What did they do to my Twinkie?

magnifying glass guyIs nothing sacred anymore?

No Virginia, there is nothing sacred anymore.

Walking the aisles of my neighborhood supermarket, I came ’round a corner and there they were. A giant display of them. The only Made-in-Hollywood ingredients missing from this sudden, yet touching reunion scene were the heavenly warbling of an angelic choir and a hovering, golden halo-like hue.twinkiesHostess Twinkies. Hundreds of them. If only I could have run to them in slow motion. If only I could run, period.

But instead, I jammed my shopping cart into hyper-drive, swerved round some elder reaching for toilet paper and cut off some kid waving a box of Cocoa Puffs above his head and running after his mother. I grabbed a box of Twinkies and one of another resurrected dessert delight, Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes. Then on to the dairy cooler, snatched a gallon of milk and headed straight away to the checkout.

The Hostess Powdered Donettes would be another day. Alas, I was already locked and overloaded.

In less time than it takes to stuff a wad of sugary white something into a yellow, sort of cake-like tube, cash changed hands, snacks were bagged – paper, not plastic – and I was out the door.

Of course I didn’t wait, not even long enough to start the truck. Ripped the box open, reached in and pulled out … an extra from the kitchen cupboard in the movie, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”
twinkies-cartoon-hellerI was appalled. But not speechless.

“What have they done to my Twinkie!,” I yelled to no one. “Why, it’s no bigger than my pinky! In fact, it’s downright dinky! And why am I talking like this, Dr. Seuss is dead and this is beginning to feel creepy!”

What. The. Hell.

Later, at home, a little research provided me with a lot of answers. Like this, from a nydailynews.com article:

“Purists might notice a slight difference in this latest version of the beloved snack cake — it’s about 15 calories less than the traditional version, and weighs less too.

A single spongy treat now has 135 calories and weighs 38.5 grams, according to a Hostess spokesperson.

The traditional Twinkie weighed 42.5 grams and had 150 calories.”

Now, wait a minute. Granted, I can’t tell the difference between a diet book and kindling, but something tells me there’s not one diet plan that includes the Twinkie. No meal plan that recommends you pound down a couple of Twinkies with a glass of skim milk, then turn sideways and look in a mirror and proudly say, “Now that’s slim and trim.”

Nutrition, thy name is not Twinkie.

I’m not mad, just … disappointed. And I’m not giving up on my just-returned palatable pal. The shelf life of this smaller snack has been upped to 46 days, far greater than the old, bigger one’s 26. So I’m putting my box up on my shelf, way in the back, where it can’t be seen or touched. I won’t take it down for another 45, 46 days.

By then they should be full-grown.twinkies-cartoon-beeler

Alas, poor Twinkie …

… I knew you well.

And while I’m at it, I knew you Hostess Wonder Bread, and Cupcakes, and Ho Hos, and Sno Balls, and Fruit Pies, and Devil Dogs and Funny Bones pretty well too.

The world may never be the same. That is, if the death knell sounded by Hostess Brands’ decision to go out of business once its remaining inventories of snacks are sold, really comes true. Yes, so sad. Well, not really. I mean, please. We’re talking about bread and cupcakes and cream filling-stuffed cake logs … hmmm. Let me rephrase that. We’re talking about processed-bleached white flour bread and calorie-laden cupcakes and cream-esque filling-stuffed cake logs here.

But real or not, nutritional or not – now that their end is nigh, what are many of us doing about it? Going crazy. Buying up every single Hostess whatever they can find. As if having a few more of them was going to stop the inevitable.

Or – get this – like having a few boxes might actually make you rich. Ha. That’s a good one. Downright hilarious anyone actually would think that.

Ok, maybe not so funny. Doesn’t ebay have a maximum pricing level? Sheesh.

But to be honest – we should be ashamed of ourselves on this. Frankly, we should have known this day was coming. Again, to mangle and misquote Billy Shakespeare:

“I come to bury Twinkies, not to praise them. The evil that consumers do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their Funny Bones.”

Yes, I said consumers. That’s you. That’s me. That’s why Hostess soon will become a Ghostess. Not extinct because big, bad greedy company executives tried to make their unions swallow cuts to wages and benefits. And you can’t put the blame on the striking workers who refused to eat the reduced contract terms.

That’s not why the company doesn’t have any profits and now more than 18,000 workers don’t have jobs. We only have ourselves to blame for that, as well as the deaths of Twinkie the Kid, Captain Cupcake, Chauncey, and Fruit Pie the Magician.

The blood of these fine, standing-up edible snack characters is on our hands.

