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TwinkieFest may save snack

September 28, 2004|by TIM ROWLAND

Horrible, horrible news for Hagerstown.

Twinkies has filed for bankruptcy.

Golden sponge cake, creamy center, 50 calories per inch, so little chewing required that you can down a couple in the morning before you even have put in your teeth.

Twinkies, Twinkies, how doth we love you? Let us glom the ways.

Twinkies, the state flower of Hagerstown. Considering their light, airy countenance, they are perhaps the fastest way to ingest calories on earth.

And that's important. For new readers, let me quickly recount the three most salient facts about our fair city:

Greatest per-capita sales of queen sized L'eggs in the Unites States.

Once ate a national, all-you-can-eat seafood buffet chain out of business.

Greatest number of bad backs among paramedics, from carting the overfed out of fourth-story apartments.

As the California license plate said, "UGIT D FOTO."

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Hey look, it's not our fault. It's genetic or something. But we, as a whole, do tend to be people of ample carriage, so this Twinkies deal is serious stuff.

The news came last week that Interstate Baking, owners of Hostess and Wonder Bread had gone belly up, so to speak. It's hard to believe that the makers of something so good could have such a tough time making the ends of anything but their pants meet.

Twinkies were invented by a Chicago chap named Jim Dewar 73 years ago. He got the name from a billboard advertising Twinkle Toe shoes and he called it "the best darn tootin' idea I ever had."

I'd say.

Twinkies taught a generation of children to lick cardboard. When you're standing at the vending machine and everything else blows (apple chewing gum? Yechht) Twinkies always are there to hold your hand and see you through.

Twinkies are America. Twinkies were blamed for the double murder of the San Francisco mayor and a councilman in 1978 when the culprit's attorney played the overindulgence defense.

Twinkies are luscious. If you can't make money on Twinkies, then Halliburton can't make money on the war on Iraq. (Those who would accuse me of liberal bias may substitute the joke, "then CBS can't make money on the length of Dan Rather's nose.")

Two years ago, a New Englander made a mint by dunking Twinkies in his fish batter and deep frying them. Deep fried Twinkies won acclaim from even the snootiest of restaurant critics.

And now they're bankrupt? Who's running Interstate, Ken "Frito" Lay? I went to the respected stock commentator Morningstar for the answer, and it was nonplused as well:

"We are amazed that a company that owns large, iconic brands like Hostess and Wonder has absolutely no feel for balancing product pricing and volume. Interstate often follows overly aggressive pricing increases with discounts to regain lost market share. It has neglected opportunities to improve product mix, missing the boat on higher-margin items like superpremium and low-carb breads. It was among the last of the major bread makers to get these products on the shelves."

Oh, so it's a carb thing. As a meat eater, I admit, I've secretly been cheering the low-carb shenanigans on from the sidelines, but now it appears as if the fad has gone too far. True story: I was going to write a parody about a new, low-carb dog food, until I noticed that there actually is a new, low-carb dog food on the market. Except I spelled it "low karb," because "You can't spell bark without" oh, never mind.

It would be a tragedy if the low-carb craze killed Twinkies. And if Twinkies go, can Cheetos be far behind? Somehow I can't see a bunch of Hagerstonians sitting out on their stoops eating carrots.

No, I think it is up to us, and the Patron Saint of Twinkies, to step up and save the day. We're always looking for festivals, and a lot of times we reach too far, as exampled by our Julaugsepoctnovemberfest. But here is one I think we can get behind and succeed at: "Rally 'Round the Twinkie Days."

Deep fried Twinkies? Humph. We can go beyond that. We can offer Funnel Twinkies, Caramel Twinkies and Twinkie Maw. God willing, we can save the Twinkie. If there's one job we're qualified for, it's this. It's the best darn tootin' idea I've ever had.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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