Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Resurrecting The Past: Hostess Choco Bliss (Part 1: The Past)

Twinkies, the de facto face of the Hostess company

The Hostess company has been getting a lot of press lately for threatening to go out of business.  It seems like every year or two we hear new reports about the demise of the maker of Twinkies, Hostess Cupcakes, Ho Ho's and many other confectionary treats.  It looks like this time it might actually happen.  I actually regret not buying one last box of Twinkies before they all disappeared off the shelves.  It really didn't seem possible that I could walk into a store and not see Hostess products for sale, but that is the way things are at the moment.  It would seem that Twinkies have become a victim of the times.  People are more health conscious today.  Yes, there will always be people who will buy Twinkies and other fat, sugar and cholesterol-laden treats, but nowadays there just aren't enough of them to sustain a gigantic company like Hostess.  I'm as guilty as anyone for the company's downfall.  I have a huge sweet tooth and admit to still loving the taste of those golden, creme-filled cakes that have been rumored to be able to outlast cockroches after the apocalypse.  Yet, even though I could probably be happy eating a package of Twinkies a day I do realize that's not a good idea.  Just to get a taste of them I'll buy a box or two a year.  That's not going to keep Twinkie The Kid from joining the ranks of the unemployed.  I have no doubt that we'll see Twinkies again one day--when another company swoops in and buys the reicipe and name from Hostess (or whatever legal title owns the rights at the time).

Hostess Choco Bliss
Anyway, I thought this would be a good time to talk about another in the long line of Hostess products: the Choco Bliss.  This fabled snack was introduced back in the mid-1980s--a time when I was a youthful teenager with a taste for sweets.

Choco Bliss were billed as a "Chocolate Lover's Dream", and it was hard to argue with that description.  Check out the expressions on the faces of these kids and adults from the only two commercials for Choco bliss that can be found on YouTube.  They may be staged, but looking at these ecstatic expressions you can get an idea of what the experience of diving into a Choco Bliss was like for a chocolate lover in the 80s.  I won't mention anything about the apparent use of vague sexual imagery used in these ads, other than to acknowledge it.  Judge for yourself.

So, what made Choco Bliss a "Chocolate Lover's Dream"?  Well, the cakes in a package of Choco Bliss were larger than Twinkies.  From what I remember they rivaled the size of Hostess' other giant snack cake, Suzy Q's.  Granted I was only a young teenager at the time and they might have seemed larger to my not-yet-fully-grown hands, but  did eat Suzy Q's at the time so it should be a valid comparison.

Like Suzy Q's, a Choco Bliss consisted of two oversized devil's food cake sticks with a creamy layer in between.  While the Suzy Q had (and still has) a white creme center Choco Bliss had a chocolatey middle layer.

Then, just to cement Choco Bliss' place in the heart of dreaming chocolate lovers, another layer of chocolate icing was applied to the top, making a total of four layers of chocolate (three completely different ones) in a single snack!  The two non-cake layers were different from each other too: the top one was a denser, frosting-like covering or icing with lines running the length of the cake while the middle layer had a creamier consistency and a lighter color.

Unfortunately, the Choco Bliss went the way of the dinosaur a few years later.  I don't know exactly when they stopped being produced, but can't recall seeing them on shelves in the early 1990s.  It seems like they had a rather short heyday compared to gray-beards like Twinkies, Hostess Cupcakes and Hostess Fruit Pies.  Chocolate lovers everywhere must have lamented the demise of Choco bliss while diabetics probably rejoiced.

Image from Choco Bliss ad that could just as easily be a tombstone for the long-gone snack

Back in the 1980s I was a fan of most snack treats made by Hostess and other companies like Drake's and Little Debbie.  I don't recall having a favorite.  Sometimes I would get Twinkies.  Other times it would be an Apple or Chocolate Pie, Cupcakes or Suzy Q's.  It all depended on what I felt like that day.  About the only thing I wouldn't eat was Snowballs because I don't like coconut.  While I might not have considered Choco Blss to be my official "favorite" I had a friend who swore by them.  He frequently called them a chocolate lover's dream and I actually thought he made the line up himself until I realized it was on the packaging of the cakes.  All these years later we still recall those heady days when you could buy a quick overload of chocolatey goodness at the corner store whenever the craving hit.  There are plenty of chocolate-based sweets available in stores today, but nothing really seems to compare to what Choco Bliss offered a hungry, snack-seeking world.  A lot of this feeling can be attributed to the fact that Choco Bliss hasn't existed for so many years.  A nostalgia for the "good old days" and looking at the past through rose-colored glasses might add some extra goodness to what Choco Bliss actually was, but it does seem true that nothing has really come along in the ensuing years that really compares to them.

Here are the two commercials for Choco Bliss from the 1980s that have provided most of the photos for this installment of of Resurrecting The Past.  The first one is geared toward kids.  Check out this post about the ad from the site X-Entertainment for an absolutely hilarious moment-by-moment dissection of the commercial.

