Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

America's Worry: Where's the Cream Filling? ; Domestic and National Bliss Returns Now That a Bakery Strike Is over at the Snackmaker

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

America's Worry: Where's the Cream Filling? ; Domestic and National Bliss Returns Now That a Bakery Strike Is over at the Snackmaker

Article excerpt

Don't tell Al Gore or George W. Bush, but the real issue on American minds apparently isn't the economy or education.

It's Twinkies.

Just ask Heather Holmes. During a union strike in the Northeast last week, she was forced to eat her favorite snack cake hiding in the bathroom. The reason: Her husband is a member of the Teamsters union, which was supporting a strike against the company that makes the lozenge-shaped cakes.

She is six months pregnant and says that Twinkies are a "valuable part of my diet." The Middleborough, Mass., resident, can eat them freely again now that the walkout is over.

The week-long picketing that emptied shelves along the eastern seaboard of baked goods revealed two things: Not only that Americans are publicly willing to admit they eat Twinkies, but also that whoever chose apple pie as the food that best represents this country may have been mistaken.

With the exception of Spam, few foods illicit the mix of fascination and disdain that Hostess's cream-filled sponge cakes do. Long before the great "Twinkie Famine of 2000" - when boxes were (and still are) being auctioned on eBay and discussions of airlifting packages to New England were common - the Twinkie was influencing society even more than the Internet.

"Jay Leno has made a career out of making jokes about Twinkies," says Mark Dirkes of Interstate Bakeries Corp. in Kansas City, Mo., which makes Twinkies.

Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the Twinkie has moved well beyond the lunch-box crowd and is contributing to the disciplines that make this country function: art, science, and the law. Hundreds of Twinkies, for instance, are used weekly in the theater performances of the Blue Man Group.

"Everybody from a certain age on knows what a Twinkie is, unless they've been living in a jungle or something," says Manuel Igrejas of Blue Man Productions in New York. The New York production (it also runs in Chicago, Boston, and Las Vegas) resorted to Little Debbies when it couldn't get the Hostess cakes last week.

In a further repudiation of the "apple-pie theory," the Twinkie will be represented in the National Millennium Time Capsule, a prototype of which is on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. …

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