A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Twinking out? Also Ring-Dings being hoarded!

As a child the one junk food allowed in my lunch bag (and it was a bag--brown bag) was Salerno Butter Cookies (and they weren't junk, they were cookies!).I recall a tussle with my own children over lunch bag fare and I think Twinkies was one of our battlegrounds. Now Twinkies has fallen on hard times with the junk food police. This may be the end--bankruptcy! Or maybe not (this is what hedge funds buy).The decision to shut down "spells the end of Hostess, an 82-year-old company that has endured wars, countless diet fads and even an earlier Chapter 11 filing. But the liquidation may not mean the end of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread. Such sweet treats could find new life under a different owner, once the company begins an auction of its brands and assets." NYTimesJust in case this is the end, here is a receipe for homemade Twinkies (in 10 easy steps).MORE, if you can believe it. There are some people who think more important issues should be taken up here (say carnage in the Middle East), but the paper of record has FOUR stories today on the death of an American icon. The best is Dan Barry's mouth watering account of what it's like to eat a "Ring Ding." Two business page stories and an op-ed piece by a Vietnamese-American about Twinkies and assimilation round out the coverage. What could be more important?Just One More: How did this happen? A Bain-style killing of Twinkies

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

I just had this mental image of a Ding Dong trying on expensive clothing in a fancy boutique, while an older snack cake looks on, credit card in hand.

As a child the one junk food allowed in my lunch bag (and it was a bagbrown bag) was Salareno Butter Cookies (and they werent junk, they were cookies!).In high school, I took a brown bag, too. (Walked home for lunch in grade school.) In the bag was a baloney sandwich on white bread. Sometimes an orange. Always two cookies. I forget the name, but they were like Mallomars, only white. With nuts in the white coating.

Twinkies are fine, but the monarch of Hostess sweets are those fruit pies. Those things are AWESOME!!My children have an affinity for Ho Ho's, but the things available when I was a tot - cupcakes, Twinkies, Suzie Q's, Snowballs, fruit pies - they've never cottoned to.I have to say, I don't think cupcakes and Susie Q's are as good as they were when I was a kid. They seem less flavorful and staler. Whether my palate has developed, or those products have diminished in quality, I'm not sure.

My daughter was toying with doing the Great Twinkie Experiment for her grade school science experiment.'d best act quickly.I like Tastykakes anyway (butterscotch krimpets).

I have just deleted two comments about abortion law in Ireland. I will also delete any comments about abortion law in the United States. Unless your firmly ideological position is on the Twinkie's frage, take your comments somewhere else.

Is there nothing sacred left? What is this, a pinko muslim socialist commie plot instigated by the furriner that was illegally elected president of these Yewnited States of Kristyun Amurrika?

Darn: I forgot to add the homo-sex-you all part.

On a less nostalgic notes, I'm given to understand that labor discord is one of the reasons the company is citing in its shutdown decision.

Jim: yes, the bosses blame the workers. (Odd how the executives never point to such things as years of mismanagement as being a reason for business failure. They always seem to think it's the fault of the people doing the work).

Maybe I'm too old, but didn't hostess also make Devil Dogs, or have they been gone a long time. I really remember Devil Dogs and Hostess cupcakes. As a child I loved them. It was my misspent youth.

Maybe you have to be from Philadelphia but Tastykake Butterscotch Krimpets are my favorite. Loved them then and still do now (although I think that they were a bit larger then).

It has been a long time since I had a Hostess Cupcake. I have a feeling they are still edible, but I would much rather have the Times version (Chocolate Cupcakes With Cream Filling). For a cupcake, all other things being equal, probably the shorter the shelf life, the better the cupcake.When I was a kid, I thought that Hawaiian Punch was perhaps the most delicious treat one could imagine. Now it is undrinkable. I don't know whether the formula has changed or I have. I suspect it's a little bit of the former and a lot of the latter.The Times also has a recipe for Oreo cookies. Why, I don't know, since they are made by Nabisco, not Hostess. Oreaos are good enough so that I don't know why anyone would bother to try to duplicate them at home.

Helen: And they taste different somehow now that they're no longer packaged in wax paper. (Still great though) I like Coconut Juniors, TastyPies and TastyClairs as well. (I would buy a TastyClair every day on my way to school.

But Hostess makes Wonder Bread. Now that's a huge loss.

In New Orleans the favorite treat is Hubig's pies. The bakery was badly damaged by a recent storm, and the city almost had a heart attack from grief thinking there might be no more. The bakery resurrected, thank the Lord. The pies are still TERRIBLE. Soggy, undercooked pastry filled with gluey lemon curd, covered with too much sugar glaze. I still buy one occasionally. Ah, remembrance of things past. Sigh.

I loved the perfect uniformity of the Hostess cupcake, but they never tasted as good as they looked. And anyway my mother had a lot of rules about things that would rot your teeth or your brain: No Three Stooges, Billy Graham Crusade, Beverly Hillbillies, Hostess cupcakes, Snowballs, candy bars (for some reason Bit O'Honey was OK), comic books (Sunday funnies were a tolerated evil), etc. We had boloney sandwiches, apples or carrots, and two graham crackers or two windmill cookies in our lunch (also a literal brown bag) and THAT WAS ALL. We got ten cents doled out by the day instead of week so we wouldn't blow it on icecream, which was sold from a special cart twice a week in the cafeteria.Maybe that was good because I never developed a sweet tooth.Abortion! Ireland! (Just testing ...)

Tens cents for milk that is. I wish this blog had an edit function. I'm not as stupid as my posts sound.

