Chalk it up to youthful indiscretion, but I used to swap glorious homemade cake for shrink-wrapped industrial blandness.
by Bakery Boy
I didn’t know how good I had it. Growing up in a bakery, I thought nothing of the steady supply of fresh-baked cakes, pies, cookies, pastries and doughnuts at my disposal, both at the bakeshop and at home. I failed to recognize my blessings and hungered instead for things I didn’t have. Things such as…Twinkies.
Cake vs. Twinkies
On the playground in elementary school, I lusted after desserts other kids pulled from their lunchboxes. Especially intoxicating: those mass-produced “golden sponge cakes with creamy filling,” as distributor Hostess describes its iconic Twinkie. I envied the crinkly sound of the cellophane wrapper being torn away, an exotic touch in my homegrown world. I marveled at the unpronounceable ingredients listed in small print on the bottom of the wrapper, a labeling feature our little bakery lacked.
I even admired the machine-like sameness in the shape of every single Twinkie I ever saw, stacked by the thousands in supermarkets and convenience stores. Such standard-issue treats were philosophically and economically off-limits in a bakery family—making them seem like valuable contraband.
What I pulled from my lunchbox should have been more than enough to satisfy any sweet-toothed third-grader. A generous hunk of double chocolate layer cake made from batter my father mixed and baked the day before. Walnut pieces carefully arranged on top by my grandmother after she hand-spread a thick layer of frosting and swirled the top into a sea of artistic peaks. The hefty wedge-shaped slice wrapped in waxed paper and neatly folded by my loving mother earlier that morning.
So what did I do with that rich, moist, glorious portion? I traded it away for the lightweight dryness of a designed-for-long-shelf-life Twinkie. I sat on one end of a seesaw and nibbled slowly to make it last, while my trading partner (if you’re out there, Billy, and want backsies!) sat at the other end and gobbled down what I should rightfully have considered a family heirloom.
At the time, I thought I was getting the better deal, sneaking a peek into the larger world beyond our humble bakery. Wrapping my hand around a Twinkie and sinking my teeth into it ranked as an almost sinful achievement. Later I came to realize that what I had was a type of gold, and what I swapped it for was fool’s gold at best.