It Began With the Mallow-Blasters
I was watching Magic Schoolbus with our younger son a few days ago, the one where they use the shrink-o-scope and take a field trip inside Arnold, and heard the word Mallow-Blaster. My attention, which had wandered (I’ve seen the episode literally dozens of times) was suddenly riveted by the word and image of Arnold holding Ralphie’s Mallow-Blaster, so clearly based on Wagon Wheels or Moon Pies or something made by Hostess.
As it happens, the little guy and I weren’t watching Ms. Frizzle alone; our daughter and my spouse were there, too, hanging out in the basement after dinner, mellowing out and learning about the digestive system. So when I suddenly started listing off Hostess Products, randomly, it became a topic of conversation. Twinkies, Ho Hos, Ding Dongs, Cupcakes—we compared and contrasted.
And then I remembered there was something else I used to buy on my way to work at the pet shop on those days I came straight from a party at 5am, along with my 32oz Big Gulp Tab. I jumped up and Googled “Hostess Products” and even before the page came up I remembered: Suzi Qs! Chocolate cake with a marshmallow-y filling. Holy cow, did I want one of those!
The Hostess page was fascinating and full of trivia on the creation of Hostess Products and the various names they were first marketed under. And does anyone else remember the Dolly Madison Zingers that competed with Hostess Ding Dongs in the sixties? And the ads that appeared on television along with the Charlie Brown specials? Hostess makes Zingers now, appealing to us Baby Boomers no doubt.
Needless to say, I bought a box of Twinkies the next day. And you know what? They’ve changed the recipe. The filling is no longer indistinguishable from lard—it is genuinely creamy. And the sponge cake is less greasy. And there is a sell-by date on them and only a four week shelf life (to fight the “this will survive post-nuclear fall-out” reputation Twinkies earned earlier). I like them.
There is an actual Hostess outlet in town, near the Blood Bank. I’m thinking that next time I donate blood (I’m a rare-ish type, they like me), I will indulge my desire for Suzi Qs. Not that I want to revisit those days when I’d clean cages at 5am, barely sobered up enough to think straight, but it will make me feel like a teenager for the minute or two it takes to consume them, and that’s okay.