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The Hostess With the Mostest

July 6, 2017

Perhaps one day I’ll so some stories on entertaining. But the truth of the matter is that we don’t do much entertaining at home. That of course wasn’t the case last night. Last night my mom came in from Providence with her husband, and I cooked her a birthday dinner.

When your mother requests hamburgers and hotdogs, you cook hamburgers and hotdogs.

The burgers were done on the gas grill outside, and I did the hotdogs upstate New York style. I’m not actually sure that’s a thing, but the technique I picked up from watching the folks at Famous Lunch involves moving the weiners around on a warm surface to soften the interior fat and tighten the exterior casing. This is how you make ‘em juicy with a nice snap.

Grilling is still a challenge for me on this crappy gas grill, but I’m starting to get the hang of it. Part of the solution has involved making a modification to the grill itself. Surely what I’ve done violates some kind of product warranty and might be ill advised. But it makes a particularly delightful crust on the outside of my burgers.

Anyhow, today isn’t about being a host or hostess at all. But my mother is still a part of the story, because today we’re going back into the distant past when I was just a small kid living in New York. Oddly, one of the most vivid taste memories of my summer childhood involves Hostess fruit pies.

Go ahead and judge me. I was a kid dammit.

Memory is a funny thing. The truth is that I have no idea how many times I was treated to a Hostess fruit pie. But I distinctly remember summertime and family outings on the sailboat in Long Island.

This was back before cell phones, so when my hard working father disconnected, he totally disconnected. Sure, there might be a tense payphone call outside the dock masters’s office when we arrived at a destination. But nobody was checking email, making phone calls, or conducting business while out on the water.

Those were truly golden years.

I distinctly remember a 7-11 across the street from the marina where we kept the boat. And it had a wire rack at the end of one aisle that was loaded up with Hostess fruit pies.

For some reason, there was something that felt downright wholesome about these treats. Maybe back then they were made with better ingredients. It’s true that sometimes the quality of mass produced products diminishes over time. I know that was the case with Entenmann’s. Hostess Fruit Pies were a casualty of that too.

While I may not be able to back this up with evidence, I’m fairly certain that at one point these were made with lard. As with most delicious lard based treats, the 80s demanded a shift to partially hydrogenated fats. When consumers realized those were even worse, formulations changed again. Now, the Hostess fruit pie is unrecognizable from the treat I fell in love with decades ago.

What I do remember was the feel of the heavy, waxy, paper wrapping. I remember the difficulty in choosing which pie to get. I recall tearing it open, and feeling the weight of the treat in my hand. The stickiness of the glaze. The crumb of the pastry. And the feeling of biting through the outer layers to get to the filling within.

I can almost taste it.

Years later, in my 20s when I was poor and struggling out of college, I realized just how cheap these bagged, shelf-stable pastries were. For some reason, I thought it would be wise to look at the nutritional information.

No. That was a terrible idea. The fat and calories that were inside these beloved treats from my youth floored me. How could something so inexpensive be full of so much stuff? But cheap calories were cheap calories, so I bought a bunch of them. I actually bought every flavor that was in stock.

While the taste may have brought me back to memories of fruti pies past, my innocence was gone.

Here’s the thing. My kids? Well, there are no Hostess fruit pies for them. And I can’t help feeling that it’s some minor tragedy. This reminds me of my realization that Young Master Fussy never had a Twinkie and didn’t know that this classic piece of Americana even existed.

Of course by now, it’s too late. The Fussy Little Kids have developed not only a taste for real food, but they have well-defined culinary preferences. This is both the upside and downside to teaching your kids about food, and encouraging them to taste it as they go.

Which isn’t to say they aren’t still kids. They are. For example, they love ketchup. But hopefully that won’t last forever.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Chad V. permalink
    July 6, 2017 10:02 am

    Loved the hostess pies growing up! Apple was the way to go. The sugary glaze and tender crumb paired beautifully with the sweet interior fruit. As an adult its hard to square the calorie count with the food.

    I had the same experience with Twinkies when I introduced them to my daughter. I have found memories of lunch box treats of moist yellow cake and sweet cream filling. My daughter took one bite and promptly spit it out, then looked at me like I tried to poison her. And she wasn’t wrong. I tried a new Twinkie and hated it. Either it had changed or I had.

  2. -R. permalink
    July 6, 2017 10:19 am

    Who didn’t love all that crap as a kid? Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Zingers (raspberry please), Hostess Cupcakes with the helical swirl of white frosting – shit was the bomb.

    I do not agree however with your villainization of ketchup. Every condiment has its place, and a burger just wouldn’t be the same without a dash of Heinz.

  3. Dave permalink
    July 6, 2017 10:55 am

    I was raised on various Freihofer’s goodies… it hit me the other day that many of the treats of my youth no longer even exist! I blame Bimbo.

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