When I was a kid, we didn't have Hostess Brands in our house. My mother was into nutrition before it became trendy. This meant instead of Hostess Cakes, Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies, Ho Hos and Yodels, we'd be stuck eating apples, oranges and bananas.
Yes, I was a deprived child. I'd watch in agony as my friends in the school cafeteria chewed on golden cream-filled sponge cakes and cream-filled chocolate delicacies while I munched on an apple. I'd suggest a trade and they'd look at me like I was insane.
But that didn't mean I never imbibed on these treats. I loved going to friends' homes whose mothers I considered 'normal'—that is, a little lax on the whole nutrition thing.
And the best homes? Those with lots of siblings. Their pantries were like museums devoted to American junk food. I'd stare wide eyed at the array of boxes of sugary, goldeny, chocolatey, creamy treats, all members of Hostess Brands.
Somewhere in the distance I could hear my mother's voice: "The sugar! The preservatives! Every ingredient is artificial! You'll rot your teeth! You'll get a stomach ache! You could embalm someone with that stuff!" But my growling stomach and salivary glands didn't care about high fructose corn syrup, red dye number 40, dextrose and sodium acid pyrophosphate.
Of all of them, Twinkies were the most delicious. The Ring Dings, Yodels and Ho Hos were good, but not earth shattering. The chocolate didn't really taste like chocolate. It tasted a bit synthetic. It tasted like some amalgam of chemicals that really didn't belong in your digestive system. There was a bit of an aftertaste.
But that big bite of Twinkies where your mouth would fill with golden sponge cake and a burst of cream? Delicious. Mom had no idea what she was missing!
Funny enough, at one time Twinkies' main ingredient would have made mom happy.
James A. Dewar, a baker with Continental Baking Company, a Hostess predecessor, wanted to find a way to use the bakery's shortbread pans all year. Shortbread was filled with strawberries, which were only available a few weeks a year. So Dewar concocted a snack cake filled with banana cream, which he called the Twinkie.
But during World War II bananas were rationed and the company switched to vanilla cream, which became extremely popular. Over the years, real vanilla cream was replaced with the longer shelf-life unpronounceable chemicals that comprise this iconic junk food snack.
Now that I'm a mom, I don't have any Hostess Brands in my house. The sugar! The preservatives! Every ingredient is artificial! You'll rot your teeth! You'll get a stomach ache! You could embalm someone with that stuff! But once in a while (because I don't want my kids gorging on them in a friend's pantry), I would buy Twinkies and put it in my kids' lunchbox as a surprise.
And now that they're disappearing? News outlets report there has been a mad dash by consumers to buy Hostess products, even though they are going out of business because no one was buying them.
I won't be making any mad dash to the supermarket. A few years ago, my husband and I excitedly shared one of our daughters' Twinkies. We took a bite and we looked at each other. His face registered the disappointment I felt. It just wasn't the same. Maybe my tastebuds had matured. Maybe I had loved the idea of this forbidden nonfruit, more than the actual taste.
Or maybe you just can't go home again. Or in this case, into your friend's pantry.