Most Read: Lifestyle

Trove link goes here

Live Online Discussions

Weekly schedule, past shows

All We Can Eat
Posted at 05:00 PM ET, 01/11/2012

Hostess’ Twinkie: An American icon in trouble

They’re synonymous with American junk food culture. These golden yellow sponge cakes with white filling satisfy an urge all its own — the urge to snack.

For this, these baked goods have become an institution, an American staple for the past 80-plus years. They’re a treat we use to kill time, indulge a sweet tooth, suppress bad feelings or even get the kids to be quiet.

As Hostess filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday morning, the nation collectively gasped over the thought of a country with no Twinkies in its future.
Twinkies: An icon in trouble. (Hostess)

They’ve been called the “cream puff of the proletariat .” They’ve served as a bed for a cockroach in the animated film, “Wall-E.” They’ve been used as a measurement of psycho-kinetic energy in”Ghostbusters,” and they were the basis of a defense argument in a famous murder trial. They’ve been deep-fried, made into wedding cakes and combined with hot dogs . President Clinton and the White House Millennium Council selected them as an American icon for the millennium time capsule.

But the oblong-cakes that are so ingrained in the American lexicon had a humble beginning. They were invented by James A. Dewar, manager of Chicago’s Continental Bakery, in 1930. Dewar wanted to get more use out of the company’s shortcake pans while strawberries were out of season and decided to make the cakes with a banana cream filling instead. The vanilla flavoring eventually took over due to a banana shortage during WWII.

Although the mini-cakes were once a staple of children’s lunch boxes, nutritionists have long derided them for their high fat and sugar content. Dewar defended the sugary confections until his death in 1985, at the age of 88. He claimed to have eaten at least two packages of Twinkies a week and, of course, fed them to his children and grandchildren.

In 2010, Mark Haub, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University, took up the cause to prove that portion control is more important than completely eliminating the tasty cakes. As part of his “convenience store diet,” he ate one every three hours instead of meals for 10 weeks, as well as a mix of other Hostess and Little Debbie snacks for variety. He limited himself to 1,800 calories a day, and in the end, shed 27 pounds to his own amazement as well as many onlookers.

Americans have been gobbling up Twinkies for decades despite health concerns. In 2005, the company was producing about 1,000 Twinkies per minute, and Americans spent around $47 million on them.

The company cites rising labor and ingredient costs rather than a decline in sales. The company will continue operating while it works to restructure labor agreements and costs to hopefully emerge from Chapter 11.

Until then, Twinkie lovers should stock up on the iconic yellow cakes, although not too many. In 2005, a research executive for the Interstate Bakeries Corp., then the parent company of Hostess, swore that the shelf life for a Twinkie was 25 days and that the goodies can not, in fact, survive a nuclear holocaust.

More from Food:

BlogPost : Hostess Brands files for bankruptcy

Timeline: Key dates in the history of Twinkie and Wonder Bread maker Hostess

First look at Fojol Bros.’ Volathai truck

R.J. Cooper to go under the knife

Brands

bankruptcy: Death to Twinkie?

By Cara Kelly  |  05:00 PM ET, 01/11/2012

Categories:  Comfort Food | Tags:  Cara Kelly

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company