By now you’ve probably heard the news that Hostess Brands, Inc. is history.
After one of the company’s largest unions – the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) – initiated a nationwide strike that crippled its ability to produce and deliver products at numerous facilities, Hostess has filed for bankruptcy and will close 33 bakeries, 565 distribution centers, approximately 5,500 delivery routes and 570 bakery outlet stores throughout the United States.
Perhaps there are bigger fish to fry these days, but this is no minnow. Hostess stuff is one of those things you just take for granted living in the USA, and now that it’s going away, I feel like a couple of molars have been yanked from the mouth of the sweet-tooth world.
Not that I regularly consume a pile of Twinkies. Since I reached an age when my waist line began to expand and my viewpoint changed regarding the relative value of junk foods, I haven’t been too keen on wolfing down million-calorie, chemical laden, oddly-shaped sugar modules.
But even though I may not have been Hostess’ biggest fan over the past few decades, the news of their demise still comes as a bit of a shock. Like a lot of remnants of the Post World War II baby boom, I grew up in the company’s heyday, when Ding Dongs were cool and Sno Balls were considered a gooey delicacy. Hostess was like this integral part of society, and along with a lot of other folks, I never gave a second thought back then to the wisdom of eating its famous products, and the sight or sound of one of its advertising mascots or jingles would often get me in the mood for a snack pastry.
Through the years, Hostess was so much a part of every day existence that almost everyone formed an opinion about its various offerings, and I can clearly recall being in discussions (almost arguments) about which one was best. Personally, I was always kind of a Ding Dong guy, but I had my phases with CupCakes, Sno Balls, and even those little crumb cake Donettes.
Interestingly, I don’t remember a single instance when someone argued on behalf of the fruit pies. But then, given the choice, what kid (or adult, for that matter) would choose a cherry pie over a Ding Dong? In my estimation, a crusty pastry that basically contains jam doesn’t hold a candle to a soft cake-like object resembling a hockey puck coated with chocolate and stuffed with that tantalizing whipped cream.
Of course, my dog Jamie pretty much resembles an overgrown Twinkie, even though he has never actually eaten one. When the big ol’ Corgi heard that Hostess was no longer going to be part of the snack food landscape, his carnivorous side took over.
“There’ll still be pork chops, right?”
“Yes big man, and hot dogs and rib eye steaks, too.”
“Mmm, that’s the good stuff.”
As far as the real-life value of most Hostess products goes, I realize there pretty much isn’t any. If measured on a scale of 1-to10, the nutritional value of a Sno Ball or Ho Ho would probably be about minus-4.
But that doesn’t make the stuff any less tasty, and I don’t mind admitting to enjoying an occasional two-pack.
When I was in junior high and high school in Bellevue, Wash., I got to witness total dedication to a Hostess product, as one of my good friends was the Suzy Q king, and every day ate at least a couple of those sandwich-like cavity bombs. Although I never reached that level, I won’t pretend I couldn’t relate.
Being the nutritionally worthless, but taste bud pleasing sugar receptacles they are, my guess is that over the years Hostess snack foods indirectly caused some hypocrisy. I mean, I’ll bet there has been many a dentist who has warned patients to stay away from Twinkies and Ding Dongs, while regularly scarfing down a half dozen under the cover of darkness in a hall closet or attic. And I figure more than just a couple of school teachers have spoken out against Sno Balls and Ho Hos in the public setting of a fourth-grade classroom before going home and breaking out their precious box of luscious, crème-filled treasures (if that makes you feel a conviction or guilt, don’t fret; it’s OK – we understand).
From what I’ve heard, some Hostess products will apparently still be available in some fashion, because the bankruptcy deal involves selling their rights to other companies. But while Hostess’ bread brands like Wonder, Nature’s Pride and Butternut might be just fine being produced by someone else, I’m guessing that won’t be the case with the sugary stuff.
Even following the same recipe, I doubt anybody will ever make a cupcake the way Hostess did. And who wants a Little Debbie Ding Dong or a Mrs. Freshley’s Twinkie, anyway?
Anyway, I guess it’s time to move on and begin life without Hostess. But while I know there will still be plenty of ways to get a junk food fix, I can’t shake the feeling that the shelves in the snack cake section of Walmart just won’t seem as attractive.
It’s funny how I haven’t paid much attention to Hostess products of late (much less eat them with any frequency), and now I’m craving a Ding Dong.
Shoot, with the way things are now I’ll probably have to settle for a Zebra Cake.
Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.