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
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,
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
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
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.
There was a time when I
was the King of the Bundt Cakes.My
venerable Bundt pan was the very first cake pan I purchased when I was
outfitting my post-college apartment.I
remember baking a luscious, slightly tipsy sherry cake for a Christmas
Tea.That impossibly tall and beautifully
sculpted creation made for one festive holiday cake.
The Bundt pan is a
post-modern work of art and engineering.
The concentric design of wide and slender scallops creates a buxom
mountain range of sheer confectionary delight.
Let’s be blunt about the Bundt – it requires very little talent to
achieve success. Be it a scratch cake,
a boozy delight, the renowned “Tunnel of Fudge” or an otherwise pedestrian cake
mix, the Bundt pan delivers perfect results every time.
Some traditionalists scoff
at the non-stick surface, but I reveled in the results. Imagine the sheer delight hearing that inverted
cake effortlessly “thump” onto the cooling rack.
In thirty years, my Bundt
pan got a lot of mileage – family dinners, church events, holiday celebrations,
birthdays, and potluck suppers.It was
the perfect contribution cake - easily portable, and serving hundreds, or so it
seemed.For anyone with even a slightly
unsteady hand, those lovely ridges delineated both a slim line and super-sized
Then one day, the magic
died. There was no effortless “thump”
onto the cooling rack. The cake split
in two, and I had to scrape the remains from the pan. It happened again, severely challenging my “Bundt
cake for Dummies” theory. Here’s the
distressing truth – a non-stick surface does not last forever.
It took me some time to
come to grips with the fact that my beloved Bundt was just past its prime. Finally, I came to the grim realization that
the Bundt pan would have to be retired.
I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, headed for Target, and shelled out
15 bucks for a spanking new non-stick Bundt pan.
And, for an added level of insurance, I
picked up a can of Pam for Baking on the way home.
Now, we’re in the midst of
a Bundt Cake renaissance.A blueberry
buttermilk Bundt Cake was dense and delicious.
A Pumpkin Spice Cake
towered at the Restoration Farm Pot Luck Dinner.
A Blood Orange Yogurt
Pound Cake released from the pan in so stealth a manner that I didn’t even hear
I’m already debating the
Christmas Cake.What will it be?An Eggnog Bundt Cake?A Pumpkin Pecan Cake?Or a Noel Fruit Cake?Whatever the recipe, I know the curvaceous
lines will never fail to impress my guests.
Thanks to my new purchase,
I’ve regained my title as the King of the Bundt Cakes again. But, I can’t seem to part with my original
pan. I’ve considered donating it to the
Smithsonian, but I’m not sure their curator is on the edge of his seat awaiting
But, I think my original
Bundt has earned a place of honor on my family room wall. There were an awful lot of sweet
celebrations that rose from that old Bundt of mine.
The morning dawns through
silver mist at Restoration Farm.Before
the sun has burned through and stretched into the sky, human hands are already harvesting
cabbage and kale, and counting sweet potatoes and butternut squash to divided
among members.It is the final spurt of
growth.Shortly, the 2012 growing season
will draw to a close.
The annual growing season
passes all too quickly.While the
fields burst with life, the season feels timeless.And then, it is done.At the end, we fondly remember the meals,
the beauty and flavor of freshly picked vegetables, the friendships, the
conversations, the successes, the mishaps and the life that happened along the
As is my custom on this
day, I set out into the fields for a final look.Steam rises off manure that sits in wait to
nourish the soil.
Some of those hills of
“fertilizer” are already sprouting new life.
Up above Williams Field, I
encounter Jay Mussman and George Garbarini doing clean up chores.George has discovered dozens of overlooked
flat beans still growing on the vines.Even
though the calendar says the growing season has concluded, there is still
plenty of life to be harvested in the fields.
Jay calls down to Dan
Holmes to bring baskets for harvesting the beans.We snack on handfuls right in the field.The fresh, crisp taste is incredibly
sweet.Somehow that brief moment –
sharing fresh beans in the dew-soaked field – stays in my memory more vividly
than most of the events of the past week.
At the distribution tent,
Leslie Steinman places an overstuffed bucket of emerald green kale on the
Even as the farm anticipates
a brief time of slumber, the bounty is staggering.There are rows of butternut squash and Long
Island cheese pumpkins.
And, for the first time,
gorgeous full heads of broccoli.
My friend Maria weighs out
five pounds of sweet potatoes.
Hearty root vegetables
And as always, there is
crisp, lively lettuce to delight the palate.
The distribution tent is
always a hub of activity and conversation.
Saturday distribution manager
Susan Salem is braiding garlic with Ada.
Glenn Aldridge is gearing
up to head into the fields.He’s trying
out a new pair of rubber boots to keep the feet dry.
I linger to drink it all
in.Farming, food and friendships.That is the stuff of life at Restoration
It even seems that the
dahlias are drenched in color to celebrate another successful season.
Just for the moment, the
cycle of life at Restoration Farm is complete.
We look forward to the harvest celebrations to come, and then – after a
brief rest – the time to sow seeds again, creating new life.