With a heavy heart, I read early this morning that Hostess Bakeries, in business under one name or another, since 1930, is closing its doors forever. It’s always sad to see an institution such as this close, especially with the loss of so many jobs, with the holiday season closing in on us. I hope that some last-ditch plan can be hatched. I am praying for all of those employees. I am not making light of this. So many memories came into my mind and I found myself crying, mourning the loss of yet another piece of my childhood. Whole generations of children have loved anything with the Hostess name. It breaks my heart to think that the joys of eating these snack cakes will be lost forever. Sad as all of this is, memories often find their way into the present, bringing a smile or a chuckle with them.
I grew up in a time where most of us brought our lunches from home. When there were school cafeterias, the food wasn’t always what I wanted to eat, with horrible things like canned peas and cottage cheese on the plastic plates. Far better were the lunches my mother prepared every night and put in the frig to be ready for the next morning’s rush out the door to walk to school in time for class. Well, if truth be told, it was to be in time for playing before the bell rang for school to begin. I carried my lunch to school in a brown paper bag, with my name written on the outside in Mom’s handwriting, filled with a variety of sandwiches, along with a small bag of potato chips and a piece of fruit. Then there was the piece de resistance, joy of joys, the mother-lode: a package of either Hostess Twinkies, Cupcakes or, my favorite, Sno-Balls.
My friends were always envious of my lunches. While there were often offers of trades, I rarely gave in. I loved the lunches Mom fixed. Her sandwiches were always good and ranged from the typical PB & J (grape “j”, of course), to tuna salad, ham, pimiento cheese or salami. I loved fruit of all kinds. Not many kids had chips in their lunches back then, so I would sometimes trade those. Never, though, would I ever trade my Hostess snacks. I never got to eat them any other time, not even in the summer when I had lunch at home.
There was, of course, a proper way to eat Hostess cakes. I always thought that Twinkies were rather boring, kind of a one-note symphony of flavors. After pushing my finger in all the way to the filling to get just a taste, I would eat it as anyone else would. Those wonderful chocolate cupcakes were more fun. First, you have to peel off the frosting and eat that. Then, came the standard finger in the middle to the filling. Then the rest of the cupcake can be consumed. Sno-balls were another story.
First of all, Sno-balls came in colors. There was a definite hierarchy of the colors: first were the packages with two white ones. Second came those that had a white one with a pink one. The top, the best of all, were when there were two pink Sno-balls. You may be unaware of this, but the pink Sno-balls have an entirely different taste than the whites. It’s a subtle taste, one only a discriminating palate can discern, but it’s there. I was, and still am, one of the very few connoisseurs who can tell the difference. I flew high on the days when there were two pinks in my lunch. When there were two white ones, you could start with either one. They taste the same. When there was one of each, of course, you ate the white one first, saving the pink for last. When there were two pinks, you have to carefully examine the coconut on the outside and on the bottom of the balls, saving the one with the most coconut until the other had been properly consumed.
Now, once you have made your choice of color, and which one to eat first, the finer points of correctly eating a Sno-ball come into play. You carefully peel off the moist marshmallow and coconut top, exposing the chocolate cake underneath both Sno-balls. Lay these gently to one side, on top of the crinkly packaging, carefully placing them coconut-side up to prevent the marshmallow from sticking to the cellophane. Then comes the standard finger-poking into the white center. Break the cake in half, then in half again. Eat the filling out of the middle of each of the four pieces, then eat the chocolate cake. Repeat with the other cake and filling.
You’ve reached the last and best part of all–the coconut and marshmallow cover. Such bliss! Making sure that everyone else is watching, smile wickedly, then start eating the marshmallow and coconut. Groan with the decadent ecstacy of the moment. Roll your eyes, then close them in a moment of pure hedonistic delight. Then continue, slowly savoring each precious bite. When you are finally finished, totally satiated, carefully lick each and every finger to remove any lingering sweet delight. Sigh, just once, of course, because twice would just be too much and entirely in poor taste.
I can taste all of this right now. I no longer want the mushroom and sausage omelette I had planned for breakfast. Perhaps if I hurry to the store, I can snatch up the few remaining packages that may still be there. If not, now having given the secrets of how to eat a Sno-Ball, I have at least passed on the knowledge, just in case, someone will buy the recipe from Hostess and produce them again. If not, part of my childhood will be gone. I should have taught my grandchildren earlier the simple delights of eating marshmallow, coconut and chocolate cake. Lost to them forever, perhaps, is having the rich experience I did as a child…and a teenager. And of a starving pregnant young woman. And buying them in bulk, loudly proclaiming that they were for my sons’ school lunches. Or a mother of teen-aged boys, always having to hide my stash. And the last time I bought gas at the mini-mart.
The morals to this memory: Never put off eating until tomorrow what you can eat today. And, of course, always learn the proper eating etiquette of any food.