King of the lunchbox

By Daniel Dunkle | Jan 12, 2012

The apocalypse has begun.

We’re barely a week into 2012 (anyone noticed that people have changed to saying twenty-twelve instead of two-thousand-twelve?) and Hostess, makers of such fine products as the Twinkie, the Zinger, Sno-Balls and my personal favorite snack of all time, the Ring Ding, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

According to CNN online, the snack food maker is more than $1 billion in debt. At stake are the jobs of some 19,000 employees.

Apparently the initial reports caused something of a panic among America’s expanding populace (and by expanding, I mean waistlines, of course). This prompted a statement published by CNNMoney.

"Throughout the proceeding, we're going to operate business as normal," said Hostess spokesman Erik Halvorson. "They'll keep making Twinkies."

I think that statement says something about the American spirit. Like the nation and many of its citizens, Hostess is not going to let a little thing like skyrocketing debt change its lifestyle. Just like the fact that no matter how many doctors warn us not to, we keep putting away those Twinkies and Ring Dings.

However, this could be the beginning of the Mayans’ predictions about the end of days. While mom and apple pie have long been credited with representing America, I think the Twinkie is in there somewhere too, tattooed to our national consciousness.

The press calls the pastry “Iconic.”

For me, the Twinkie was the ultimate stock to hold in the marketplace known as the school lunchroom. Picture if you will, young children gathered around the tables in the early 1980s with their metal lunchboxes featuring the Gobots and images from the original “Clash of the Titans.” The child with the Twinkies was king of the stock exchange. Their value far exceeded that of other snacks being traded. Fruit rollups? Don’t make me laugh. Vienna sausages? Ugh! Your mom’s cookies, what kind? Pumpkin raisin? You must be having me on!

The Twinkie was never traded! How then can it have failed on the real financial market? Are not today’s businessmen the lunchroom kids of yore?

In addition, it has long been considered our investment in our future, a foodstuff of the coming post-apocalypse, a time when kids from the districts will compete in Hunger Games and the Humongous will terrorize a pre-racist Mel Gibson. Everything from “Zombieland” to an episode of “Family Guy” makes reference to people eating Twinkies in the ashes of our civilization. Iconic indeed!

Twenty-twelve means to rob us of even that small hope.

In some ways, however, these treats are outdated. They seem somehow obsolete. We now must contend with the fact that obesity is out of control. It affects children and adults alike.

My mother and I were talking about this Christmas Eve. “I don’t like it when you talk about being fat in your column,” she said. “People are just bigger now.”

“You’re on a river in Africa,” I said. “It’s called de Nile.”

My cousin works in a large hospital. He gave me a tour one day and even showed me the morgue. One of the things I remember most strikingly was that there’s actually a crane in there for hoisting today’s bigger people onto the table.

That’s dark for me, I know.

However, there’s a bright side. If there are any survivors of the twenty-twelve apocalypse, they’re likely to slim right down as they wander the wasteland left behind.

Especially if they can’t find any Twinkies.

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