Twinkies [wiki], and American icon, and for some, the symbol of junk food, is the snack food that people love (or love to hate). Today, the "golden sponge cake with creamy filling" snack is ubiquitous: it's virtually in every supermarket, gas station, and snack vending machine - but how much do you really know about Twinkies?
Here're some fun facts to ponder while you munch on one of America's favorite snacks:
The History of Twinkies
Twinkies were invented in 1930, at the beginning of the Great Depression by James A. Dewar, a plant manager at Continental Baking Company (Hostess' parent company). At the time, Continental was a relatively new company and Dewar was worried that the company might not survive the hard economic times. He noticed that the company had lots of expensive equipments dedicated to baking “Little Short Cake Fingers,” which was baked for only six weeks a year during the strawberry season. During the rest of the year, the equipment laid idle. Dewar thought that the company can make, and sell, shortcake fingers all year long if they only use a different kind of filling. So he mixed a banana-flavored crème and injected it into the shortcake using three syringe-like injection tubes. And so, a new snack was born.
But what to name it? Dewar was having trouble coming up with a name until he drove past a billboard for the Twinkle Toes Shoes factory in St. Louis. A friend suggested the name “Twinkle Fingers” for the snack, and Dewar shortened it to Twinkies.
Remember that banana-flavored filling? During World War II, there was a shortage of banana, so the filling was switched to vanilla.
Twinkies were first sold in packs of two for 5 cents. Now, they still sell ‘em in packs of two, but for more money.
There are 17 Hostess bakeries across the countries cranking out 500 million Twinkies every year. It takes 40,000 miles of plastic wrap a year to package them. At 150 Calorie a piece, all those Twinkies have the energy equivalent to nearly 51,500 barrels of crude oil.
If you want to know, that comes out to be about 1,000 Twinkies a minute or 16 a second.
There are 39 ingredients in a Twinkie: yes, there are flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, water, and "trace" of egg. The rest of the ingredient list is, shall we say, less natural.
Twinkies and the Law
In 1986, Twinkies were a central figure in a political scandal known as “Twinkiegate“. 71-year-old George Belair, a Minneapolis City Council candidate was indicted for serving coffee, Kool-Aid, Twinkies and other sweets to court the senior citizen votes. This led to the passage of the Minnesota Campaign Act, more commonly known as Twinkies Law. Belair lost the election, and the charges against him were later dropped.
After San Francisco supervisor Dan White killed the city’s mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk at City Hall in 1978, he argued during his trial of diminished capacity after eating too much junk food. This strategy, dubbed the “Twinkie defense [wiki],” apparently didn’t work - he was found to be guilty.
Twinkies and Science
Twinkie with Digital Multimeter, at the T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S. website
In 1995 a now legendary project called Tests With Inorganic Noxious Kakes in Extreme Situations (or T.W.I.N.K.I.E.S.), Rice University scientists Christopher Scott Gouge and Todd William Stadler conducted a series of experiments to determine the physical properties of a Twinkie.
Gouge and Stadler subjected the snack food to the forces of gravity (Gravitational Response Test), electricity (Resistivity Test), water (Solubility test), flame (Rapid Oxidation Test), and radiation. There was even a Turing test, which concluded that “Twinkies are not sentient in any way we can understand.”
Roger Bennatti, a teacher at the George Stevens Academy, wanted to find out the shelf life of a Twinkie, so he hung a pack on the edge of his blackboard (later on joined by a pack of Fig Newtons). That was some 30 years ago "It's rather brittle, but if you dusted it off, it's probably still edible," Bennatti said. "It never spoiled."
The actual shelf life of a Twinkie is 25 days, which is still long for a "baked" product (baked is in quotation marks because Hostess actually never revealed how Twinkies are made ;) ).
It takes 45 seconds to explode a Twinkie in a microwave. It takes only a second for your mom to get mad over the mess you're making by doing so. In cases where the Twinkie doesn't explode, it will emit a burnt plastic smell instead. Either way, your mom will get mad for sure.
Twinkies: an American Icon.
In 1947, Hostess introduced Twinkie the Kid, a Western cowboy cartoon to sell the snack.
Archie Bunker, a character of the 1970s sitcom All in the Family, loved Twinkies. He even called it “the white man’s soul food.” Twinkies have also made appearances in countless Hollywood movies, like Ghostbusters, Grease, and Die Hard.
Americans love Twinkies, too. In 2005 alone, they spent $47 million on the stuff. Actually, most of 'em probably live in Chicago: they eat more Twinkies per capita than anywhere else, earning Chicago the title of “Twinkie Capital of the World.”
The White House put a Twinkie in their time capsule for the new millennium, as “an object of enduring American symbolism.”
Twinkies: a Healthy Food?
Before he died in 1985, Dewar said that Twinkies was “the best darn-tootin’ idea I ever had.” He said that the key to his long life (Dewar lived to a ripe old age of 88) is to “eat Twinkies every day and smoke a pack of cigarettes.”
Maybe eating Twinkies does lead to a long life: another guy that really likes Twinkies is Lewis Browning. The 89-year-old retired milk-truck driver is the undisputed "Twinkie King of the World" for eating at least one Twinkie every day for 64 years! By rough calculation, he has eaten more than 22,000 Twinkies so far. He now has a lifetime supply of Twinkies from Hostess.
Deep fried Twinkies, invented by Christopher Sell and popularized by Chris Mullen, on the other hand, is definitely not healthy. It is made by freezing a Twinkie, then dipping it into a batter and deep frying it.