An unexpected gift of Twinkies
Words by Traction Alumni, Kele Todd
A friend recently mailed me a box of Twinkies for my birthday. I had no idea she was sending them, and opening the box an unexpected wave of childish glee washed over me. I hadn’t even thought about Twinkies since I was a kid. A montage flashed through my mind: summer, friends, smiles and the simple pleasure of a tasty wedge of cake. I couldn’t wait to tear into them.
Before I got my trembling hands on a single Twinkie however, it was suggested that since Hostess has so recently gone belly-up it might be wise to auction these things on Ebay rather than actually eat them. I considered the idea, weighing the value of a brief spike of pleasure against the happy windfall of free money. A few key-strokes revealed that Twinkies aren’t really going for that much online, and I have no self-control anyway, so nostalgia and sugar quickly won out.
You may be reassured to know that Twinkies are still the spongy yellow confections that you remember from so long ago, but it’s a fair bet that they taste better in your memory than they do in real life. I was surprised, a little startled even, to discover that Twinkies are no longer the soft, moist and lovely things I’d remembered them to be. Yes, they are still sponge-like; but much more like a kitchen sponge than any kind of cake. They are dry, oddly so, and tougher than any cake should be. What I had remembered as a torrent of cream flowing through the center of a Twinkie is in fact a miserly little stream lying apathetically in the center of a dusty yellow arroyo of confection. Curiously, though they are in fact sweet, it’s not a pleasant sort of sweetness at all. Rather, it’s a thin and aggressive sweetness, strangely devoid of body or that blithe satisfaction I remember so fondly from my childhood
Eating a Twinkie was so much less satisfying than I had expected it to be that it felt like a personal ‘fuck you’ from the Hostess factory itself. Sitting there at my desk, deflated at having saccharine memories from my childhood so casually dismantled, I grabbed the box to see what these things were made of. Reading through the ingredients I was surprised to learn that ‘enriched bleached wheat flour’ was the very first one; funny, I’d always thought that Twinkies were entirely synthetic. The third, fourth and fifth ingredients were all various kinds of sugar however, which I found both nauseating and sort of reassuring. The ingredient list went on to include much of what you’d expect in a pastry: baking soda, cornstarch, whole eggs and so on, finally ending on the vaguely sinister-sounding ‘red 40’.
Much would seem to be uncertain at the Twinkie factory, however. Some of the ingredients are puzzlingly vague: partially hydrogenated vegetable AND/OR animal shortening, cottonseed AND/OR canola oil, MAY contain peanuts. Not even the makers of these ugsome little treats are entirely sure what’s in them. But what they can tell you is that they will remain ‘fresh’ for about another year; my box of Twinkies expires in December 2013.
No one eating a Twinkie is under any illusions about their nutritional ‘value’. It must be some kind of tongue-in-cheek in-joke at the Twinkie factory that they print the nutrition stats on the side of the box at all. What’s more, the nutritional values are wisely separated into two columns: one for a single cake, and one for anyone who can bear to choke down the actual ‘serving size’ of two whole cakes. I doubt very much that a person inclined to do that even knows what nutrition is, let alone cares to know anything about it.
Still, it’s the thought that counts, and I have to say that I found it touching that my friend would bother to send me a box of joyless yellow phalluses all the way from Miami. Though I don’t find these things appetizing myself, I’m sure that many of the neighborhood hobos will. In fact, that may be just the sort of demographic that Hostess should have been trying harder to exploit: junkies, drunks, vagrants and tramps - in other words, people too out of their gourd to know any better.
Upon further reflection, it seems both a more entertaining and more humanitarian thing to smash these Twinkies against someone’s face in slow motion than to distribute them to an already unhealthy group of people. Here you go -