When I first saw the headlines a few days back on my Twitter feed, I started getting excited, but told myself to calm down. After all, it’s not a done deal yet (it needs to get bankruptcy court approval; a hearing is slated for March 19) and there are many unknowns.
Flowers Foods, which owns the Nature’s Own and Tastykake brands, is the winning bidder at $360 million for the Wonder Bread brand in a deal that includes Nature’s Pride, Merita, Home Pride and Butternut bread brands, plus 20 bakeries. But I have questions: Will they still call it Wonder Bread? Will it be dressed in the same iconic white packaging with the dancing primary-colored balloons? And most importantly: When will I be able to buy some – and where?
Hey, Flowers Foods, Idaho has 17 empty Hostess stores with empty shelves to fill. And I know at least 135 ex-Idaho Hostess employees who would probably love to get a big, beautiful bouquet, er, I mean, hiring package from you in the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, I thought I would take a cue from the Wonder Bread tagline of my youth: “Wonder Bread helps build strong bodies 12 ways.”
Here are 12 Wonder Bread-isms:
- You really can play with your food and eat it. When I was a kid, there was always some cutup rolling his slice of Wonder Bread into a ball or flattening it out like a pancake – and then eating it. Some crafty moms used cookie cutters to make fancy sandwiches. It was marvelously soft and malleable. I bet there have been some pretty awesome art projects made with loaves of it.
- It’s not really a plate of ‘cue without three or four slices of Wonder Bread. I lived in Kansas City for a few years, long enough to know what barbecue is all about. One of the most famous joints is Arthur Bryant’s in the heart of the city – and a favorite of many, including President Harry Truman, Steven Spielberg and Jack Nicholson. President Jimmy Carter loved it so much he once had Air Force One pick him up some Arthur Bryant’s ribs to go. And on every plate? Wonder Bread. Best for barbecue sopping.
- Wonder Bread was so named because Elmer Cline, its first vice president of merchandising development, was crazy about an international balloon race he saw at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He was filled with the “wonder” of it all.
- The iconic balloon on the bread’s white wrapper? That was originally designed by Chicago ad agency artist Drew Miller.
- Wonder Bread was one of the first companies to slice its bread.
- Wonder Bread started adding vitamins and minerals to its formula in the 1940s and 1950s. In the 50s, the tagline was: “Wonder Bread helps build strong bodies 8 ways.” It got up to “12 ways” – with more “nutritional enrichments” – in the 1960s.
- It was one of the first white breads to go whole grain.
- You can still buy Wonder Bread in Canada made by Weston Bakeries and packaged in a blue wrapper with balloons. And in Mexico Wonder Bread is produced by Grupo Bimbo, which, incidentally, is the largest baking company in the world. Bimbo Bread is synonymous for a loaf of bread in Mexico. No joke. It got the name “Bimbo” by combining the words “bingo” and “Bambi” – the company was going for a childlike innocence and it’s just an unfortunate happenstance that our American “bimbo” – which has no relationship to the Spanish word – has a different meaning. It also owns Entenmann’s, Sara Lee and about a bajillion other bakery brands.
- Fans of fluffernutter (marshmallow fluff and peanut butter) sandwiches will cheer for Wonder Bread’s return – they say it’s just not a true fluffernutter without it.
- When I was growing up, I could gauge our family’s financial situation by the presence – or lack thereof – of Wonder Bread in the pantry. And, I have to go with the fluffernutters on this – the sandwich always tasted better – and even made me smile – if it was made with Wonder Bread vs. generic white bread (boo).
- Our lexicon contains several connotations and slang from Wonder Bread – and white bread in general.
- I’m cheered by the return of Wonder Bread. It’s one of those all-American symbols of prosperity. Like the real estate market and the stock market, I look to its return as a sign that things are looking up.Can I dare hope for more? Could Twinkies be next?