Twinkies! Can we talk?
I’m eating a Twinkie. Really. Why? Because I had a craving for a Twinkie. I haven’t eaten a Twinkie in years and when I saw a box on the grocery shelf, I thought, “I must have that Twinkie.” So bought it, I’m eating it, and it’s good. Kind of good. In a bad good sort of way.
Being me, I had to know more about Twinkles, so to quote my dad, “Time to do a little research.”
The first thing I found out is that I’m not eating my Twinkie alone. Americans spent 45 million dollars on Twinkies in the past year. Lewis Browning, a retired milk-truck driver, has been eating one or two Twinkies a day for 64 years. The 22,000 Twinkies he’s eaten have earned him an appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and a lifetime supply of Twinkies from Hostess. Philip Delaplane, 50, a chef and instructor at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, says he’s loved Twinkies since he was a child. So does his wife, Pam. For their wedding, Delaplane built a four-tier wedding cake out of Twinkies and other Hostess snack cakes. Although he had back-up desserts in case guests balked at eating junk food, he needn’t have worried. “They devoured the cake,” he says. “I had used toothpicks to attach the snack cakes to Styrofoam forms and they just yanked them all out. It was the talk of the wedding.”
The ladyfinger-shaped sponge cakes were invented in 1930 by James A. Dewar, the vice-president of Continental Bakeries, which sold under the Hostess brand. Dewar sought to put the machines used to make cream-filled strawberry shortcake to good use when strawberries were out of season and the machines normally sat idle. So he got an idea to create a banana cream-filled cake. That’s right. Originally, Twinkies were filled with banana cream, which I suppose explains why they chose to make them look as they do. During World War II, however, bananas became scarce. Hostess then decided to switch to vanilla cream. This ended up being much more popular than the banana-filled version, so when bananas became readily available again, they chose not to switch back. The name “Twinkie” was also thought up by James Dewar. On the way to a marketing meeting, he saw a billboard advertising “Twinkle-Toes Shoes,” and thought up the name “Twinkies.”
By the 1950s, Twinkies had become a school lunchbox staple. In 1999, President Bill Clinton and the White House Millennium Council selected the Twinkie to be preserved in the nation’s millennium time capsule, calling it an enduring American icon.
Here are a few more fun Twinkie facts:
- Did you know that Twinkies are really a sponge cake made from a chemical reaction that causes a cake-like material to foam up. It is then colored dark brown at the bottom to give the appearance of being baked? Okay, I lied. Here is the boring truth: Twinkies are really baked and their primary ingredients are flour, sugar and eggs. However …
- Twinkies do contain a chemical used in embalming fluid which helps account for some of their extreme longevity. Okay, that is not true either, but it sounded interesting.
- Twinkies are filled with cellulose gum, which gives Twinkie cream its smooth feel. Another place you can find this cellulose gum is in rocket fuel. This means (to me) that Twinkies will give you a boost of energy!!
- Chicago is the American city with the highest per capita consumption of Twinkies. Go Chicago!
- Corn Dextrin gives Twinkies their sticky crust. You’ll also find this dextrin in various glues. For instance, the glue that you find on the back of envelopes is corn dextrin. This means (to me) that when you eat a Twinkie, you won’t be hungry for a while. They stick to the bones!
- Hostess churns out more than 1,000 Twinkies per minute, or about 500 million per year. The cakes are each baked for 12 minutes, injected with cream, flipped over so the round bottom is now the top, then packaged for shipping. They don’t last forever on the grocery shelf, but they do have a shelf life of about 25 days.
- Twinkies contain 150 calories.
- When Minneapolis city council candidate George Belair served Twinkies and other refreshments to two senior citizens’ groups in 1985, he was indicted for bribery in what the newspapers dubbed, “Twinkiegate.” Although the charges were eventually dropped, the case led to a Minnesota fair campaign act, popularly known as the “Twinkie Law.” The law was repealed in 1988.
- And, of course, there’s the famed courtroom defense in the 1979 trial of former San Francisco supervisor Dan White, accused of shooting the city’s mayor and another supervisor. White’s attorneys argued that he suffered from severe depression that had been exacerbated by junk food binging. Although Twinkies were only mentioned in passing, the term “Twinkie Defense” was quickly coined by journalists to explain the legal strategy that led to White’s conviction on a lesser charge.
- If you put a Twinkie in your microwave, it will blow up in 45 seconds.
Stay tuned for Twinkie and Explosive’s part 2, in which Cole will blow up a Twinkie with a firecracker (I’m a little embarrassed Aunt Carla did not think of this one … is she slowing down just a bit? Gee, I really hope not.)
Do you like Twinkies?
Odd Loves Company,
A Few Odd Twinkie links