The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

November 17, 2012

Ojanpa: Ode to a dying pastry

— Twinkies.


Somewhere, a dietitian is cheering. In other quarters, not so much.

To Americans of a certain age, the death of this iconic snack will be tough to swallow.

The 82-year-old Twinkie has fallen prey to Americans’ increasing health consciousness, competition from gluts of similar treacly treats and, most pertinently, the mundane machinations of a labor strike.

The already imperiled Hostess company couldn’t handle all the burdens on its plate. Hence, 18,500 workers nationwide will be laid off and those vaunted yellow sponge cake cocoons filled with sugary white spackle will go the way of cassette tapes, mullets and Mitt Romney.

To be sure, most Americans of the aforesaid certain age now snarf Twinkies about as often as they wash their Schwinn Sting Rays and tie-dyed Ts. Which is to say, never.

But that’s not the point. Even though we don’t use it we still don’t want to lose it, if only because Twinkie death is too close a metaphor for our own mortality. It’s one more brick in the wall of the crypt, so to speak.

But we’ll roll with the demise of this corn-syruped, hydrogenated-fatted, empty-caloried cardiac-event-in-waiting because that’s what we do.

Besides, nothing lasts forever, except maybe Joan Rivers’ face.

And if you’re thinking about laying in a few boxes for posterity, better clear space in your freezer because, contrary to conventional wisdom, Twinkies’ shelf life is not infinite.

The company contends that they’ll last about a month at room temperature. Hey, it’s a baked good, not Irish whiskey. 

The Twinkie has impacted our culture in ways other than producing punch lines and paunch lines. It also has been an educational tool.

In 2010, Kansas State University professor Mark Haub subsisted on a convenience store diet mainly of Twinkies and similar fare. He wanted to demonstrate to students that in losing weight, calorie counting matters more than nutritional values.

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