Good Riddance, Hostess

The last couple of days have been filled with media elegies for Hostess Brands, which is moving to liquidate its assets.

The “iconic” maker of Wonder Bread, Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Devil Dogs, and those sweet, sweet chocolate cupcakes with the white swiggles on top has been felled by years of labor turmoil, management greed and ineptitude, and private equity at its blood-sucking worst.

It also was the victim of changing tastes, and here’s where I part from the many in the media who have indulged in sugar fits of nostalgia, some of them quite well-written. The obituaries for Hostess were in many ways the commentators’ farewells to their American childhoods.

But I have a different take—I’m not mourning Hostess, because Hostess made me fat. Or, rather, I made myself fat, but Hostess was a big enabler.

I remember as a child sneaking off after school to the grocery store to buy Devil Dogs, Sno Balls, Yodels and, most of all, Ring Dings, a gelatinous chocolate “puck-shaped treat,” as Dan Barry put it in The New York Times.

Symbol of a bygone era? Photo: Flickr/Roadsidepictures

Ring Dings (and Keebler Chocolate Fudge cookies, it must be said) ushered in an overweight adolescence that I can sum up in one word: painful. Diets failed repeatedly as my chocoholism (from which I still haven’t recovered) always won out.

I didn’t overcome my weight problem until after college, through exercise (running then, cycling now) and more importantly, restructuring my diet and watching carefully what I ate. I’ve kept up that routine ever since.

So, though I enjoy a little chocolate every now and then, my Devil Dog days are long gone.

I feel bad for the 18,000 Hostess workers who will lose their jobs in a rough economy like this one. I hope they find employment soon.

But there’s no market anymore for foods that are so proudly unhealthy in such a retro way.  Hostess didn’t keep up with the new, “scientific” way of manufacturing junk food. The current crop of junk foods makes more Americans obese more quickly and more efficiently than Hostess ever could have dreamed of back in the day.

So, let’s hear it for progress and capitalism’s creative destruction. Goodbye, Hostess, and don’t let the Ding Dong hit you on the way out.


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