Having me — a diabetic guy — as their main product consultant probably wouldn't be all bad for the good people at Hostess Snack Cakes. Now before you fall into the massive chasm created by that leap in logic, sit back and try to follow along.
Thirty-eight years ago, I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. I don't remember everything about it, because I was only three at the time, but I do remember quite a bit. My parents told me that I'd get to go to someplace called La Crosse for a few days. The how and why of it don't register with me today, but I do remember that I was deeply troubled by the idea. How was The Chairman going to get the cows milked and the corn combined if I wasn't around to pepper him with questions in the barn and the cab?
How those cows were going to be fed if I was stuck at someplace called "La Crosse" was beyond me, but my concerns didn't seem to matter to anyone. I made the trip anyway. It turned out to be a lot less fun than milking cows and combining corn.
The first thing I noticed at this hospital place was that they seemed to be big on needles. We had vaccinated pigs and calves at home, but everything I knew about needles was that they absolutely did not go IN ME! No one in La Crosse was familiar with that concept, it appeared. They'd jab me with needles a couple times a day. What seemed especially cruel was when they'd jab me just to watch me bleed. Then the maniacs would swipe it from me! How barbaric is THAT?
Turns out the needle fascination was contagious. When we got back home, now my folks were jabbing me all the time, too, but at least they weren't slapping an ear tag in me while they were at it like they did with the livestock. On the good side of the equation, it did seem like a new wrinkle had been thrown into my life. In the middle of the morning and the afternoon, I would get to have a snack of some kind. It was usually some pretty good stuff, too, like a cookie or a bar, or something I felt should form the base of the food pyramid.
After another year or two, there was school. I was forced to get on a bus and not stay at home to help The Chairman all day long like I had done for my whole life up to that point. Since food had become a major issue for me, and my intake of it seemed to be monitored a bit more stringently than in the old days before that whole La Crosse adventure, school just seemed to complicate the equation even more. I would be forced to carry a snack with me to school each day. Not one, but two snacks. One was to be eaten in the middle of the morning and the other one was to be eaten in the middle of the afternoon. I would later figure out that the long-acting insulin I took would usually cause my blood sugar to crater around 10:30 and 3:00 each day.
When you're in kindergarten, whatever your mother tells you is gospel. When she gives you directions, you would be wise to follow those directions to the letter. My mission was pretty clear to me: "Eat your snack every day at the appointed time. If you don't, you will get sick. Really sick."
Keep in mind, this was the early 1970s. We didn't have all of the technology we have today for quick, easy and accurate blood sugar testing. If I started to get shaky, that meant my blood sugar was low and I probably needed something to eat, preferably from the dessert class of food.
There was one particular day in the spring of my kindergarten year when the snow was melting and the playground was a mess. It was still decent enough that we got to go outside for recess, though. I went to school in nearby Ridgeway, a booming metropolis of about 300 people. We were basically all farm kids. Even the couple of city kids from town weren't nearly as urbanized as today's kids are. Farm kids are farm kids, though, and in the dairy part of the country like northeast Iowa, the majority of the parents of my classmates milked cows. Farm kids tended to show up in some pretty functional clothes worthy of a farm where livestock reside.
Twenty-six kindergarteners were rounded up from afternoon recess on that sloppy day and herded toward the bench in the back of the room to change out of our outside clothes and get back to our inside wardrobe. The moment after recess was when I had my snack each day. I'd take it out of the small gift card box Mom would pack it in and carry it back to my desk with me to eat. My classmates were used to my routine by that point, but they'd still like to check and see what was on my plate that day. Elsie does okay in the cooking department. I frequently had some kind of delicious baked good.
On this particular day for some reason, Elsie didn't have anything baked for me. She went with the next best thing — something from the good people at Hostess. I liked Hostess Cup Cakes and Ding Dongs, but my absolute favorite was the Hostess Suzy-Q. That's probably because the serving size was considerably bigger than the other Hostess products, but it seemed to me to be the perfect combo of chocolate and delicious crème filling.
I got my Suzy-Q out of the box, unwrapped it and set it down on the bench next to me before I turned around to grab something else and head back to my desk. At that very moment, my friend Steve was next to me, getting himself transformed from recess-to desk-wear in short order so as not to be late and get chewed out by our teacher. Steve was in a hurry and took off his coat as he pulled off his farm-strength boots and set them down in one smooth motion . . . right on top of my Suzy-Q!
Did I mention it was a lovely, sloppy spring day? Did I mention our playground was not 100% paved?
Steve looked at me without saying a thing as his eyes started to pop out of his head. Then he picked his boots up and set them down on the floor.
My Suzy-Q looked like a combination of a car wreck and a volcano eruption. There was crème filling oozing out the sides. There were dents made by Steve’s boot prints in the top layer. The cosmetic stuff was something I could live with, I decided. The problem was that all of the gravel, sand and melting snow from the bottom of Steves's well-treaded boots left a layer of what amounted to some kind of crude mortar across my Suzy-Q. Had my Suzy-Q been the United States, FEMA would have been called in to assess the damage that ran from the Smoky Mountains, to Miami, to San Diego, to Seattle and everywhere in between.
It didn't take long, but Steve and I made an important decision. He made a swipe across my Suzy-Q with his hand to get the really coarse material off. I used a bit more finesse and got more of the finer particles off.
“Oops. You can still eat it,” Steve informed me after we made our kindergarten sterilization move. Obviously, Steve felt this rather granular Suzy-Q would be good for me. Steve’s folks raised chickens. He must have figured I had a gizzard and needed a certain quantity of grit in my diet.
Eating this thing wasn't remotely appealing, but all I knew was that Mom had always told me I HAD TO eat my snack every day, no matter what. If I didn't, I'd get sick. Really sick. If any critters ever got really sick at home, it seemed like the rendering truck full of dead stuff showed up and hauled them away. My option appeared to be that I could either eat this compromised Suzy-Q, or I could skip it and I'd probably leave school in the rendering truck.
Decisions, decisions. Rules are rules, so I swallowed hard and began to eat my mineral-enhanced Suzy-Q.
History (and probably Wikipedia) should reflect that The Five-Second Rule for Food Dropped on the Floor was invented by Steve and me at that moment. There was no time for extensive testing of our new theory. My life was in the balance, after all.
Pay attention the next time you go to the grocery store. You will notice that the engineers at Hostess have not yet come up with the new Hostess Suzy-Q With Sawdust & Grape Nut Sprinkles.
That's sure what it tasted like I was eating that day. Rules are rules, though, so I didn't think I had any choice BUT to eat it.
Even so, I've pretty much avoided Hostess Suzy-Qs ever since. Ding Dongs, Ho-Hos and Cup Cakes were a whole lot less gritty, from what I remember. They had a much smaller carb footprint.
Guy No. 2