Fahrdreht: RIP Hostess Twinkie (1933-2012)

We are all saddened by the loss of the cultural icon of Hostess’ cream filled Twinkies. They were the stamp of my most formative years, developmental comfort food, invented outside of Chicago in Schiller Park in 1933.

Over thirty years ago, I worked as a waitress and bartender at Jerome’s, an upscale restaurant in Chicago. It prided itself on good food, well-prepared, made with natural ingredients— in many ways a restaurant well before its time. Each summer the owners held a picnic for the entire staff at which there was a contest for the best dessert that would eventually find itself on the menu.

Before the particular summer pictured above, everybody was getting very serious about this competition. There was even going to be a cash reward. One balding waiter (and part-time magician) was planning a bread pudding made from the very popular millet bread baked at Jeromes. Every time we worked the same shift he would wax in great detail about specifics of his recipe that would certainly win him the prize. It seemed like the whole staff was abuzz and frankly, I was getting pretty sick of the main topic of conversation turning on these sweet dessert recipes.

On the day of the picnic, hence contest, I woke up early in the morning and went to the grocery store. I hadn’t thought that I too was going to participate in this contest. In fact, my attitude had been pretty much bah humbug. But I had had a revelation.

I purchased 3 packages of Hostess Twinkies, lots of fresh strawberries, and some cream cheese. When I got home I put two Twinkies together, bottom to bottom, glued with a bit of cream cheese frosting. I cut one end of this glued pair so it was straight and lined it up lengthwise with another bottom-glued pair, and then a third.

I covered the whole “loaf” with a cream cheese frosting. I thinly sliced fresh strawberries which I then carefully placed over the surface of the loaf. It was gorgeous.

At the picnic, all the desserts were lined up— JL’s pudding in a cloud and MH’s yogurt walnut cake (GM’s mother’s recipe) along with others that have faded from memory. The balding waiter got cold feet in the end and decided not to enter the bread pudding after all. (What was up with that?) Everyone oohed and ahed at the presentations, especially mine.

The judges for the contest were the owners, chefs, and financial backers of Jerome’s. Each contestant had the opportunity to introduce their dessert. When it was my turn, I began a long improvised story about “Fahrdreht” (in Yiddish meaning confused and mixed up), a very old Romanian dessert that my grandmother baked only on very special occasions because it was so very difficult and complicated to make. (You can see a bit of the “Fahrdreht” at the bottom of the photo above.)

The Fahrdreht was then sliced and the judges each took a piece. While they were holding their pieces in their mouths like a fine wine, someone in the crowd said,” Hey, those look like the cream-filled centers of a Twinkie.” There was no mistaking it.

Someone else screamed, who had already grabbed a piece, “That IS a Twinkie.” That was when hands went flying toward the dessert and not a crumb was left.

So it is sad for me to hear that the Hostess Twinkie will be joining Howdy Doody and the dial phone in utter obscurity. Though in the contest I received maximum points for its external presentation, alas, my dessert did not win. (The yogurt-walnut cake won the $25 award.) As Twinkies exit from our food and cultural lexicon, they leave us with the cream-filled lesson that— it’s what’s inside that counts.

This entry was posted in food and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fahrdreht: RIP Hostess Twinkie (1933-2012)

  1. Love the photo of you, so proud at your creation! Yep, my Yogurt Walnut Cake won and to this day gets recreated for special events. Also, do NOT forget to add BOZO to your list! Love you more than Twinkies.

  2. Such a wonderful story and tribute!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s