Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Back when I was a wee lad, I developed an unfortunate affection for Tasty Pastries. Unfortunate, yes: for it has been a millstone around my neck in the daily struggle against excess avoirdupois. And yet...I would not part with my memories of the Goodies of Yesteryear.

I have written in these pages of my deep and abiding love for pie. It is a love that came unto me through the back door. Literally. For that is where the Dugan Man would appear, twice a week, to sell us our quotidian supply of coconut custard pie, Corn Toastettes, and blueberry tarts. I’m sure that, even today, I am still wearing some of those coconut custard pies around my midriff.

Dugan’s wasn’t the only option if you wanted pies and cakes. Entenmann’s, now a household name throughout the country, was a local operation back in my Snot-Nose Days. Their chocolate-covered doughnuts make the offerings from Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts - fresh-made though they may be - pallid and nasty by comparison.

[You are probably thinking, “What up wit’ all da store-bought cake and pie?” It’s simple: My mother was not a baker. I remember her baking exactly one cake in the entire time I lived at home, from earliest childhood until after college. It wasn’t bad. It was some sort of spice cake, and I can still remember its cinnamon-rich aroma. But the Momma d’Elisson cared not how good it may have tasted or smelled. She only knew that baking a cake was a bigger pain in the ass than buying one from the Dugan man. It was not until I was in high school that I met people whose mothers actually baked fresh pies and cakes every day. WTF!??!]

Most people in the States are familiar with Hostess cakes. Those dark, incredibly sweet cupcakes with the squirt of cream filling and that asphaltum-like slab of icing with its signature squiggle of white running down the center...the infamous Twinkies...the Hostess Sno-Ball, like a junior-sized cupcake (complete with filling squirt), except in lieu of the icing slab there was an insulating jacket of springy fluorescent pink marshmallow specially developed by NASA. But we had our local options, too. In New York it was Drake’s Cakes. Their products resembled the Hostess line-up, but they had something called the Devil Dog that was perversity itself: a “bun” consisting of two vaguely bun-shaped chocolate cakes, surrounding a “hot dog” that was nothing more or less than a monster pile of Creamy White Filling.

To this day, our rabbi insists on breaking his Yom Kippur fast with a Devil Dog.

Alas, Drake’s Cakes are no longer independent, having been subsumed by Interstate Bakeries Corporation, the conglomerate that produces Hostess Cakes. Dolly Madison Cakes? Same story.

Philadelphians, of course, have their Tastykakes. If you visit Philly without experiencing (1) a soft pretzel with mustard, (2) a Philly cheesesteak, and (3) Tastykakes, then you have wasted your trip.

Upon moving South, I discovered one of the regional specialities: the Moon Pie. I had had these things up North (Burry, the outfit that sold ’em, called ’em Scooter Pies) and had thought them loathesome, but down South the same confection seemed to have a special cachet. Velociman would probably explain it as the Gourmandise of the Retarded, but I tend to not judge the Moon Pie so harshly. I can embrace it. I simply do not eat it...with or without the traditional RC Cola accompaniment.

But there is yet another Regional Speciality in these parts, one that has its fervent partisans while at the same time inspiring horror in the hearts of those who have not, as yet, acquired a taste for the Un-Chocolate...

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