Will Twinkies Be Lost Forever?

As some of you may already know, Hostess Brands, Inc., the company who makes Twinkies, Ding Dongs, Sno Balls, and other popular baked goods, filed for bankruptcy protection on January 11 of this year. Finally on Friday, November 16, after striking workers refused to return to work, company officials decided to seek the court’s permission to wind down operations.

In 1930, James Dewar, baker and manager for the Hostess line of Chicago’s Continental Bakery, began searching for a way to better utilize the pans and equipment normally used only to produce shortcakes during strawberry season. His answer was a small, oblong, banana cream-filled sponge cake–a treat he called Twinkie, the name inspired by an advertisement for Twinkle Toe shoes.

Twinkies quickly became a favorite American snack food, sharing top honors with Hostess cupcakes, a product that had been around since 1919. During World War II, however, it became almost impossible to get bananas so the company changed to a vanilla filling. After the war, sales were so good that Hostess decided to keep the vanilla cream center.

Over the years Twinkies have become a permanent part of America’s pop culture and the subject of many urban myths, legends, and notoriety.

At his San Francisco trial in 1978, defendant Dan White argued that he killed the city’s mayor because of diminished mental capacity brought on by binging on junk food the night before. Although the strategy didn’t work, it became known as the “Twinkie defense.”

In 1986, Twinkies once again became the central figure in a legal battle when a Minneapolis City Council candidate was indicted for bribing senior citizens with coffee, Twinkies, and other sweets in exchange for votes. This lead to the passage of the Minnesota Campaign Act, also referred to as the “Twinkie Law.”

Twinkies have also appeared in numerous Hollywood movies such as Die Hard, Ghostbusters, and Grease. And Archie Bunker, a leading character in the 1970s sitcom, All in the Family, loved them so much that in one episode he became furious at Edith for failing to include a pack of Twinkies in his lunch pail.

In spite of stories that Twinkies have a shelf life of 30, 50, even 100 years (it’s actually twenty-five days), and so indestructible that they can survive an atomic blast, America’s taste buds continue their love affair with this sugary, fat-filled delight. Seventeen Hostess bakeries across the country turn out 500 million Twinkies each year which comes to a mind boggling 1,000 of the cream filled cakes being produced every minute.

While Hostess’s liquidation could certainly mean the end of this iconic snack food, it will probably just create a temporary Twinkie shortage. Since the company plans to sell off its portfolio of snack food treats, and in fact already has several potential buyers, this popular, iconic American confection will most likely find new life under a different owner. But for now, those of you with a secret Twinkies stash need to make this difficult decision: Do I eat them, or sell them on eBay?

Buy Em: Fresh Chocodiles, Amazon, eBay

Find Em: Deep-Fried Twinkies: Wingin It, Centennial, CO; Beach Bites, Seaside, OR; Chocolate Covered Twinkies: Golden Edibles, Online Only

Make Em: Homemade Twinkies, Twinkie-Misu, Ultimate Deep-Fried Twinkie, Mary Anne’s Twinkie Cake, Patriotic Twinkie Pie

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The American Thanksgiving

For most people, the mention of Thanksgiving brings to mind visions of roasted turkey filled with stuffing, pumpkin pie, family get-togethers, football, and young schoolchildren acting out stories of the Pilgrims sharing the first feast with native Indians . But was that day of feasting at Plymouth really the first Thanksgiving in this country? Let’s take a look into some of the history concerning this popular American holiday.

Ancient cultures around the world have always held festivals to celebrate the harvest and pay tribute to their gods for the bounty bestowed upon them, a practice causing some church leaders to proclaim Thanksgiving a religions event. In fact, history has recorded a number of such ceremonies and feasts far predating the Pilgrims’ landing on America’s shores.

Evidence exists that the first such celebration in America was a thanksgiving Mass held in 1598 by Spanish explorers to thank God for their successful arrival at San Elizario, Texas, after weeks of crossing arid wastelands with a group of 500 colonists. There is also the founding of annual “Thanksgiving” services documented in the 1619 charter of Berkeley Hundred, a settlement near Virginia Colony, more than a year before the Mayflower’s arrival to America.

When the Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock in December of 1620, the 102 passengers, known today as the Pilgrims, were ill prepared for the severe New England winter. While constructing their new settlement, most spent the nights back aboard the ship in an effort to escape the harsh conditions. Even so, by March more than half of the passengers and crew had died from exposure, scurvy, and other diseases.

With the onset of Spring, the Mayflower survivors moved ashore to their homes. Soon afterwards, they were surprised when Samoset, an Abenaki chief, walked into their settlement and greeted them in broken English. The next morning, Samoset left but returned some days later with Squanto, an English speaking member of the Pawtuxet tribe who was living in the nearby village of Pokanoket. With him was Massosoit (Ousamequin), leader of the Wampanoag Nation. With Squanto’s help, the Pilgrims formed an alliance with Massosoit and the Wampanoags that lasted for more than forty years. He also showed them how to hunt, fish, extract sap from maple trees, and grow corn and other vegetables.

In November 1621, Plymouth’s governor organized a three day feast to celebrate the Pilgrims’ first successful harvest, inviting about ninety Wampanoag allies to join them, and becoming the model for our modern day Thanksgiving. Although there is no record of the exact menu served during the revelry, it has been chronicled that in preparation for the event, Governor William Bradford sent four men to hunt for all sorts of fowl, including wild turkey. It was also written that Chief Massasoit and the Wampanoag contributed five deer to the celebration. And while some historians have suggested that most of the dishes were prepared using Native American seasonings and cooking methods, one thing is almost certain–that first Thanksgiving was void of the vast assortment of pies and other desserts that are a hallmark of today’s festivities.

Although the Pilgrims did hold a second celebration two years later, followed by occasional days of thanksgiving in other New England settlements, it would be 1789 before George Washington issued a proclamation naming November 26 as America’s first “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” in recognition of the successful conclusion to the Revolutionary War. Subsequent presidents, including John Adams and James Madison, also issued Thanksgiving Proclamations, but the dates and sometimes months of those celebrations varied.

Over the next four decades, several states attempted to adopt annual Thanksgiving holidays, although the efforts were disjointed with each choosing a different day. In fact, most southern states were largely unfamiliar with the custom. Then in 1827, Sarah Josepha Hale, noted magazine editor, writer and author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” undertook a personal campaign to establish a national Thanksgiving holiday. Finally in 1863, after thirty-six years of Hale’s editorials and letter-writing to the top politicians, Abraham Lincoln finally named the last Thursday in November as the national day of celebration. That date remained in effect until 1941, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a Congressional bill making the fourth Thursday in November America’s official Thanksgiving Day (some years have five Thursdays in November) and a legal public holiday.

Celebrations of harvests and plentiful bounty have been recognized by cultures on every continent for millennia. In fact, Native Americans were commemorating their fall harvests with feasting and merriment long before Europeans set foot on their shores.

We hope you have enjoyed reading this special story about some of the events leading up to America’s Thanksgiving. May you and your loved ones be blessed with the best “turkey day” ever. Just remember these immortal words of an unknown author:

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

Make ‘Em: Libby’s Famous Pumpkin Pie, Corn Casserole, Julia and Jacques’s Deconstructed Turkey With Corn Bread Stuffing and Gravy