All of Hostess' fruit pies were special, but the true royalty, the best of the best, were the strange flavors that the company would occasionally bring in. Jose, the guy who ran the snack bar at my elementary school, pretty quickly figured out my tastes, and would often put aside a blueberry or pineapple or strawberry pie for me. I don't even remember where I got the money -- it probably involved begging my parents -- but when there was a weird fruit pie on the line, my dignity dropped away quickly. And, except for a particularly nasty pumpkin pie, I was never disappointed.
Growing up I was a big fan of the chocolate Cupcakes, but all they had at the store today were the orange-flavored kind. They're not very good. Hopefully I'll be able to get my hands on the chocolate ones before they disappear for good, but if not, it won't be the end of the world. In the pantheon of discontinued food products, I think Hostess Cupcakes will ultimately rank somewhere below Big Mixx cereal and Surge.
When Bruce offered to pick up our favorite Hostess treats for an official farewell party, I didn't hesitate to put in my order: Ring-Dings. Those oversized hockey pucks of chocolate cake in a chocolate crust, stuffed with cream were -- along with Devil Dogs and Yodels -- staples of my New York childhood. But then he broke it to me: Those weren't Hostess products at all. They were Drake's Cakes! Granted, Hostess later bought Drake's, but my disappointment over the loss of an iconic brand suddenly took a back seat to a bigger fear: If I've blurred the lines separating my Hostess from my Drake's, what else about my childhood memories can't be trusted?
Today's news that Hostess was going under came with the sting of a bitter filling: the realization that I haven't eaten a Twinkie in years. As such, guilty logic held that my own neglect had helped bring about the collapse of this iconic brand. We all felt that way, we few, we happy few, we band of Twinkie-philes.
Riding on a fit of nostalgia -- and collegial coercion -- I opened the flimsy plastic of the retriever-blonde confection. The wrapper sounded with the crinkle of memory, and the soggy sponge cake glommed onto each digit as I raised the dessert to my mouth -- the residue of ruin, of lost childhood, of American entrepreneurial failings. The Twinkie is iconic, wrapped in mythology -- the epic shelf life, the war-time sustainability. But the product, and the larger Hostess brand, is now a reminder that brand names must constantly be airbrushed, promoted, made relevant, lest they wither away into saccharine obsolescence.
For a lot of kids where I grew up, Hostess was pretty much a staple of the daily routine. The after school commute home invariably involved stopping by a bodega to pick up a Hostess Fruit Pie (my preference was apple) and a Quarter Water (if you don't know what that is, take comfort in knowing you had a healthier childhood than me). In fact, the only time in my life I have ever stolen ANYTHING was a Hostess Fruit Pie, one fall day in 5th grade when I didn't have a dime to my name but I desperately needed my high fructose, diabetes inducing fix. So despite having not had any Hostess product in years, now being armed with the knowledge that those snacks were slowly eating away at my insides, and the fact that my borderline addiction led to me committing my sole illegal act, I nonetheless still find myself lamenting today's news.
It's funny how that works.