Never a huge fan of the Twinkie, I was relieved that I finally got to eat a deep fried one at the L.A. County Fair recently. Take that, Bucket List.
But then the reality began to set in that I may never get to taste a Ding Dong again. Ding Dongs were the favored dessert of my grandmother when she babysat me and my brother. If we were playing with our friends Tina and Liz, she’d hand us each one at the end of the night and tell us to be good gentlemen by walking the ladies home. We got across the street and out of view, then sat down to devour our Ding Dongs while watching the girls walk the rest of the way.
So I set out last weekend to get what might be the last Ding Dong of my life. Little did I know or expect, there had already been a run on that food bank. These things are supposed to have a post-apocalyptic shelf life. Doesn’t anyone carry a back stock anymore?
My first stop was Pavilions, where there was nary a Zinger, Ho-Ho or Fruit Pie. Down Alameda to Von’s. Not even a Honey Bun, but they did have a few low-cal variety Hostess snacks that wouldn't interest even the most nostalgic. A sign recommending the generic Safeway brand goodies really got me scared.
I decided to broaden my search to include the smaller shops. Up Magnolia to Handy Market. Nothing. To San Fernando and 7-11. Zip. Golden Farms Market. Zilch. Up Glenoaks to Ralph’s. Nada. It was like they’d been erased from existence.
The more I searched in vain, the more desperate became my craving. Would I ever again taste the spongy goodness, waxy chocolate-like coating and “crème” substance ever again?
Down Brand I remembered a small neighborhood shop on California. Maybe these tiny markets were missed in the world’s mad dash for the last remaining Hostess treats. Haykashen Market had none. Up to Verdugo, perchance Smart and Final? Not a crumbcake (but there was the ever-present aroma of Original Recipe filling the air from KFC as it has at that intersection since the dawn of time).
I felt like Charlie in search of a Golden Ticket, hunting for any shop that still had Wonka Bars left.
I didn’t realize that seeking this childhood memory would be so difficult. No, they were never high quality snacks. But neither is a Big Mac a good hamburger. That's not the point. They represent a piece of our collective youth; they hold a familiarity and foundation for us. No matter how old you are, enjoying a Ding Dong takes you back to a place and time when the world was safe and no one cared about saturated fats.
This was no longer a junk food craving that needed to be satisfied. This was an outright assault on my childhood that I needed to defend at all costs.
Down Verdugo to the Circle K we frequented late at night as inebriated teenagers in need of a nosh. Not a Donette or Cupcake to be found. I’ve never even tried a Sno-Ball, but I'd kill for one now.
There used to be a Hostess shop on south Verdugo around the corner from my paternal grandparent’s house. I remembered going into this shop – which had the same loud electric doors as Litchfield’s Toys – and smelling the supernaturally doughy goodness of Wonder Bread. Of course it’s no longer there, replaced some time ago by Verdugo Produce market. But surely here, in this last vessel of my youth, would be one two-pack of Ding Dongs that fell behind the rack, waiting only for me to discover…
I would find nothing to slake this thirst for proof that I, and this world, were once innocent, dreamy and crème-filled.
The Ding Dong, my friends, has gone the way of the Dodo (Sorry, couldn't resist).
The sadness of realizing my youth had long ago slipped through my fingers, never to be grasped again, was overwhelming. Only when it is too late do we truly appreciate what we once had. When it comes to childhood reverie, you can’t go back again.
But in the internet age you can buy it on eBay from a stranger in Springfield, Oregon. For just $7.50 plus shipping and handling, a box of Ding Dongs was delivered to my doorstep. Youth is sweet and savory. And I'm not sharing.
PATRICK CANEDAY is not shopping today. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Friend him on Facebook. Read more at www.randomthoughtsonbeinghuman.com.