Thursday, January 12, 2012

On Life After Twinkies

HALLIE EPHRON: Imagine life without Twinkies? In the news this week, Hostess Brands filed for bankruptcy.

I've never been a Twinkies fan, but I love the word. Just for example, from a Seinfeld show, Jerry describes Newman: "He's a mystery wrapped in a Twinkie." It doesn't even have to make sense to be funny.

And in Blue Man Group, the blue men watch intently as a volunteer from the audience tries to eat a Twinkie with a knife and fork. Do not ask me why this is hilarious. It just is.

And even though I may have eaten four of them in my entire life, just say the word and I can smell those sugary vapors that escape when you tear open the package. I remember what it's like to bite the yellow sponge-rubbery cushions of cake and into white filling with the resistance of shaving cream. I can feel the oleaginous residue left (for hours) on the roof of the mouth.

An entire book (Steve Ettlinger's "Twinkie Deconstructed") is devoted to analyzing its ingredients. There’s no cream in the “cream” filling and no egg in the yellow spongy cake. The book’s table of contents is the Twinkies ingredients list. Turns out sugar, corn sweeteners and corn thickeners, and petroleum figure prominently.

Trolling the Internet, I found recipes:
Deep fried Twinkie (you have to freeze it first, then dip it in batter...)
Twinkie Sushi
Twinkie Burrito
Pigs in a Twinkie

There's a Twinkies Cookbook published Hostess. Amazon's Customers who bought this also bought "Spam: The Cookbook" and "Peeps: Recipes and Crafts...".

I also found a website with a recipe for organic vegan Twinkies. The ingredients list alone is impressive.

* 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
* 1 cup unbleached white flour
* 6 tablespoons light organic cane sugar
* 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
* 1/3 cup expeller pressed canola oil
* ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup, Grade A, dark amber
* ¾ cup vanilla soymilk or rice milk
* 2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
* 2 1/2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

* 7 ounces firm tofu, drained (simmer in water for 5 minutes)
* 4 teaspoons expeller pressed canola oil
* 2 tablespoons maple syrup, Grade A amber
* 3 tablespoons raw light agave syrup
* 6 tablespoons light organic cane sugar
* 3/4 teaspoon very finely grated lemon zest
* 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
* 4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* ½ teaspoon pure coconut extract
* 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
* 1 1/2 ounces of vegan white chocolate melted
* 2 tablespoons arrowroot dissolved in 6 tablespoons soy creamer

There were over 60 comments on that recipe, but not one person had actually tried to make the recipe. One asked if you could substitute Splenda for sugar. That made me spill tea all over myself.

Maybe it's all for the best. After all, I am sad to report that a "Deep-fried Twinky & Pastrami Shop," located in a gas station in Fremont CA closed in 2010. They served a legendary bacon wrapped hot dog and Twinkies.

And maybe they're not that unhealthy. After all, Jimmy Dewar (he invented the Twinkie in 1930) bragged that he was a chain smoker and that he would enjoy at least three Twinkies with a glass of milk before bedtime. He died at 88 and his obituary cited "natural causes."

A Los Angeles man who claimed he ate nothing but Twinkies and drank nothing but Cutty Sark, lived happily for seven years before being run over by a truck.

Just goes to show you.

So, will you be sorry if Twinkies and Ding Dongs go the way of the Dodo?

(Also published on One for the Table.)


  1. I was about to start hoarding Twinkies until yesterday's news that Hostess has enough money to keep making them during their "reorganization." Whew!

    Cathy AJ

  2. And with that brand name, you know some other company will take it over if Hostess completely implodes. But will they change, and would that be a good thing??

  3. I was about to be deeply sad until you told us what's in those things Hallie! Twinkies were one of my favorite treats growing up. I had a terrible crush on a boy in high school who also liked them. So for his birthday, I baked giant Twinkie replicas and filled them with whipped cream. the relationship still didn't take off...

  4. Oh, Lucy, what we do for love. That is soooo sweet.

    I'll bet you anything they're flying off the shelves this week with the news, because after all, don't they "last forever." William Martin just posted on my Facebook page that his mother tried to feed him one that was so old, the filling had turned green.

    Blech! But I'm thinking, maybe The Green Twinkie Diet? Could be a winner.

  5. All right, I snorted at "pigs in a Twinkie." I don't even want to imagine it.

    It may win the prize for least amount of nutrition in a so-called food product.

  6. They used to have a shelf life of 3-4 days, now it's more like 14... so they taste different due to more preservatives... Never liked them after a buddy split one open & found the daily allowance of insect parts incased in the cream... ick. double ick...

  7. Free associating: I once found a yellow and black caterpillar in a box of frozen lima beans. Couldn't eat the things for years. Now when I make them I start with dried beans. Safer that way.