We killed them. We stopped buying them as much as we used to, way back when. You could say they’re dying of neglect. Yes, our neglect.

Because we decided to eat more healthy. Thought it better that we now eat less sugar. So we made up our minds to eat fewer snacks – especially the ones that, chemically speaking, have a longer shelf life than nuclear waste has half-lives.

Answer me this: Can you bake a cake you can leave sitting on a table for six months, come back and find it exactly as it was on the day you took it out of the oven? Cake, schmake. If I sit at a table for six minutes I begin to show signs of decay.

Glo Balls will glow longer than uranium or plutonium. Way longer. And you can’t eat them either.

So, consider this: I have a package of Sno Balls in my file cabinet I’ve kept there for more than two years and it still feels as spongy-fresh as it was on the day I bought it. I’m not making this up. It’s not moldy or rotten or rock-hard or whatever you’d think would happen to a Sno Ball when it gets that old.

Why, that’s not only remarkable, it’s … it’s damn near frightening. So much I haven’t thrown it away. I couldn’t. No way – I was afraid it’d get mad and come back for me.

But now, I’m not going to trash it. Ever. To me it has become more than a mere Sno Ball. I’m keeping it to serve as a constant reminder of one of my failings in life. And to atone for that and to honor, in some way, the late Twinkie and his friends.

Like an eternal flame. Yeah, that’s it – an eternal snack.

Eat it and weep

“Don’t play with your food.”

“What else am I supposed to do with it?”

“You could try eating it.”

“What, and ruin my mashed potato Mona Lisa?

When I was a kid, I never had much of a chance when it came to conning my mother and talking my way out of eating all of the food on my plate. Of course it might have helped if the mashed potatos I’d smeared all over it actually looked like Mona Lisa.

Back then, if I played with my food for too long I’d get sent to my room. With the plate. These days, if some fast-food restaurants play with their food, they just may end up going to the bank. With the cash.

Take Pizza Hut Middle East, for an example. Yes, there’s a Middle Eastern division of the American-created chain of Italian fast food restaurants. Almost has a “world food” feel to it, doesn’t it?

Well, while you might think the people working at the Pizza Hut out there at the Oasis are just waiting around for the next caravan to pull in for take-out, they’re not. They’re playing with their food. And finding people actually will buy it and eat it.

All right, you read the English in the top lines from left to right, and then the Arabic lines underneath them from right to left. Bi-lingual Pizza Hut Middle East customers must get vertigo … just reading the menu.

Kit Kat cookie-candy encased in pizza dough. Interesting? Very interesting. Appetizing? Lemme think. No. And wouldn’t a Kit Kat melt out there in the dessert, I mean, desert? Gastronomically ghastly, you ask me.

But wait, not so fast-food there. The menu-making folks over at Pizza Hut U.K. evidently aren’t to be outdone by their Middle Eastern colleagues, though. Yes, there’s also a British branch of the American-based Italian fast-food restaurant chain. Now you know why King George was so adamant about crushing that nasty American Revolution way back when. The king wasn’t afraid of what we’d do over here, but what we might end up doing over there.

With good reason. The poor monarch may have woken up in the middle of the night suffering from nightmares of food like this being eaten in the realm.

I’ve heard pizza called a lot of things … but “succulent”? Blimey.

Yup, that’s a hot dog peeking out of that crust end there. Why else would you need a mustard “drizzle” for a pizza?

That may sound weird, but what would really seem odd is that this menu item is available only in the U.K. There are no plans to bring it to America.

Well, it doesn’t seem so crazy. We Americans would want nothing to do with such a crass combination on our dinner plates. Leave the weiners out of the pizza dough, mate. Well, unless there’s also cold beer in that crust. We have our standards, after all.

I mean, really. If you’re going to play with American pizzas, you’d better do something that makes sense. Or at least saves time.

Like the pies coming out of a Boston pizzeria called Salvatore’s. Someone there, wondering how to “jazz up” the pizzas, got the idea of combining them with toppings soaked and infused with booze – like raspberry-flavored vodka, Kahlua or rum.

Probably cuts down on the use and cleaning of glasses in the bar. See … aren’t we Americans clever? An idea not only for the thirsty, but the thrifty.

In the high-heat ovens, the pizzas quickly come out baked to perfection, though aren’t in there long enough to cook down the alcohol levels. But while Salvatore’s says some of their pizzas pack a punch and you need to be 21 and show an I.D. to buy one, you’d probably have to eat at least two to get a buzz from them.

Lemme think.

Can do.