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February 2006
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What about Twinkies?

One of the best newspapers in the United States is The Wall Street Journal. I make no such claim for the whole paper - most of it is about the dry details of financial reporting. However the front page of the journal has more news and is more interesting than many an entire issue of many another paper. All of which brings me to Twinkies.

You may ask - what does the Wall Street Journal have to do with Twinkies. Well, on January 22, 1976 the Journal ran a lead front page on them. It was very interesting. Let me quote the first paragraph.

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Here in one of the more obscure crannies of International Telephone & Telegraphic Corp.'s far-flung industrial empire, a mere 19 employees tend one of ITT's key processing lines. Emerging in big baking pans from a 190-foot-long oven, at the rate of 50,000 units an hour, 3 million a week, is a large part of the northeast U.S.s output of Hostess Twinkies.
A Twinkie is, I gather, two pieces of pound cake with a cream filling in between. To some nutritionists they epitomize everything that is wrong with the American diet. I would not want to argue the matter. However I do find it fascinating that it seems to be a factory produced food par excellence. Nineteen people!!

The article continues with all sorts of fascinating trivia. for example there was a First Annual International Twinkie Festival last April at Rochester Community College in Rochester Minnesota. It included a Twinkie treasure hunt, a Twinkie sculpture contest, and a Twinkie derby, in which students raced Twinkies equipped toothpick axles and wheels. Some more quotes:

"Wonder bread, Continental men say, is much more nutritious than Twinkies. But a retired executive recalls a man in Los Angeles who was reputed to have seven years on a diet of Twinkies and Cutty Sark. I think he was killed by a car when he was under the influence of Twinkies or Cutty Sark or both."

"To Craig Claiborne, food editor of the New York Times, Twinkies are 'Twinkies? They sound like something out of my childhood, and I'm happy to tell you I have no idea what they're like.'

But then, Mr. Claiborne is the fellow who recently blew $4000 on a dinner for two at Chez Denis in Paris. Counter inspired by this feat, a man in Chicago managed to get a 13-course dinner for two for only $11.97 at the Billy Goat Inn. Where Mr. Claiborne, for dessert, ordered 1835 Madeira and French pastry, the Chicago man chose a 1975 muscatel - and Twinkies."

The Claiborne dinner, incidentally was footed by Ma Bell, who got taken on the deal. Ma Bell had donated a dinner for two to one of the TV auctions. Claiborne won the dinner with a bid of around a hundred dollars or so. He noted that the offer did not have two qualifications that it really ought to have had: (a) there was no price limit, and (b) there were no restrictions on where the dinner was to be eaten. Most of us, perhaps, would be hard pressed to spend $100 on a dinner for two. Mr. Claiborne was considerably more imaginative; he went to one of the top restaurants in France and asked for the best meal that they could prepare, with expense being no bar, and giving them as much time as they needed to prepare it. Claiborne wrote the whole thing up, of course, and it got quite a bit of play in the papers at the time. It was a good dinner, but it failed of perfection -probably wasn't worth four thousand dollars unless someone else was paying for it. Such are disappointments of life. (I must admit that my sympathy is less than overwhelming.)

Note: This essay was written in 1976 - prices were a lot lower then, though not as low as they were in 1876, let alone 1776.


This page was last updated March 29, 2006.
Reprinted from Personal Notes #7
Copyright © 2006 by Richard Harter

Richard Harter's World
Site map
Food
February 2006
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Hyde County, South Dakota is the Pin Tail Duck Capital of the world. Visit scenic Highmore, SD in 2006!