A good Hostess doesn't kill her dinner guests
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Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2012

A good Hostess doesn't kill her dinner guests

When kale is sold out and Twinkies remain on the shelf, revolution is near

Ding-dong, the Twinkie is dead. As you may know, the Hostess company, maker of Twinkies and the wondrous Wonder Bread, recently announced that it is filing for bankruptcy.

Normally, as a polite Southerner, I wouldn't revel in the death of anything, especially a fellow Southerner (Hostess hails from Texas), but in the case of the Twinkie, it was about time.

A 2011 report by the Trust for America's Health says, "The obesity epidemic continues to be most dramatic in the South, which includes nine of the 10 states with the highest adult obesity rates" (healthyamericans.org/report/88/).

I'm just as guilty as the next person. I've even written columns on favorite Southern recipes, including the sausage ball (three ingredients: cheese, Bisquick and raw pork).

I love a good barbecue sandwich or a nice slab of bacon as much as anyone.

But I can't help but think that the dishes my dog is panting to get its paws on might not be the healthiest choices. I mean, my dachshund won't even touch spinach.

Could it be that we're finally waking up to the fact that a deep-fried dough ball filled with pastry cream and wrapped in plastic might only nominally be considered a food item? That a food that has a shelf life measured in years might not be healthy?

That a good Hostess doesn't kill her guests?

Sure, the demise of Hostess could be chalked up to the economic downturn and nothing more.

But I've noticed some other positive signs lately that may suggest that Americans - even Southern Americans, notorious for our poor nutritional habits - may be ready to embrace healthier eating.

First, there's the surge in popularity of a vegetarian lifestyle among iconic figures, such as Bill Clinton and Steve Wynn, who have given up not only meat but also eggs and dairy.

Documentaries such as "Forks Over Knives" tout the cancer-fighting benefits of a plant-based diet.

Closer to home, there's the if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em attitude - which Hostess apparently ignored - of the savvier Southern cooks.

I flipped on the television a few weeks ago and saw Paula Deen - Paula Deen, y'all - on the Dr. Oz Show. She accepted Dr. Oz's challenge to create classic Southern dishes, like fried chicken, with half the calories and fat of the original recipes.

If Paula Deen, who has served more deep-fried foods than your average state fair, can reform, then anyone can.

Then, just the other day, something wonderful happened: I went to the grocery store, and, in the spot where the kale was supposed to be, was: nothing. Either someone is garnishing a pretty hefty buffet line, or someone other than me (and my reluctant 4-year-old) is actually eating this stuff. In Mooresville. North Carolina. A Southern state.

If the day has come when the kale is sold out and the Twinkies are still on the shelf, then we are on the verge of a revolution.

Of course, one could argue that the Twinkies could stay on the shelf, intact, for the next 50 years. I hope they do.

You see, traditionally, when Southerners gather to mourn the loss of a loved one, the occasion calls for a lavish spread. We bring plates of tomato sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Melt-in-your-mouth chicken pie. Potato salad.

And while those might not be the healthiest of foods, at no funeral have I seen a plate of Twinkies. Deep down, we know what's good for us. And we're learning more all the time.

So while most of us aren't quite ready to give up every dietary indulgence, we recognize that we are responsible for our own health.

Ultimately, we want fewer occasions to make those plates of tomato sandwiches.

So, goodbye, Hostess. If it means living a longer, healthier life, then giving up Twinkies is a piece of cake.

Erica Batten is a freelance writer for Mooresville News. Have a story or column idea for Erica? Email her at ebattenobserver@gmail.com.

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