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Twinkie Gotterdammerung Ends Year: Manuela Hoelterhoff

Mugzie
Mugzie modeling her winter wear, a Sherlock Holmes coat. Photographer: Paul Goguen/Bloomberg

Dec. 12 (Bloomberg) -- The demise of Hostess affected me deeply. I am glad my mutti wasn’t around for this disaster.

There were plenty of other causes for grief this past year, of course. For starters, Greece did not fall into the Mediterranean. We will have to live with Angela Merkel and the tax-dodging progeny of Pericles for another year, maybe forever.

That’s not all. The tax nut won over the other one, depriving us of the dog on top of the station wagon leitmotif delivered in such imaginative variations by New York Times columnist Gail Collins (though he briefly, magically, reappeared in a story about a dull, post-election White House lunch).

Thinking of dogs, this was the year I said goodbye to Mugzie, my beloved beagle, who always travelled on a car seat cushion in wintry months wearing her Sherlock Holmes outfit.

I would rather strap a human companion onto the roof of the Volvo. Oh Mugzie! At least she padded over the rainbow bridge listening to “Winterreise,” a depressing song cycle by Schubert, but beautifully recorded by Christian Gerhaher.

Great art is a great salve.

Happily, the Metropolitan Museum is on my way to work through Central Park and I stop by often as mother used to do. Just the other day, I saw the Matisse show and remembered -- how could it be otherwise? -- eating a Hostess Twinkie. I was home with the flu, maybe 12, and leafing through a small book on Matisse given to me by my mother.

Chewing thoughtfully, propped up by soft pillows, I slowly flipped through the hand-glued plates of blue nudes and dazzling flowers, floating from Tangiers to Collioure in the south of France: Such pleasure.

Wonder Bread

Very likely the treat was followed by frankfurters cut lengthwise and delicately placed between two buttered slices of Wonder Bread. Hostess was the gateway to happiness for a long time.

When we arrived in the States in the late 1950s, my mother luxuriated in Wonder Bread (wirklich wunderbar!) because pure white bread was so unusual to anyone who lived through the war with its dark chunks of pumpernickel.

Wonder Bread’s lack of anything nutritional was, if known, totally uninteresting to my mother, who never took a vitamin pill in her life and sipped orange juice only with vodka.

Father, too, ate cake whenever possible, lots of eggs, butter and absolutely no vegetables, and, like his wife, lived into his nineties.

The news of Hostess disappearing was like a ton of madeleines dropping on my head.

Skinless Franks

I guess all families are happy in their own way, and our best moments were probably around wieners and cupcakes. Olga Christina Alexandrovna had been raised with a cook in Riga, Latvia, and just couldn’t pick up the habit. I remember an animated back and forth about the merits (none) of skinless hot dogs which my father abhorred and why couldn’t his wife remember that?

Somewhat literal and devoid of irony, if not humor, my mother thought a perfect hostess served Hostess baked goods and kept lots in the freezer for guests. We ended up not having many visitors and my mother probably got a little lonely by the late afternoon.

As life continued, I could be sure to find gin and tonics waiting with the Ding Dongs when I got home from high school. I realize now that I spent a fair amount of my growing years on a sugar high and that’s why I didn’t get into Harvard.

But I did get to continue my habits at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts, a wonderful place of learning on East 78th Street in Manhattan, smack between the Met and a Hungarian pastry shop, and pleasantly close to Bemelmans Bar.

(Manuela Hoelterhoff is executive editor of Muse, Bloomberg’s arts and leisure section. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Martin Gayford on art and Ryan Sutton on dining.

To contact the writer responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeffrey Burke at jburke21A@bloomberg.net

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