The previous post seems to have struck a nerve of comment on snack cakery, with more comments than usual. Which brought up memories of various snack cake creations we have consumed.
Up here in Canada we have most of the same concoctions consumed below the 49th, save some of the regional oddities like Whoopee Pies. Our menu includes the Jos. Louis, May West, Au Caramel and the Passion Flakie. Most are from a company with a long pedigree, Vachon Inc. from Ste Marie de Beauce, in Quebec who were purveyors of sugar bombs starting in 1923 under the steady hand of Joseph-Arcade and Rose-Anna Vachon-Giroux. It is now owned by Saputo Inc. and is also the Canadian licensee for Twinkies.
The Jos. Louis (pronounced Joe Looey, or ‘dejuner tabernac!’ depending on your background) is technically two five-inch red-velvet cake rounds with a cream filling and the whole works coated in chocolate. The originals of my childhood vintage actually were coated in real milk chocolate that melted gleefully on your hands.
The current version is the impervious and inert “chocolately” coating with a cream filling that has too many syllables in the ingredient list to be considered an actual food. The red-velvet cake is red because of the 55 gallon drum of red dye that is slopped into each batch of the cake. This is the same dye used to make explosive dye packs for the Banking Industry, blood hits for film special effects or smoke markers for Search and Rescue. Conceptually, there is cocoa in the cake. Once a shift a photo of a can of cocoa is shown to the machines while a worker yells “Cocoa!” over the din of the depositors.
The May West (originally by Stuart’s) is the same deal, except it is white cake, instead of the red velvet pseudo-cake variety with the same .0004 inch ‘chocolately’ coating that leaves your mouth feeling like you’re just engaged in an act of oral intimacy with a block of Tenderflake lard which was recorded on a cell phone and is now being posted online. Eating one makes you feel that dirty.
Cream filling, technically should be butter, sugar, air and vanilla, perhaps shortening and some milk. However, in commercial manufacture if you use enough horsepower, heat and pressure, you can get melted beef lips or rendered ostrich pelvis to off-gas enough lipids to whip and remain shelf-stable. Spray enough fake vanillin at it to kill the smell, bleach it polar white with the same chemicals used in the pulp and paper industry (or add titanium dioxide powder) and you get a Universal Manufacturing Goo that you can blow-mold into anything from flotation devices for the cottage dock, or cream filling for confectionary from the Jos. Louis, to the Twinkie. Done correctly, you can produce 1500 liters of cream filling out of the things you find in your sofa cushions plus a late-night delivery from an unlicensed, pop-up abattoir.
The cream filling gives you a lipid hit equivalent to a melted margarine colonic irrigation by a lady named Helga. You leave feeling bloated, coated and them surprisingly emptied of your entire soul out a bodily orifice you would not expect to be that kind of pathway.
You see, commercial manufacturing of snack cakes has nothing whatsoever to do with nutrition, baking, flavours or food. It has everything to do with the lowest possible cost per unit, with the fastest possible production of the most shelf-stable product with the widest distribution imaginable. Costs are manipulated to the tenth of a cent and the accountants in collusion with the marketers are continually massaging the manufacturing process to get the product to the point where you’ll pay, but won’t complain enough to cause fuss or ruckus with the stock price. This is called “adding value”.
This is not to say that snack cakes are evil, or will cause unrest in the world. Just keep in mind that what you are eating is worthless in every measurable vector, except the few moments of childhood pleasure you get in revisiting a old friend, be they Twinkies, Jos. Louis, May West, Drakes, Ho-Ho’s or Swiss Rolls. That moment lasts until you actually taste the treat.
Like your aspiring-to-become-white-trash fifteenth cousins who have PVR’d all the episodes of Hillbilly Handfishin to play them back to back on Oscar night, one visit to the Snack Cake aisle every five years is about all you need.