  8. Who knew we would ever think about "life after Twinkies". They have been such a fixture of American life.

    No loss, as far as I'm concerned, but I remember friends being obsessed with them, and Ho-Ho's. One friend made her son a Ho-Ho birthday cake, complete with the plastic wrapper over it. Very cool looking, and probably tastier than the real thing.

  9. I want to be the first to try the vegan recipe but i sure am hell not going to defile the honor (?) of the Twinkie. Be that as it may by fililing any versiin with TOFU. And i like tofu!

  10. This is making me think of moon pies. Anyone heard of them?

  11. Writing on an ipad on a very rough sea this morning

    That was version of a twinkee

  12. I have never eaten a Twinkie, and plan to keep it that way.

    Has anyone seen the film "Koyaanisqatsi" with the scenes from the Twinkie factory?

    Moon Pies are a product of Chattanooga. They're making a comeback. You can buy boxes of them--original, chocolate, banana--at Cracker Barrel.

  13. Your stories of people living long lives on Twinkies will only encourage my brother who believes eating as many preservatives as possible will preserve you from the inside out!

  14. I put a Twinkie tiramisu recipe in my WIP. It was the first thing I ever cooked and I thought it was pretty good even though the comments from my writers group were Ewww! and Gross!

  15. "Koyaanisqatsi" - Just looked it up. Sounds fascinating. Adding it to my Netflix queue.

    Laughing so hard, Barbara - I like that theory. Might put embalmers out of business.

  16. "Make mine an organic Twinkie, but with Splenda."

    Ha! I understand your tea spill, Hallie, had a bit of a coffee snort myself thinking about that paradox.

    I'm only vaguely aware of moon pies, but whoopie pies are a whole 'nother subject.

    In Maine, where eating local has always been the style, these baked goods are a cottage industry, not a corporate product.

    In testament to the strong relationship between Mom and Pop whoopie pie bakeries and Mom and Pop stores, locally-made WPs have a place of honor next to convenience store cash registers throughout the Pine Tree State, an alluring impulse buy to the sweet-toothed among us.

    The classic WP is, of course, chocolate cake discs bookending marshmallow-based filling. But in these foodie times, many variations have emerged. Pumpkin, red velvet, ginger cake. Peanut butter, raspberry, coconut filling.

    I can't remember the last time I ate one, but it's good to know where to find a WP if the need arises.

  17. Ang, now that you mention it, tiramisu can actually taste a little like wet Twinkies. And I'd think they could make the base for a trifle.

  18. WHOOPIE PIES! I was trying to think of what they were called. Never heard of one until I moved to Boston. I've had them made with devil's food caked disks and whipped cream filling. Irresistible.

  19. So you'd eat the middle first, right? Then the cake part?
    I guess I never really liked them, though.

  20. Haaaahahaha! Hallie stop, please. It's too early for this much fun. I need to swallow some coffee without fear!

    I thought I was homesick yesterday. Well now I am planning a whoopie pie mission to my great aunt Helen's in Bangor.

    OK . This is for real. I was sent home from kindergarten in Lynn, Mass, when I was 4-- for eating a Hostess snowball instead of coloring. My parents were so embarrassed they sent me to live with my great/grandmother in Billerica where, at the time, there was no kindergarten. Honest. Yay Hostess!

    I don't think they're going out of business. This is at least the second time they've filed chapter 11.

  21. Yup, Hank - eat the middle of a Whoopie pie first. Oreo cookie style.

    And Reine -- SNOWBALLS! I remember them. Save the coconut/marshmallowy coating for last.

    And I must say, Reine, your parents certainly had a short fuse.

  22. Hah! I was an embarrassment to my parents! Can you imagine! But I loved Billerica. Auntie-Mom came and got me, and I got to live in Marblehead. And I still got into Harvard, where many students eat Twinkies. Hahahahahaaaaaa. Time for my coffee for real, now.

    Hank, don't worry. I'm not going to break my diet. xo

  23. Twinkies--never a favorite. But whoopie pies, especially homemade or from small bakeries--lovely! They are what HoHos are trying (and failing) to be.

    Reine, you're right. This is Hostess' second reorganization. (Wonder why when it's a person it's a bad "bankruptcy," but for businesses it's a "reorganization.")

  24. I've only eaten one Twinkie in my life - not a big sugar fan - but I think some of my friends are about to go into hoarding mode. Sure some other company could take over, but would they ever be the same?

  25. Whoopie pies are what Ho-Hos are trying to be. Brilliant, Linda.

  26. Hallie, you are right about the trifle. For "someone's" birthday Auntie-Mom buys a case of Twinkies, a quart of whipping cream, and a bottle of brandy at Costco and makes birthday party magic.

