This is an American tale, recounting the story of a food stuff that has shaped several generations of North Americans. The Twinkie looks innocent enough, almost enticing beneath its plastic silky sheen. However, strip back that veneer of gentillesse and you are confronted with a monster of the manufacturing age. Read on to discover the soft, and sometimes sinister, underbelly of the American Twinkie.
A Twinkie is described as a 'golden sponge cake with creamy filling'. It's four inches long and is indeed a golden colour with a dark caramel-coloured base. It also has three puncture marks on its underside which is where the white creamy filling has been inserted.
The Twinkie was invented in 1930 by James Dewar, a bakery manager from Schiller Park, Illinois. He thought up the name after seeing a St Louis advertising hoarding that was promoting Twinkle Toes Shoes.
The Twinkie is one of several snacks produced by Hostess. Other products include the Ho-Ho and the Ding Dong.
Twinkies have an exceptionally long shelf life.
According to the official website, West 20th Street in Cleveland, Ohio has changed its name to Twinkies Lane. This is just one indicator of how high the Twinkie appears in the national psyche. There are obviously certain emblems that are sacred - Uncle Sam, the bald eagle and, evidently, the Twinkie.
The humble Twinkie weighs in at 43g but packs in 150 calories (45 from fat alone). The website tells us that that the Twinkie actually has 160 calories. However, it's not the intention of this Entry to quibble over ten measly calories that you'll burn off just undoing the plastic wrapper.
There is an incredible man in Shelbeyville, Indiana, who has eaten over 21,500 Twinkies in his lifetime. What is incredible is that he is alive and not obese. Louis Browning is a marvel of the modern age and a testament to the worship of the Twinkie.
Did you know there's even a mascot called Twinkie the Kid? He wears a rather natty little scarf, a cool hat à la John Wayne and is in a Wild West setting. Yeeeeeee-haaaaaaaa!
Exploring the Twinkies Official Website exposes a plethora of animals and people who just love Twinkies. It will also give you an in-depth timeline of the history of the Twinkie.
What Makes a Twinkie?
The list of ingredients of a Twinkie is a veritable Who's Who of the food chemical world and the following is a list of ingredients as provided on a ten-pack of Twinkies. Take a deep breath:
- Enriched Wheat Flour - enriched with ferrous sulphate (iron), B vitamins (niacin, thiamine mononitrate [B1], ribofavin [B12] and folic acid).
- Corn syrup
- High fructose corn syrup
- Vegetable and/or animal shortening - containing one or more of partially hydrogenated soybean, cottonseed or canola oil, and beef fat.
- Whole eggs
How's your stomach? Really? Oh dear... Well hold tight because Twinkies also contain 2% or less of:
- Modified corn starch
- Cellulose gum
- Leavenings (sodium acid pyrophosphate, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate)
- Corn flour
- Corn syrup solids
- Mono and diglycerides
- Soy lecithin
- Polysorbate 60
- Calcium caseinate
- Sodium stearol lactylate
- Wheat gluten
- Calcium sulphate
- Natural and artificial flavours
- Caramel colour
- Sorbic acid (to retain freshness)
- Colour added (yellow 5, red 40)
But Is It Good for You?
One 43g Twinkie contains 2% of the recommended daily amount (RDA) of iron but none of the RDA for vitamins A and C and calcium. Each cake has 5g of fat (2g of which are saturated), 20mg of cholesterol, 2000mg of salt, 25g of carbohydrates (of which 14g is sugar), 1g of protein and absolutely no fibre whatsoever.
So although not devastatingly bad for you, taken in moderation, Twinkies can truly be an ideal snack.
A Tale of Two Twinkies
So far, you may think that the Twinkie is an innocent by-product of the 20th-Century mass manufacturing phenomenon. And you'd be right. However, the following two experiments will show the sinister side of this apparently innocuous object.
The Gremlin Factor
Do you remember Gremlins, the film about the cute little animals that transmogrify into heinous, thoroughly unappealing critters? Well, the same principle applies to the Twinkie.
For this experiment, you'll need one Twinkie and a high ball glass three-quarters full of water. Simply place the unwrapped Twinkie submerged in the water and leave it for 15 minutes.
When you return, your innocent Twinkie should have transformed into some kind of primeval goo from which several new species could evolve. Surprisingly, it still has its golden hue. If it looks like that in a glass after 15 minutes, how do you think it looks in your stomach after half an hour?
Best not think about it, eh?
This experiment can be dangerous, so be warned. You'll need a microwaveable bowl/plate, one unwrapped Twinkie and plenty of cleaning products.
Basically, shove your Twinkie on the plate and microwave for about one minute. One of two things will happen:
Your Twinkie will explode, covering your microwave in countless flecks of sponge, piping hot cream and burnt cake. Do not open the oven straight away as the Twinkie is hot. Leave it for a minute or two, don your best rubber gloves and scrub away.
If your Twinkie doesn't explode, it will burn instead, saturating your kitchen and clothes with a curious burnt plastic smell that will permeate your skin, your walls and your very dreams. If you smell the Twinkie burning, turn off the microwave and leave it alone for several minutes as it may explode for a while after.