Originally Published: November 18, 2012 9:50 p.m.
Is your head spinning with the latest government scandal? This one has all the ingredients of a great reality show: sex, lies, cover-ups, cheating, subterfuge, intrigue, jealousy, top-brass acting badly, the FBI, the CIA, generals and socialites... oh my, what a mess! Stranger than fiction, almost surreal in scope, and simply impossible to fathom. Maybe that is why so many of us are having a hard time wrapping our minds around such drama. Don't field generals have better things to do than send 20,000 pages of emails to a socialite? Especially in the midst of a war? Oh, so many unanswered questions. But, Dear Readers, we have bigger problems: Hostess Twinkies May Be Gone Forever!
It seems that Hostess Brands is getting ready to file for bankruptcy protection (and may have done so by the time of this writing), which could mark the end of an era. No more Ding Dongs, Ho Hos or the 150 calorie, lady-finger shaped, cream filled marvel - the Twinkie. Invented in 1930 by James Dewar (Papa Twinkie) in Chicago, the little cakey treat was originally filled with banana cream. During World War II, vanilla cream was substituted due to a rationing of bananas. They became so popular that Hostess never looked back and vanilla cream filling was here to stay.
The 17 Hostess bakeries around the country that cranked out 500 million Twinkies a year! And if you live in Chicago, you eat more of them per capita than anyone on the planet. Former President Bill Clinton included a Twinkie as "an object of enduring American symbolism" when compiling the National Millennium Time Capsule. An 89-year-old retired milk truck driver named Lewis Browning is the "Twinkie King of the World." He reportedly has eaten a Twinkie every day of life for the past 64 years! This tallies up to over 22,000 Twinkies - and he is still counting.
Growing up in a budget-wise family, my mother used to buy one box of Twinkies a week. She used to tell me and my older brother, "when they are gone, they are gone." Obviously, we could never quite share them equally, so we ended up hiding food. Once I realized my brother was stashing Twinkies in obscure places, it was "game on." (Mother - if you are reading this column, please stop right now). Little did my mother know that we hid many a snack in various places around the house and yard, like little hoarders sneaking off with our delicious treats. One day, 20 years after I graduated from high school, I was visiting in what was my brother's old bedroom. There, behind a lose shelf in the closet, was a little lost Twinkie. All at once, my childhood came roaring back, its golden spongy goodness beckoning, like an old friend. For the sake of science, I did the only sensible thing. I broke open the clear wrapper and bit into heaven.
Everything I learned about negotiation came from my grade-school days when, once a week, on Wednesdays, my mother would pack a Twinkie in my lunch. I would sit at the cafeteria table, Twinkie placed conspicuously in front of my lunch pail. Then the trading would begin. Kids would come up, one by one. You want my Twinkie for your apple? Forget about it! Okay, I'll take your chocolate milk, four homemade peanut butter cookies and, if you add in a nickel, we'll call it a deal. Oh yeah, those Twinkies were pretty powerful.
Now we, as a nation, have moved on to healthier snacks. There are 39 ingredients in a Twinkie, like flour, sugar, salt, soda, water and a "trace of egg." Who knows what the other 33 ingredients are, and I guess at this point we will never know. And maybe like all good things, its time for the Twinkies to retire.
Of course, when Hostess closes its doors, locks up the vats of cake and kegs of cream, they probably won't be sharing their recipes. Hmm, I have a feeling the Twinkie can never be replicated.
Isn't life strange? Here we are at the end of an era, and yet some things are still relevant - especially now. When a few generals act like Ding Dongs and a couple of women act like Ho Hos, we must remind ourselves that these "names" were embedded in our American culture, long before this scandal broke. So for all the nostalgia that goes along with endings, buy yourself a Twinkie and enjoy something so unnaturally good that for one last moment, we'll know the taste of innocence.
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor who lives in Skull Valley. Have a comment or a story? Email Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.