The Twinkie is dead.

Long live the Twinkie!

As Hostess Brands on Friday filed for bankruptcy after failing to win concessions from its striking bakery workers, abruptly cutting loose more than 18,000 employees in the Bay Area and beyond, consumers went into collective mourning over the apparent demise of one of the sweetest, fluffiest, most beguiling culinary icons America has ever known.

The shock to the nation's system was almost palpable. Somehow, a spongecake renowned for being nearly indestructible had been destroyed, an innocent if hydrogenated bystander in a brutal battle between unions and the hedge funds that control the Irving, Texas-based company. In one bite, Hostess was gone, along with the soft, emotional filling of many an American childhood. Suddenly, Twinkies had become a metaphor for a quickly fading past.

"The Twinkie was a popular cult icon, a reference point that was mentioned by Homer Simpson and even spawned Twinkie cookbooks," said Nancy Down, head librarian at the Browne Popular Culture Library at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. "It's pure nostalgia and it reminds us of a happy childhood. And even though I don't think I'd eat one today, it has that sweetness and shape, that perfect sort of handheld thing, that made it such a comfort food for so many people."

Of course, there's always a chance the Twinkie brand will be sold to another company in the bankruptcy, but Friday, many of the snack's fans went into a sort of nostalgic frenzy. The Twittersphere quickly filled with sugar-high laments, including Funny or Die, which wrote: "In 20 years, rich potheads will pay top dollar for unopened Twinkies."


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Twinkie recipes flooded the Internet. And Hostess products flew off the shelves at outlets like the one in San Leandro, where one woman filled her back seat with boxes of Twinkies so her kids, until now prohibited from eating the processed snack, could have their fill before the cakes went away forever.

Hollister's Linda Lampe, visiting her son in Oakland, stopped to stock up on the Twinkie's soul sister, the MoonPie, because "they're as traditional as grits in the South where I come from," she said. "There's even a song that says, 'Give me an RC Cola and a MoonPie.' Just to think, this is the end of a tradition."

That tradition started in 1930 when James A. Dewar, a manager for Continental Baking, decided to inject the squishy spongecake with banana filling; vanilla would later be used. The Twinkie name was inspired by a billboard for the Twinkle Toe Shoe Co.

It appeared to end Friday morning as trucks made what could be their final deliveries of Twinkies and Hostess Cupcakes, Ho Hos and Wonder Bread. Hostess blamed the unions for killing the company and immediately shut down its 565 distribution centers and 570 bakery outlet stores, as well as 33 bakeries, including one in Oakland that employed 145 people.

There was, of course, a darker side to the story than simply the loss of a 150-calorie sugar-dispensing vehicle once dubbed the "cream puff of the proletariat." Thousands of real jobs had vanished, including the truck-driving gig that Fremont resident Andy Kurzadkowski first took 30 years ago with Colombo bread before it became part of Hostess.

"Today's my last day," he said Friday afternoon, still in shock after being called in from vacation to pick up his termination packet. "I was hoping they'd work it out with the bakers. I have a wife and 15-year-old daughter, and this was our sole income. Even if someone else buys parts of the company, I don't know how that will help us, because we'd all have to start over again from scratch."

Staff photographer Laura Oda contributed to this report. Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689.

A few fun facts about the Twinkie
Twinkies were scorned by nutritionists as the archetypal unhealthy snack and became a comic's punch line, but lots of people ate them. Hostess manufactured 1,000 Twinkies a minute at its bakeries, and the Washington Post reported in 2005 that Americans had bought $47 million worth of Twinkies in the previous year.
  • Many jokes about Twinkies play off their long shelf life thanks to their ample chemical preservatives. There has been much speculation about how many decades a Twinkie can sit on a shelf before being eaten. For the sake of freshness, Theresa Cogswell of the Twinkies' parent company Hostess, has said that no more than 25 days was ideal but a Maine college professor gained notoriety by keeping one atop his blackboard for 30 years. He said it still looked good.
  • In 2000, President Bill Clinton's White House Millennium Council put together a time capsule to give people in 2100 an idea of how we lived. Its contents included a piece of the Berlin Wall, film of Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, a World War II photo of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks and a Twinkie (later removed for fear it would attract rodents).
  • The trial of San Francisco city supervisor Dan White, who fatally shot the mayor and another supervisor in 1978, gave rise to what came to be known as the "Twinkie defense." The defense said White was suffering mental problems, as evidenced by the way he had given up his healthy lifestyle and started eating junk food. White ended up serving five years in prison for voluntary manslaughter.
  • The Twinkie has a long list of television and movie credits. Archie Bunker always had one in his lunch on the sitcom "All in the Family" and they have been featured in the animated series "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons." A character in "The Deer Hunter" eats Twinkies dipped in mustard.
  • Twitter and other social media were filled with laments about a Twinkie-less world on Friday. Entrepreneurs and speculators turned to eBay. A box of 10 Twinkies was being offered on the online auction site for a starting bid of $500.
  • As Americans became more health-conscious in their eating habits, Twinkie sales declined. In 2011, 36 million packages were sold, down almost 2 percent from a year earlier.
    Source: Wire services