© photo courtesy of J Paul Richards
In recent days the food world is abuzz with the Bankruptcy of an institution in the United States famous for its Twinkie cakes. Yes, sadly Hostess Brands has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.
I have never eaten a Twinkie but I do remember Archie Bunker eating them all the time. All this buzz about the loss of an institution is sad because the Americans are losing yet another Company that employs many workers in an already bad economy, but in the process they are also losing Twinkies. A veritable concoction of ingredients I can’t pronounce in addition to flour and sugar and sugar and sugar. Yet, had I grown up on Twinkies, at my age now, the death of a cake I noshed on all during my growing up years would be cause for concern and sadness; on all levels of my emotional being.
Archie Bunker: Mr. Davis, do you take cream and sugar in your eye?
It made me think about all the so-called confectionary goods we have, in Canada and Quebec, that are sold in our **Depanneur’s and some still family-owned Candy Stores and of course in the Big Box Groceries.
Yes, Canada is home to a lot of homemade Canadian products not sold in the United States, much to a lot of expat’s chagrin. Not just Foie Gras, Maple Syrup, Poutine, Tourtieres, Soupe a l’oignon gratinee…oops off the track…
I should stipulate that Canada is home to a lot of native made chocolate confections not sold or available across the border. That is my next post…detailing some of the more popular Canadian made candy and candy bars that you just can’t get at the Piggly Wiggly.
May West used to be called Mae West before the sex kitten died in 1980, and it is alleged, that in order to avoid a lawsuit by the West estate, May West was trademarked and bought over by the company now producing the sweet snack cake.
It is Canada’s version of the Twinkie.
Mae West, (I CALL IT THE WAY I KNEW IT GROWING – UP WHICH WAS MAE WEST)was named not for the sultry actress as many presumed but for the puffiness of the cake which reminded the baker and developer of the life preservers used during World War II, that had the universal nickname “Mae West”. The inventor, it is said, was a Patissier by the name of Rene Brousseau, a born and bred Quebecer who baked for the popular Vaillancourt Bakery in Quebec City.
In fact, once as a camper, I actually played her in a performance and uttered that bawdy line…“Is that a pickle in your pocket or are you just glad to see me.” and of course, “Why don’t you come up and see me sometime”. I got the accent down pat.
This dessert cake/snack, to this day, remains Quebec’s most popular mass market dessert. It is round with a creamy layer of white icing sandwiched between two vanilla shortcakes and completely covered in a chocolate ganache.
(something about Quebec and the color yellow – used to have a law that margarine had to be colored yellow to differentiate it from butter)
Brousseau died in 2007 at the age of 89 and to that day, he never profited from the popularity of the cake, which took off hot and heavy and remains as vibrant a snack today, as the day the first Mae (May) West came out of the ovens. Jacques Brousseau, son of the late inventor and baker Rene, says that his Dad got a $50.00 bonus when May West’s began selling out and that, although his father lays claim to being the inventor of this delicious after-school treat; there are no legal documents that say otherwise.
I don’t know how I would have gotten through High School without going to the corner store at the bus stop, and sometimes buying two Mae West’s. One was never enough. I will also divulge a secret – on New Year’s Eve 2011 I ate an entire box of 6 mini May West’s. Oh Hell!!! I am going to call it as it was a MAE WEST.
It is still manufactured and still sold in Quebec and remains among the most popular snack foods in the Province of Quebec.
**independently run corner stores in the Province of Quebec.