Friday, April 18, 2014
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WHITING: A Twinkie eulogy

Hostess Brands are going out of business? What? Latest news is that after a crippling weeklong labor strike, the prolific baked good mogul is shutting down. This means it might be the end for everyone’s favorite nonperishable, cream-filled cupcakes, unless some capitalist Leviathan with a lick of courage comes to the buyout rescue. This also means unemployment for about 18,500 people as well as liquidation of other Hostess Products, such as Dolly Madison raspberry zingers (yum … ?) and — did you know it was owned by Hostess? ­— Wonder Bread.

Contemplate that, seriously: no more Wonder Bread.

Anyway, unemployment and white bread aside, let’s stick to the real issue here: the death of Hostess means the death of the Twinkie. Yes, the Twinkie. The 82-year-old post–World War II lunchbox staple known also, apparently, as the “cream puff of the proletariat” will be gone from market shelves forevermore. When Hostess’s bankruptcy was made public on Friday, people flocked stores and left shelves barren in desperate attempts at a last bite of nonperishable goodness. Boxes of the baked goods are being sold on Craigslist and eBay (approximately $30 for a box of 10 — what would you do for a Twinkie? And why didn’t I hop on this lucrative bandwagon? America is embarrassing).

I texted my dad to let him know because he’s always been a fan of the delicacy.

“I know,” he said. “Your children will never know they existed.”

Huh. Weird. I can’t decide if that’s sad or not, but it did make me ponder what it would mean if American society really did say goodbye to the ever-abundant “Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling.”

On the one hand, I’m happy that my hypothetical kids will be born into a world where Twinkies and their relatives have been obliterated from the modern American diet. (My dad may be a fan, but my mother’s religiously devoted to nutrition, so if I have any love for the pastry it’s accompanied by many feelings of sin and guilt.) Twinkies, though bountiful, are not food. Wheat flour is the most natural thing on the ingredient list, and a single cake contains five different forms of corn: high-fructose corn syrup, corn starch, modified corn starch, corn flour and more corn syrup. Ew? When my friend updated his status to, “There will be no Twinkies, they are going out of business :((” I felt like commenting “R.I.P. American obesity.” Maybe the death of this atrocity of “edibility” will further Michelle Obama’s endeavor to end the epidemic of American largeness. Or maybe we’ll just eat more McDonald’s.

Side note: there are actually only 150 calories in a Twinkie, which is no worse than eating a couple of Oreos. (Imagine what we would do if Oreos went out of business … ) But that doesn’t change the fact that they’re basically plastic.

Still, nutrition aside, I know an American dessert staple when I see one. Twinkies are so iconic that they’re not spell-checked on Microsoft Word. Thus, their discontinuation is kind of lamentable — I never even got to try a deep-fried Twinkie at the Minnesota State Fair. Sad face. Twinkies are to America what croissants are to the French and fish and chips are to the British. (Exaggeration, maybe — our staple is the burger.)

It looks like stores everywhere have sold out. But if I get my hands on a box, I’ll buy it. It’ll be an artifact. I’ll sell it to the MoMA 40 years from now, building on that “life as art” philosophy à la the Dadaists and Andy Warhol, the Pop Art master of commercial Campbell Soup resale. Actually, if I had the money, I’d buy all the Twinkies off eBay and stick them on a canvas. It’d be so symbolic, so kitsch. I thought this would especially work because Twinkies are purportedly unable to mold — “nuclear proof,” my dad calls it — but I checked on Wikipedia and apparently this is an urban myth. (I’ll say so. These claims of nonperishable indestructibility — the Disney classic Wall-E takes place 700 years after the earth was rendered uninhabitable for organic life forms, but in the beginning scene a lone, fresh Twinkie thrives unabated — are null and void in the face of the American food business infrastructure, and it appears the end is nigh.)

Still, a canvas full of Twinkies could be worth millions. But to avoid mold, my next suggestion is to encrust some Twinkies in gold. I’d like a gold-encrusted Twinkie, wouldn’t you? I’d use it as a paperweight.

I can tell you have high hopes in my future as a curator.

But for real. A gold Twinkie would be an awesome stocking-stuffer.

It’s not like we’re stranger to losing food brands — candy bars my parents used to eat no longer exist, etc. If Hostess disappears, we still have Little Debbie (equally delicious…). But just in case, take a moment to ponder the loss of a historic food icon, the epitome of American chemical preservative deliciousness. (I have to admit that HoHos, at least, are really good).

As The Washington Post puts it, “Twinkies have survived the Depression, three major wars, the crumbling of the Berlin Wall, bankruptcy filings by the parent company and all the jokes about their post-apocalyptic staying power.”

Alas, jokes on jokes — looks like this staying power was never guaranteed after all. Courts will review Hostess’s bankruptcy claims today. Support groups for Twinkie connoisseurs are pending.

 

Anne Whiting is senior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a weekly columnist for The Daily Free Press. She can be reached at aew@bu.edu.

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