  27. Oh, Reinie - just the thought of that is giving me a toothache.

  28. A toothache, indeed. shudder

    Moon Pies never appealed to me. They disappeared for many years, until the Vermont Country Store started carrying them in their catalog. Along with Beeman's gum varieties, including Black Jack and clove. I suspect they singlehandedly revived the Pies, et al.

    If it ain't dark chocolate, I ain't interested, these days. A girl has to be careful with calories, you know, so I am selective in which ones go onto my hips. Twinkies, Ho-Ho's, and Moon/Whoopie Pies need not apply.

    I tried making tiramisu for dessert for Easter once. Make that twice, in the same day. It never did turn out right. Should have used Twinkies, I guess, and just poured espresso and cream over them.

  29. Since I didn't grow up in US, I escaped eating Twinkies and never let my kids have them either. I don't like really sweet things--a square of dark chocolate or dark chocolate cookies are more my cup of tea, but I hate to see any icon disappear!

  30. I'm thinking that some icons maybe need to go, Rhys.

    When a food product has a legal defense built around it because its got so much sugar and bad things in it, it's conceivable, if still ridiculous, to blame violent behavior on it than..... well that may be an indicator.

    I'm with you Karen, on dark chocolate. All those eggs, flour and butter are a waste of calories.

    But here on the Vineyard, where I am working at the cafe this morning after a tour of historic homes, they sell home=made whoopie pies under glass on the counter. And it's a good thing, I'm full from lunch or I would e tempted.

  31. Do these things fall under the umbrella of guilty pleasures? I love trifle, but Twinkies not so much. Does anyone remember the miniature baba au rhums that they used to sell in convenience stores? My guilty ppleasure, but they were taken off the market because teens were buying them :)

  32. Whoopie pies, snowballs, Twinkies...I missed out on something as a child! Here's what I remember about junk food at my house: Fig Newtons and yucky home-baked cookies with extra-added wheat germ, brown sugar instead of white (and half the amount the recipe called for too!), whole-wheat flour instead of got it: I NEVER invited my friends over after school. I always mooched to others' houses for the great after-school snacks...

    So, about the Hostess bankruptcy. Can we think of this as a good sign that their brand of petroleum food products don't fly anymore? Or it that too much to hope?

    (Glad to be back; haven't visited for awhile.)

  33. Iil -- Baba au rhum! I remember the first one I ever had from a bakery in Little Italy in New York. It was sublime and very rummy. They really made a packaged version? File it with those over-caffeinated alcoholic drinks that were packaged like soft drinks and were deemed unsafe by the FDA.

  34. Lisa, Welcome back!

    I grew up in a house with only home baked cookies - chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, amazing cinnamon cookies (which I have never been able to duplicate).

    And boy did I feel deprived, too. My idea of heaven was an Oreo.

  35. Oh, so funny, Hallie! Wet Twinkies! Ergghhh. Like Hallie and Lisa, I grew up in a house with "healthy" cookies. (My mom became an Adele Davis follower when I was about twelve, but the sweetest thing I remember having even earlier were my grandmother's homemade snickerdoodles.)

    I did have a brief fling with illicit Twinkies in junior high, eaten in secret in my room while reading romance or fantasy novels. It didn't last. Haven't had a Twinkie since, and have never had a Ho Ho. I think that should be a "thank God."

  36. Ha ha Angelo, the twinkie tiramisu scene is a classic. You all are going to love Ang's character, who writes a column called "cooking with Betty" and can't cook to save his a**!

  37. I have to admit that it has always been a dream of mine to eat a deep-fried twinkie. Okay, at least a bite of one. Overall, I'm not a HUGE hostess fan, but the thought of never eating a Ho-Ho is a bit nostalgically upsetting. And no more snowballs? I think, for me as a kid, they were the closest thing I could get to all those deliciously described cakes and pastries I read about in British books, like Enid Blyton Famous Five series and Arthur Ransome's Swallows & Amazon. I know, almost insulting, but they helped the dream... :)

  38. Becky, that in incredibly sweet.

    So now I'm imagining High Tea with one of those tiered trays. Twinkies and Ho Hos on the bottom tiers; Snowball on the top. (Tea sandwiches of Wonderbread with the crusts removed, filled with orange American cheese and Miracle Whip?)

  39. And peppermint tea in the little plastic "tea-set" cups. It's not like I lived (live?!) in my imagination at all!

  40. I prefer Ding Dongs, but Twinkie's will do, in a pinch. Wasn't it Twinkies that dear Archie Bunker loved in his lunchbox?

