At some point Friday night the MSG and I ran out of wine and went to the corner store to buy another bottle. While he perused the selection, I made a horrible discovery.
“Caramel Ho Hos!” I exclaimed, delighted.
The MSG merely said, “No.”
“Yes! Caramel Ho Hos! Let’s get some!”
“Because I want to see how gross they are!” I beamed, gripping the slippery white plastic wrapper and plunking it down on the counter.
Sometime on Saturday, we would discover the Caramel Ho Hos in the freezer. Neither one of us had any clear recollection of how they got in there. Another day passed before we decided to actually try them.
“They don’t taste like chocolate,” the MSG said, wincing slightly at the not-quite-frozen cardboard texture of the Ho Ho.
“Or caramel,” I added, munching with more gusto, more out of horrified curiosity than anything. “Or cream filling.”
“There’s a distinct paraffin taste here.”
“Yeah, like licking the candles from a birthday cake and accidentally just eating the candle.”
And then he started to read the label out loud.
The list of ingredients was truly terrifying. I missed out on so much of what I consider the quintessential American kid experience, since no Hostess product was allowed in my diet, not even as a special treat. (As I recall, my “special treats” growing up were things like carrot sticks! With peanut butter!) But I hadn’t realized that Ho Hos, for all their forbidden appeal to a younger me, weren’t even really food. Sure, there are foodlike substances in Ho Hos, but in such a configuration as to be particularly unappetizing in every way, and even moreso after having the substances enumerated for me while prying slabs of caulk-like un-chocolate from the roof of my mouth with my tongue.
What is it about American food? Why is our country’s favorite flavor “bland”? We have a million hair products touting the banishment of limp and lifeless tresses, while we deaden our taste buds each passing day with artificial flavorings. There’s no food in our food. And here I thought I was missing out all those years, forced to eat such horrors as zuppa inglese, proscuitto and fontina sandwiches, fiori di zucchini fritti, and carciofi. What I wouldn’t have given, back then, for one bowl of Lucky Charms instead of the polenta that awaited me on the breakfast table.
Today I’d trade you all the Ho Hos I never ate for one plate of linguine con vongole.