The second commercial shows that Choco Bliss cakes weren't simply kids' stuff.  A man and a woman in this ad can't hide their excitement as they partake of the embarrassment of chocolatey riches provided by their beloved snack cakes.

Many months ago I got to thinking about Hostess Choco Bliss once again.  I was trying to think if there was anything out there that was similar to them.  A less-than-exhaustive search provided three contenders, but none of them could measure up (literally or figuratively) to Choco Bliss.  I'm not a cook by any means, but I decided that the only choice was to make an attempt to recreate (in some small way) the magic that Hostess had captured during the short but sweet reign of the Choco Bliss.  Part Two of this blog will detail that mission.  Stay tuned and stay hungry...

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Seven Years of Monster Dad

Seven years?  Really?  Well, no.  The blog Monster Dad has actually only been around for about two-and-a-half years.  But, my Little Monster was born seven years ago today!  While the term didn't exist yet, on that day I first became Monster Dad.

I didn't start inundating The Little Monster with all the old monster movies and other interests of mine that I've shared with her until she was a couple years old.  At first she was simply a baby, and I was simply a new father who had no idea what to do or just how much life was about to change.  Fatherhood has been a real "adventure" and a true life-changer (naturally).  Of course a few years later we just had to do it all over again and now have two of these Little Creatures underfoot.  The whole experience has at times been much scarier than some of the monster movies I love, but it has also been rewarding too.  And it definitely helped that The Little Monster was willing to indulge some of my interests--and even seemed to enjoy many of them herself.

Watching "Star Wars: Episode IV" together at my 40th birthday backyard drive-in party

Preparing to watch "Ghostbusters" on the big screen last month

Preparing to watch "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" at the local library

Now that she is seven we are starting to really see evidence of her "growing up", and I don't like it one bit.  The Little Monster recently lost the second of her two front teeth.  The Wife informed me told me that she asked her if the Tooth Fairy was real after she found her tooth replaced by a five dollar bill (inflation is a real killer!).  While certainly a valid question and concern, it was the first time The Little Monster has questioned the reality of something that most little kids simply accept as the truth.  I wonder if Santa is next?  Yikes!  Luckily, she still has some of that innocent side in her.  She still asks me "Daddy, is this real?" pretty much whenever we see anything even slightly scary in a movie or TV show that we watch.  She's growing up, but I still love to see that childish (not in a negative) sense of imagination that allows her to be frightened by stuff that in reality isn't all that scary!

I know that as The Little Monster gets older and older we'll have less and less in common as far as my geeky interest in all the old and childish things that have captivated me since I was a kid myself.  But I'll always cherish the time we've spent together and all the things we've watched, read and experienced as Monster Dad and Little Monster!  How many kids of the 2010's have an appreciation for not only Barbie, Disney Princesses and Spongebob Squarepants, but also old Godzilla movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Bigfoot, The Abominable Snowman, The Loch Ness Monster, Tom Baker-era "Doctor Who", Styx's song "Mr. Roboto", old (1960s-70s) cartoons like Spiderman and Scooby-Doo, and even classic old-time-radio shows like "The Dark" and "The Chicken Heart"?

Here's "The Dark" and "The Chicken Heart"
in case you are interested in hearing them

Here are a few more of the many special moments from the past seven years:

The Monsters watching "A&C Meet Frankenstein" last year

The Monsters watching "The Berenstain Bears Meet Bigpaw"

Godzilla preparing to go for a stroll with Finz

Hanging with Penny Dreadful and Garou of the show "Shilling Shockers"
(Note Witch Barbie)

Passing an old Abominable Snowman children's book of mine on to a new generation

Watching "The Incredible Shrinking Man" for the first time last year

The climatic tarantula scene from "The Incredible Shrinking Man"

While I wouldn't try to say that these things will serve her well as an adult in her pursuit of an education and a successful career, I can't help but think that she'll be just that much more well-rounded as an individual (even if it's only in some small, weird way) with all these odd things enjoyed in her childhood.  I could be wrong, but I'd like to think that I'm not.  Only time will tell...

Which reminds me...  A long time ago I wrote about the problems I have with Time and the passage of Time (in Monster Dad vs. Time).  Looking at my Little Monster as a seven-year-old and seeing how much she's grown up has only reminded me of just how cruel and uncaring Time really is.  What happened to that little baby who would fall asleep in my arms as I read books to her at bedtime?  Where is the little girl who fit into that tiny dragon costume she wore at Halloween a few years back?  How can it be that she is now in first grade, learning so much and growing so much every day?  Before I know it she's going to be older than I was when I first discovered all the wonderful things of my youth that I've been sharing with her.  I was about to suggest that maybe someday she will be sharing some of those same interests with her own children, but THAT thought would be the ULTIMATE terror for this particular Monster Dad!