When I would plead for Wonder bread instead of wheat as a child, my mother would tell me, as if such a warning would scare me away from the shelf, that it turns to paste in your stomach. She bought a loaf once and demonstrated how each preternaturally moist, alabaster slice could be compressed to the thickness of cardstock. Not only was Wonder bread delicious; it was also apparently a toy. In elementary school I had a friend who would skin his Ho Hos with his front teeth, shaving off the chocolaty coating to expose the cake and cream within. He refused to eat them any other way.

Credit: Ben Calderwood

Credit: Ben Calderwood

Whatever fantasies or fears you may harbor about Wonder and Hostess products, they will be cast in garish relief at the IBC (Interstate Brands Corporation, now Hostess Brands) bakery outlet in Lomita, a paralyzing midway of pies and flame retardant creams, mini-cakes, cookies, dusty pudding cups and dimpled loaves, and the profoundly unsettling Hannah's Big Pickled Sausage. The air is humid with the scent of yeast, high fructose corn syrup and what I can only assume is enough sodium propionate to preserve a blue whale. Here you will find every color of the artificial rainbow in the form of neon fruit pies, hot pink Snoballs, super-saturated yellow Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Raspberry Zingers and Dunkin' Stix–a sweet deal at five for $3.89 or 80 cents each. Wonder Country White and lesser brands like Millbrook and Home Pride are heaped floor to ceiling. You could roll up the entire rack of loaves like a Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad, except this one would never re-inflate. The bread is sold at a cut-rate four for $3.12. Even the prices are strange. It's impossible not to goggle at the full-spectrum display, crammed into a room no larger than a gas station mini-mart and neatly arranged like a stack of Pantone chips. It will make you a little sick, but you'll wind up buying something anyway. Otherwise you're just a tourist.

The IBC outlet website hasn't been updated in a while. It defiantly advertises back-to-school savings. Considering the miserable state of affairs at the LAUSD budget office, your children may indeed find a better breakfast at Interstate Brands.

Wonder / Hostess Bakery Outlet: 2343 Lomita Boulevard, Lomita; (310) 534-5318. Additional locations throughout Southern California.

LA Weekly