Once I bought a Tastykake Junior, a square yellow layer cake with chocolate icing. Half-way through eating it, I realized that what I thought was crust on the bottom was a piece of cardboard. Never ate another.

Better check the "best before" label on the Twinkies. I think it is November 16, 2035. Stock up.

Shouldnt Obama intervene? The market has clearly failed. Concern for the common good demands a government bail-out, perhaps a takeover. Cf. Aristotle, Aquinas and papal encyclicals on the need for solidarity.

"Concern for the common good demands a government bail-out, perhaps a takeover."I would be satisfied with some meaningful regulation of the vulture capital companies like Riplewood Holdings which, through its equity stripping practices, killed Hostess.Though I guess Ripplwood gets a pass because that particular looter is headed by a Democrat.

Oh, tempora, Oh, s'mores!

Yes, S'mores..... Graham crackers, marshmallows, and hershey's chocolate... And of course the open fire for the melting of the marshmallows.... Now that was a great lunch room treat!

What, no celebration of the starring role played by the brave and noble union in bringing down this capitalist bastion of disease, this destroyer of innocent youth? Fie! Raise high and higher yet the shining banners of labor! What are a few thousand lost jobs to set against this great moral victory? Onward!

It looks like what will happen is that the company will dissolve and sell its branding rights at a very tidy profit for the execs. Meantime, the 50-year-old woman who worked on the line, has seen her wages reduced, benefits evaporated, and can no longer pay into her pension really has no reason NOT to strike. She's already become a minimum wage worker with no benefits and she's got nothing to lose by trying to hold out the line on her share of the pie.Having been involved in two organizing efforts, I can tell you that it isn't easy or pretty. It's a pain in the neck to start a union and maintain it by paying dues and going to meetings, and most workers don't do it unless they work for S.O.B.'s who deserve to have a union breathing down their necks.

I am very sorry that these people lost their jobs. And I do not blame the union. As someone who has worked in management and seen first hand some of the practices, I see them as an important check and balance.At the same time, I wonder whether this product's time has come.Sorry if I sound like a killjoy but as someone who has seen the effects of obesity and poor diet in my own family and among my loved ones, I think we need to do everything we can to promote healthy eating. It is more expensive to eat healthy. Twinkies, chips, kraft dinner are quick and easy but packed full of empty calories.I am not in favour of the Bloomberg making all these foods illegal as the issue is far more complicated.Still refined sugar, simple carbohydrates, and starch are cheap but are silent killers. They should come with warning labels!

George D, your comment made me wonder if falling sales might have something to do with Hostess' impending demise, perhaps people eating better. What the Chicago Trib reported is that demand for snack cakes has not plummeted so much as that Hostess brands have more competitors:Hostess, a vintage favorite, had lost some ground with customers. From May 2012 to the same month in 2011, sales of Twinkies slipped 0.8 percent, Ding Dongs fell 8.7 percent and Ho Ho's tumbled 6.3 percent, according to analysis from research group Mintel.The company ceded its top position in the pre-prepared cupcakes and brownies segment to McKee Foods, whose sales increased 1.8 percent, largely on the strength of its Little Debbie brand. Smaller rivals such as Bimbo Bakeries and Give and Go also poached customers from Hostess, as have private label offerings from grocery stores, according to Mintel.

And what about all the kids snacking on salted, dried sea weed? Yes, it's true. A mother explained to me at the grocery store that all the kids in her daughter's school were scarfing it down.

Well, I guess it's better than black coffee and cigarettes ...

Not so sure. I bought a package; incredibly salty.

I cut back to not adding salt to anything while cooking back in my 20s when I was having blood pressure spikes, and only use an occasional sprinkling of salt at the table. Once you cut back, it's amazing how much off-putting salt there is in processed foods. Apparently including seaweed.

It's just a horrible, horrible situation to depend for one's livelihood on an enterprise that is failing. The Tribune story that Irene links to paints the picture: the company in and out of bankruptcy; outside investors injecting cash (and seizing control) to try to keep the company afloat; unions turning on one another; now, 18,500 people out of work.Ann, the Tribune story implies that Hostess made the decision to stop operations while emerging from bankruptcy. If that is the case, then bankruptcy law will determine where any money from sale of the brands ends up. I'm pretty sure it won't line the pockets of the execs. This link suggests that it is actually the lawyers(!) who will probably make out. I believe the workers actually rank higher than management in the order or precedence.'s tongue-in-cheek comment probably points to what has happened here: the market has worked: the company has lost market share, made bad decisions, had an unsustainable cost model, etc. Probably plenty of blame to go around.

Seaweed is very good! I would like to get more of it but it is hard and expensive to find here. far as snacks, fruit is always good, vegetables too and some nuts.Of course with Christmas, sweets are around and once or twice a season it is fine to indulge IMNHO. Mind you I LOVE sweets and was never a fan of twinkies but cinnamon buns, with real butter!!!

I first encountered Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes when they were sponsors of the "Howdy Doody Show" and I was a full-fledged member of the Peanut Gallery.Do you think that "Buffalo Bob" was always "hyped-up" on a sugar-rush??? Do you think that Princess Summerfall Winterspring hoarded Twinkies for those secret pleasure moments back stage??? Maybe Clarabell the Clown couldn't speak because he always had a mouth-full of Twinkie cream going???Dean of Men Brother John Zick at Holy Cross H.S. in Waterbury, CT always used walk around the cafeteria and tell the big lumbering giants on the football team as they ate their Twinkies that it would make them sterile.Twinkies really took a hit in popularity when they figured in the insanity defense at SF Supervisor Dan White's trail for the murder of fellow Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone.

Part of the insanity defense??? Who knew? So much about Twinkies we don't know.

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment