Soft. Fluffy. Creamy. Comforting. Fattening.
In his New York Times article, William Grimes explores the dichotomy of the identity of Twinkies in American culture- in light of the fact that Hostess Brands filed recently for bankruptcy protection.
He writes that Twinkies came onto the American stage when it sponsored the “Howdy Doody” show in the 1950’s. It quickly became a cultural icon.
Although popular, Grines notes that nutritionists criticized Twinkies for being extremely unhealthy. He also cites Ettlinger’s book (Twinkie, Deconstructed) which found that Twinkie ingredients could be found in five types of rock.
Twinkies also made an appearance in the national spotlight when Dan White’s defense lawyer utilized them as part of the evidence that he was depressed when he murdered two colleagues. A psychiatrist testified that the defendant had shown signs of being in a deep depression, which included indulging in Twinkies the night before the murders.
Despite their influence, Twinkies did not make it into the National Millennium Time Capsule “for fear of attracting mice” according to Grime’s article.
Even though Twinkies are not in the capsule, it’s probably safe to say that they are in spirit. Twinkies aren’t just sweet, savory, unhealthy snacks. They represent a whole component of American culture.
Why are they even so popular? Why are they so closely associated with US culture?
Simple. Americans identify with it.
It’s fluffy, creamy, rich- representative of the indulgent nature of US culture. You work hard, do things rights, and you will be rewarded with a comfortable, fulfilling life. Work and indulge. The time that Twinkies became popular was the same time that the country saw tremendous economic growth and development. The unhealthiness of Twinkies represent the consequences of this American over-indulgent consumerism- whether it be social disillusionment or economic downturns. The shelf life of the Twinkie represents the enduring American spirit that many people take so much pride in.
Twinkies represent a lot of the idealistic characteristics of American culture. The identity of foods that a country regards as a national symbol, like the Twinkie, can be paralleled to the identity of that nation. Or at the very least, the stereotypical identity of the nation.
Twinkies are American.