From My WindowIssue Date: July 1, 2020
By Jane Thibodeau Martin,
Once a week I do a five hour round-trip drive. During these five hours alone I think about all kinds of things, and recently, Twinkies popped into my mind.
"Twinkies" sounds like a crude or rude Facebook term for people who believe something or other " but what I mean is a packaged sweet or dessert that could be found in a prominent location at any grocery or five and dime when I was young. It can be described as "golden sponge cake in an elongated shape, with a creamy filling," always packaged in pairs by a company called Hostess. Hostess went bankrupt in 2012, and besides ongoing labor problems, a focus on healthier eating hastened its closure. The brands were purchased out of bankruptcy by Apollo Global, and eventually returned to shelves in 2013, but I haven't noticed any in years, (although I can't say I have been looking either.) However, a quick look at Amazon showed a box of ten as singles for $17.34, and you can even "subscribe" to have boxes sent to your house on a regular basis. (Wow. That's my reaction to a Twinkie subscription.)
I considered Twinkies a delicacy when I was little. When my mom had a house full of kids, she, like most other Moms I knew, did all her own baking. Mom is noted for her pies and mint bars, but she also baked many cakes and lots of cookies and brownies. Her friend Marilyn was a famous cake maker, and many of our birthdays, confirmations, and high school graduations were marked with one of her delicious and beautiful creations.
But when I was little, being able to pick out my own treat at the store made the Twinkies seem exotic, and I took the home-baked desserts I had frequently for granted. Twinkies shared the shelf with Hostess "Snoballs," cupcakes and Ding Dongs.
As I got older, I lost my enthusiasm for Hostess. Maybe the way they made them changed, or maybe my tastes did, but suddenly the creamy Twinkie filling was overly-sugary and almost gritty. The chocolate frosting with the white swirls on the cupcakes tasted waxy, and I never liked the Snoballs much " half-spheres of dark-colored but tasteless chocolate cake covered with a thick covering of coconut and marshmallow that had a strangely elastic texture. It was stretchy and rubbery, and sometimes tinted pink or green.
As the Amazon listing proves, not everyone has lost their appetite for Twinkies. And that's kind of amazing, since they started making them in 1919. A factory in Kansas can crank out 1,000 a minute, in a highly automated baking process. One data list I saw said over a million packages are sold daily around the world.
So, out of curiosity, I went out hunting Twinkies. I needed to find out if they tasted like I remembered, after at least 45 years since I last had one.
The taste test was conducted using boxes of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and blue-tinted Snoballs. I bought the boxes at a large chain store and paid $3.99 for ten "single" twinkie cakes and ten Ding Dongs and the same $3.99 for six blue-tinted Snoballs. My assistants were my husband, son, daughter in law, and granddaughter.
Snoballs: the blue tinting of the Snoballs was rather off-putting and since we had one person who disliked marshmallow and two who didn't like cocoanut these were not a hit. I remember the cupcakes having a rough texture from actual cocoanut shreds, but now it seems like it is just cocoanut flavoring. The chocolate part of the cupcake was dry. My granddaughter ate one bite, said "sorta good" but then ended up spitting out the mouthful into her napkin. Summary: Not very good and the most expensive per serving of the three samples.
Ding-Dongs: This divided the sampling team. Half liked the frosting a lot, others found it "waxy." My husband noted the thin line of creamy filling in the samples looked nothing like the thick band on the box picture. Still, these weren't bad at all, but a homemade chocolate cupcake would be much better.
Twinkies: First of all, apparently my hands were much smaller last time I had one as I remember them as "big," and they are not. The cake part was kind of chewy, but it is sponge cake, and the filling left a little coating on the tongue. Still the overall taste was pretty good, if not as good as cake from either Marilyn or my mom.
I have two "Twinkie" memories that always make me smile. One is the ultimate "picky eater" story about a Peshtigo child who didn't like the cake part of a Twinkie, and just ate the cream filling out of the center. The other was a Peshtigo resident who was quite fond of these treats. Her family accused her of "stalking" the Twinkie delivery truck so that she could get the freshest possible Twinkies.
This "taste test" was a lot of fun and left me wishing I could get the ingredients to do one on the old penny candy I used to enjoy " licorice pinwheels, blue sputnik bubble gum and Razzles among them.
Happy birthday to the United States of America. There is an expectation that more people than ever will be setting off fireworks at home, with many unwilling to risk exposure to crowds at municipal displays and many community events cancelled to try and control the spread of the virus. PLEASE keep your pets indoors during the day and evening, it is predictable that there will be thousands of people looking for lost pets on July 5, after they fled in terror from the noise. Fireworks are also hard on those who suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, autism and other conditions, so please consider the needs of others. Keep it short if you must.
You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.
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