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Daddy, What’s a Twinkie?

July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day! How many of you are feeling particularly independent today? I hate to go against the spirit of the holiday, but I’m feeling more dependent on people and institutions than ever.

Not only do I depend on my wife and my kids, but I also depend on my parents and my in-laws. I depend on my children’s teachers and bus drivers. Let’s not forget how much I depend on my readers and commenters. And yes, I depend on the government. Clearly, I don’t depend on the government to uphold the highest standards of integrity for our food supply. But I would like to.

Speaking of America and our food supply I’ve got a funny story. I can’t even tell you exactly how it happened. Because I was so shocked, that it entirely threw me for a loop. But somehow over dinner the subject of Twinkies was raised either by Mrs. Fussy or myself.

Young Master Fussy looks up at me with is big brown eyes and says, “Daddy, what is a Twinkie?”

I was floored. Really this should not be a surprise given our relatively healthful eating habits at home. That, and he doesn’t spend a lot of time at other people’s houses. So it’s only natural that this classic American snack cake would never have appeared on his radar.

But the question hit me like a ton of bricks. Had I gone to far with the healthy eating thing? Am I robbing him of a childhood with my obsessive avoidance of artificial and nasty ingredients? After all, how bad could it be? I ate a few Twinkie’s when I was a kid, and to the best of my knowledge I’m still fine.

Even though he assured me that the other kids in his class had never heard of Twinkie’s before either, there was only one thing to do: buy a box of Twinkie’s.

I was committed to this cause. Sure they’ve got bad things in them. But the body is designed to filter out the bad. That’s why we’ve got kidneys, and his are in fine working order. In fact he’s a beanpole, so if anyone is concerned about ingredients like high fructose corn syrup leading to obesity, they do not have to be worried about my boy.

It’s a good thing he’s healthy too, because even going into it knowing Twinkie’s were super junky, I’m not sure I was fully prepared for this:

Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Corn Syrup, Sugar, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Soybean, Cottonseed and/or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, Dextrose. Contains 2% or Less of: Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium And Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Soy Flour, Cornstarch, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), Yellow 5, Red 40.

Before I gave him one, I decided to try one myself. You know, for science. It had certainly been more than two decades since I last eaten one of these cream filled morsels, and possibly even three.

Wow. Those were bad.

Part of me could kind of justify eating something with this laundry list of nasty ingredients if the product itself was truly tasty. But tough and spongy artificial vanilla flavored cakes filled with a tasteless greasy filling is not my idea of a good time.

Apparently it’s not Mrs. Fussy’s either, because she too felt compelled to release one of these snacks from its cellophane pouch, and put it in her mouth. It’s funny, since Mrs. Fussy will eat almost any disgusting thing as long as it is sweet. And even she will not be pulling a second Twinkie from this box.

Although somehow, Young Master Fussy loves the little suckers. He said that they taste like nothing else he’s tasted before. And I suppose that’s true.

Now at least he’s got a little bit more of mass consumer culture under his belt. Life is going to be hard enough for him when he grows up anyhow. Despite my hatred for such foods, I don’t want him to be known as the person who has never had a burger from Burger King.

So I’ll phase them in, as they seem appropriate, and then hopefully phase them back out. These are pieces of Americana I can help him with. When he comes home asking who is Eduardo Nunez, I will completely fail him.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. phairhead permalink
    July 4, 2011 9:41 am

    Here’s the really scary part: in the world of nutrition vs. the snacky cake, Twinkies are the least offensive.

  2. derryX permalink
    July 4, 2011 10:10 am

    They’re not great, but nothing says AMERICA like a twinkie! Maybe you’re opinion would change if it was battered and fried?

    I doubt it, but Twinkies certainly have their place in history, and I am glad that you are allowing your children to experience things like this.

  3. July 4, 2011 10:43 am

    Although we are far from the arbiters of healthy eating, my kids hadn’t heard of Twinkies either until two summers ago when they were on the menu at a Wyoming camp. But it wasn’t just any Twinkies – they were advertising “Fried Twinkies.” Sadly, they were not available that night, so began our quest to sample the elusive Fried Twinkie. It took a year of searching, but we finally found them at a festival where we discovered that the quest was way more interesting than the object of our desire.

  4. July 4, 2011 11:07 am

    I never understood the appeal of the twinkie. I had my first when I was young – and I eat plenty of processed foods. So, he may grow out of it yet.

  5. July 4, 2011 4:53 pm

    I love the “and/or” in the ingredient list: “Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening.” What? They don’t know?

    I also question the placement of the parenthetical that follows, but that’s just an editorial thing.

    • July 6, 2011 12:59 pm

      Sadly, I don’t think they do know. I ran into this when I was checking on whether some cheeses could be Kosher (i.e. which rennet was used). The response I got back was that different plants could use different ingredients and they couldn’t assure me that the package I bought had Ingredient #1 versus Ingredient #2.

  6. Carolyn permalink
    August 22, 2011 9:36 am

    We make organic twinkies at X’s to O’s in Troy. We also make carrot cake and cookies and cream flavors. You should come check us out. :)

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