Katy Burns: Digesting the Twinkies frenzy
Twinkies are dead! No, they’re not! Long live the Twinkie! Oops, looks like they’re gone. And now let us mourn. And hoard!
We thought politics brought out emotions in people. Ha! That’s nothing compared with the avalanche of passion evoked by the announcement of Hostess Brands to close its bakeries around the country. There would be no more Twinkies.
Now I have to confess that the seductive magic of Twinkies has always eluded me. I belong to that tribe which insists there is no gustatory god worth worshiping if it is not at least 60 percent chocolate. But it was clear from the torrent of lamentations arising across the land that most of my fellow Americans did not share my disdain for the strange yellow sponge cake concoction.
And the drama of the Twinkie demise gripped almost all of us.
After the mental and emotional torture of the closely and bitterly fought – and interminable – presidential campaign, it was a relief for everyone involved to turn their attention to this brilliant American invention, the seemingly indestructible packaged mini-cake.
People penned reminiscences of the things. Websites and newspapers, including the august New York Times, carried recipes for homemade Twinkies. A petition asking the president to nationalize Twinkies was even filed on the White House’s Voice of the People website and acquired more than 3,500 signatures before it disappeared.
In a Times column, Denise Grady lamented the loss to the world of classroom science. It seems her husband, a science teacher, had found Twinkies to be cheap and versatile subjects of a series of experiments said to have been devised at Rice University in 1995.
They can’t be burned unless soaked in alcohol, but they can be toasted, like marshmallows. If soaked in water they “swell up grotesquely, turn pale, ooze and then fall apart if you touch them.” And microwave them? Just a one-word answer: “Don’t.”
A scientist regaled listeners on NPR with his deconstruction of a Twinkie’s 37 ingredients. When he got to the changes petroleum goes through before becoming an allegedly edible “food” additive – and apparently a key ingredient in that “creamy” filling – the interviewer begged him to stop.
And how about Wikipedia? Turns out, it’s a treasure trove of Twinkie trivia for those of us with too much time on our hands.
For example, the alleged indestructibility of Twinkies
has been featured in at least four feature films, including 2008’s animated Wall-E. Some 700 years after pollution
had made the Earth mostly
uninhabitable for organic life forms, a Twinkie, still pristine in its plastic wrapper, is spotted perched on what has become a global landfill.
The popularity of the deep-fried Twinkie, introduced at the Texas State Fair in 2002, spread swiftly through the nation, and the delicacy has been a staple at almost all fairs, a number of ballparks and even in restaurants specializing in fried food.
And in 1999, President Bill Clinton included Twinkies in a millennium time capsule destined to be opened in 2100.
As all this Twinkie mania exploded, so did the demand for the things.
Twinkies flew from shelves in stores the country over. Many were snatched up by self-styled entrepreneurs who figured they could retire on the profits they’d make from fellow Americans yearning to lay in lifetime supplies of the Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling.
Or at least, as one slightly less ambitious eBay seller plaintively put it, “Money will be used to pay for school for my kids.”
All the Twinkie offers I saw sensibly promised “unopened,” and virtually all the sellers added, wisely, “Returns: Not accepted.”
Some buyers were said to be paying up to 10 times the old retail price of Twinkies. I saw some eBay vendors asking for $99.99 for 10 packages of the things.
By last Monday afternoon – just before word of a possible reprieve spread through the Twinkiocracy – there were 20,000 eBay sellers hawking Twinkies. There was a brief lull in trading, but by Wednesday amid reports that the rescue had failed, the number of Twinkie sellers began again to rise.
Twinkies weren’t the only offerings. Hostess Foods is – or was, anyway – a treasure trove of quintessentially American snack foods (using a fairly liberal definition of “food”). The nation – the world! – is about to lose Ding Dongs, Zingers and Sno Balls. Not to mention Wonder Bread, causing many to say, “Wow! They still make Wonder Bread?” And now, of course, the answer is, “Well, no, not anymore.”
A few of the snacks – but only a few, alas – were included with Twinkies on eBay. And certainly no Wonder Bread.
Twinkies were the clear stars of the Hostess Products line. People who know about such things opine with assurance that some other manufacturer is bound to buy the Twinkie line, particularly given the flood of publicity.
So, Twinkie addicts, your fixes are likely safe. But you Ding Dong and Sno Ball fans? Not to mention Wonder Bread aficionados? Alas, you might just be out of luck. Unless they acquire a second life on eBay.
But cheer up. At least that wretched presidential campaign is over.
(Monitor columnist Katy Burns lives in Bow.)