Friday, November 16, 2012

Ever wonder what happens to a Twinkie when ... ?

Hostess Brands has declared bankruptcy, and while I can't say I'm terribly broken up about it I'm not too proud to admit I enjoy a Twinkie now and then.

Despite the company's demise, I expect the Twinkie will remain part of American life. It's too embedded in popular culture for somebody to not acquire the rights to it. Still, I wonder if it will be the same.

In the meantime, I thought I would reprint a piece by food writers Jane and Michael Stern detailing some experiments they performed on Twinkies. This appeared in the July 1989 edition of Spy Magazine. 

"Twinkie, Twinkie,
Little suet-filled sponge cake Crisco log,
Now I know just what you are."
                    
"Animal, vegetable, Mineral, or Food?''


In an effort to clarify questions about the purported durability and unusual physical characteristics of Twinkies, we subjected the Hostess snack logs to the following experiments:

EXPOSURE:
Twinkie was left on a ... window ledge for four days, during which time an inch and a half of rain fell.  Many flies `were observed crawling across the Twinkie's surface, but contrary to hypothesis, birds -- even pigeons -- avoided this potential source of sustenance. Despite the rain and prolonged exposure to the sun, the Twinkie retained its original color and form.  When removed ... the Twinkie was found to be substantially dehydrated.  Cracked open, it was observed to have taken on the consistency of industrial foam insulation; the filling, however, retained it adverstised ``creaminess.''

RADIATION:
A Twinkie was placed in a conventional microwave oven, which was set for precisely 4 minutes -- the approximate cooking time of bacon. After 20 seconds, the oven began to emit the Twinkie's rich,
characteristic aroma of artificial butter.  After 1 minute, this aroma began to resemble the acrid smell of burning rubber.  The experiment was aborted after 2 minutes, 10 seconds, when thick, foul smoke began billowing from the top of the oven ... a second Twinkie was subjected to the same experiment ... this Twinkie leaked molten white filling ... when cooled, this now epoxylike filling bonded the Twinkie to its plate,  defying gravity; it was removed only upon application of a butter knife.

EXTREME FORCE:

A Twinkie was dropped from a ninth-floor window, a fall of approximately 120 feet.  It landed right side up ... then bounced onto its back.  The expected ``splatter'' effect was not observed.  Indeed, the
only discernible damage to the Twinkie was a narrow fissure on its underside ... otherwise, the Twinkie remained structurally intact.

EXTREME COLD:
A Twinkie was placed in a conventional freezer for 24 hours.  Upon removal, the Twinkie was not found to be frozen solid, but its physical properties had noticeably ``slowed'' .. the filling was found to be the approximate consistency of acrylic paint, while exhibiting the mercurylike
property of not adhering to practically any surface.  It was noticed that the Twinkie had generously absorbed freezer odors.

EXTREME HEAT:
A Twinkie was exposed to a gas flame for 2 minutes.  While the Twinkie smoked and blackened and the filling in one of its "cream holes'' boiled, the Twinkie did not catch fire. It did, however, produce the same "burning rubber'' aroma noticed during the irradiation experiment.

IMMERSION:
A Twinkie was dropped into a large beaker filled with tap water. The Twinkie floated momentarily, began to list and sink ... viscous yellow tendrils ran off its lower half, possibly consisting of a water-soluble artificial coloring.  After 2 hours, the Twinkie had bloated substantially. Its coloring was now a very pale tan -- in contrast to the yellow, urine-like water the surrounded it.  The Twinkie bobbed when touched, and had a gelatinous texture.  After 72 hours, the Twinkie was found to have bloated to roughly 200 percent of its original size ... the water had turned opaque, and a small, fan-shaped spray of filling had leaked from one of the "cream holes.'' Unfortunately, efforts to remove the Twinkie for further analysis were abandoned when, under light pressure ... the Twinkie disintegrated
into an amorphous cloud of debris. A distinctly sour odor was noted.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS

The Twinkie's survival of a 120-foot drop, along with some of the unusual phenomena associated with the ``creamy filling'' and artificial coloring, should give pause to those observers who would
unequivocally categorize the Twinkie as "food.''  Further clinical inquiry is required before any definite conclusions can be drawn.

Believe it or not, this was only a sidebar to a much larger piece. Here's a link to the July 1989 Spy (the Sterns' article starts on Page 89): http://books.google.com/books?id=VdRQYCi-SX8C&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false


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