  41. I got a sugar high just reading the blog today!

    Never cared for Twinkies, but am I the only one who was crazy for Hostess Cupcakes? Loved the chocolate with the 7 white squiggles on top! Then, after one of our moves, my mother discovered Little Debbie's brand was cheaper so we switched to those.

    Oh, now I've got NRBQ's version of the song "RC Cola and a Moon Pie" in my head. Think I'm highly suggestible?

  42. You're right, LizT...

    Archie gets up set when Edith doesn't put a Twinky(ie?) in his lunch. And when Sammy David Jr. comes to visit, he opens a fresh box of them.

    So what is the singular? Twinky or Twinkie?? Or does that miss the point, since you never eat just one??

  43. Lynn - you got me there. I DO love Hostess cupcakes.

    Best of all, we have a local bakery Babycakes in Quincy MA that make a fabulous version. They'll even squiggle a name over the top (when I ordered 30 for a shower) and they're delicious, made without preservatives and petroleum, and incredibly reasonably priced.

  44. Hallie? Petroleum? Really?

    Hank? Haaaaannnk!

  45. Okay...I've been on a tropical island...I come home and see online that Hostess files for bankruptcy and I think - wow, it must be a slow news day. What's next - cocktail waitess bounces a check?

    I was more of a Devil Dog person myself. Are they still around?BTW, Hallie, absolutely check out Koyannisqatsi. I saw it on the big screen this year with a live orchestra conducted by Philip Glass, the composer of the music. Sooo cool. But I confess I don't remember the Twinkies.

  46. headsmack

    It was Hostess cupcakes, not Ho-Ho's, that my friend made for her son's birthday.

    Aha! RC Cola! I was trying to think of that the other day, and all that came to mind was Dr. Pepper. I loved RC Cola. My grandparents kept those jewel-toned aluminum tumblers in their teeny freezer for beer, but they were awesome for drinking RC Cola from, too.

  47. Ding Dongs! I have been trying to remember tha name ever since I finished reading the blog today!

    I don't really care happens to Twinkies and their relatives. (Sorry, Hostess.) Even when I was growing up, I found most of them to be too sweet. I tried many of them - but NOT at home - had to surreptitiously get them when I was near a vending machine away from the parental eyes - but I rarely tried the same snack twice. (Almost sounds like I'm talking about drugs, doesn't it?!) My parents thoroughly disapproved of all Hostess type snacks so we had to buy and eat them away from home. When I was in college, a friend introduced me to Snowballs. I liked them better than other similar snacks but never made a habit of eating them. My Life-Long Love will always be chocolate,especially the really dark stuff. (I grew up in a family of chocolate addicts.)

  48. Sorry for the typos and for leaving out words. The words were in my head, but did not show up on the screen when I was doing my two-thumbed Kindle typing (in a hurry, because I'm hungry for a non-Hostess snack).

    Gotta go help myself to chocolate ice cream...

  49. ALUMINUM TUMBLERS! Oh, what a memory, Karen - that's gotta be a future blog topic. They had a distinctive taste and feel, and the colors were downright radioactive. Were they safe?

  50. They were so pretty. I think they were safe, since no cooking was involved.

  51. Karen & Hallie, didn't those tumblers come with cottage cheese in them? Or is this one of those famous false memory issues?

  52. No, Reine, this is not a memory issue. Either they came with cottage cheese or they had a commercial on how to pretty up cottage cheese so we would eat it. Remember, it was always on the "diet plate." But then again maybe we share the same memory issues ;)

  53. Oh, Lil . . . the diet plate! An ice cream scoop of cottage cheese instead of mashed potato, three tomato slices, and dry toast! Thank you for the memory endorsement. xo

  54. Wow, I had no memory whatsoever of cottage cheese in aluminum tumblers. Really? The tall ones?

    Which might make sense, in the context of my grandmother. No way would she have gone out and bought such a cool thing. :-)

  55. Karen, my great-grandmother Troy had several stacks, in all their colors, at the camp up north.

  56. I consider myself to be immensely fortunate to have grown up in a home where our desserts were always homemade. My mom and grandmother were both excellent bakers, and everything they made was so superior to store-bought chemical-laden crap. At school my friends always envied my brother and me, and tried to talk us into swapping desserts with them. Ha! No way!

    I will admit to having split a deep fried Twinkie at the County Fair when they first came out. It was ... different. So I won't be shedding any tears if Twinkies go out of production. Besides, I got my fill of chemicals during the 60s, if you know what I mean, and I barely made it out alive. :)

  57. Can't believe that no one mentioned the scene in WALL-E where the robot opens a 700 year old Twinkie and it's still fresh

  58. Other than the jobs that will be lost, I could care less if this junk food making company goes away. America is so obese now it's ridiculous. Maybe someone should learn to make a healthier Twinkie and Ding Dong?