It’s hard to overestimate the impact of Twinkies on the food culture of America. With some 500 million Twinkies produced a year, each packing 150 calories, shaving 75 billion calories from the American diet definitely contributes a whole lot to our children’s health.
Contemplate the many urban legends about the indestructability of Twinkies. Did you know they are made with the same chemical used in embalming? Or that they last 5, no 15, no 50 years? even though Hostess claims no more than 25 days. Then, lament that Twinkies were once made with real fruit to celebrate the seasonality of strawberries.
When World War II and rationing hit, the vanilla cream Twinkie was born along with an explosion in its popularity. At about this time, American food culture was born. Industrialization and the processing of cheap food was not only condoned, it was glorified. It’s not formaldehyde that keeps these little cakes feeling fresh, it’s the lack of any dairy products in the vanilla “cream”.
The culminating absurdity of this food icon was the “Twinkie defense”, a defense proposed in the 1979 murder trial of Dan White by his lawyers, who argued that his junk food obsession among the evidence of his supposed altered state of mind.
Enter the new age of artisanal Twinkies, where these nostalgic little cakes are made fresh with red devil batter in trendy, retro bakeries. Now we might still question the nutritional value of sugar loaded anything, but it’s sometimes hard to resist a tasty little treat that reminds of us of our childhood.