a few of your posts in the past but "Twinkie the Kid" had me roaring! What is interesting is that the Twinkie began its life as a seasonal pastry filled with fresh fruit! A baker at the company was looking for another use for the pans used to make Strawberry Shortcakes when strawberries were not in season. Around WW2, bananas were in short supply which brought about the vanilla cream filling we all will miss.

Ford Mackenzie said...

Chick magnet?

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Ford - I was 12. I needed all the help I could get.

Allison Peiritsch said...

I would have loved to see you tear around Manhatten in search of a Twinkie stash. I'm keeping an eye out, but so far, Twinkies are going fast.

Kat said...

I loved this! I am wondering WHY they are going out of business with so many folks I know having panic attacks over no more Twinkies! It is like the end of an era.
I thought about going to my local Merita discount bakery store (think day-old bread) to see if they had any on the selves, but my grands are keeping me way to busy to hunt down all the Twinkies left in Cullman County! Great blog post.

Kalyn Denny said...

My condolences, but I must admit that although I ate my share of junk food as a youngster (Fritos! Cheetos!) Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes never really did it for me.

I bet someone will buy the recipe and bring them back!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Pretty soon the twinkie defense will be a distant memory. Like the Twinkie itself.

Mad Me-Shell said...

The real question is, how are you going to divvy up that last box?! Will you eat one a day? One per month? One a year?! These, my friend, are the tough life decisions which you now face!

Perhaps use them for a special Thanksgiving recipe? Twinkie stuffing anyone?!

Ford Mackenzie said...

the remarkable thing is that you could indeed divvy up a box of twinkies on a once a year basis--i believe the shelf life in the plastic wrapper is somewhere between 7 and 10 years

~~louise~~ said...

Maybe it's a blessing in disguise that I'm late for the Twinkie party. I heard this morning that Hostess may be saved!

You are a brave soul to admit to being called "Twinkie the Kid" T.W. I would never let others know I was Betty Boop in those days, lol...Whoops!

In case I don't make it back, have a gloriously stuffed Thanksgiving.

P.S. Do let us know when "they" arrive. I know they will, I know they will...

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Thanks for the news alert, Louise! I've been off the grid all day so I've just located the story on a possible save for Hostess. Perhaps there is a God and he or she loves Twinkies, too!!!!!

Debby Foodiewife said...

OMG, this is one of the funniest posts you've ever written! I confess. I loved twinkies, as a kid. I grew up in the same generation, and I loved Shake 'n Bake and Swansons Frozen Mexican Dinner...just so I could have that Cocoada pudding. Yeah. I almost raced to our local Hostess Thrift Bakery, but decided I wasn't brave enough to fight the crowds. I have a sneaking suspicion that the twinkie will be back. Someone will negotiate the rights to the recipe! Enjoy your twinkies. I won't judge.

Karen (Back Road Journal) said...

I think your beloved Twinkie will be saved...if not by Hostess then a company buying the rights to make them. I hope you have a nice Thanksgiving and perhaps your Twinkie box will be delivered in time to be part of your feast.

Velva said...

I would place my bet that another company will buy Hostess twinkles.....And the twinkies will return.

Happy Thanksgiving to you! I know it is a beautiful time of year.

Velva

Alex Templeton said...

The Twinkie is not dead! The Golden Sponge Cake with Delicious Creamed Filling will be reanimated, with the Hostess bankruptcy team working up a stalking-horse bid with two holding companies for $400+ million(!).

At any rate my weblog http://bcbakes.blogspot.com/ carries Essays on the Natural Philosophy of Postmodern Twinkies, including my increasingly successful reformulations of a NOT-winkie that is actually food, not 70% additives as in the originals.