Vail Daily letter: Die, Twinkies, die
December 3, 2012
I hope Twinkies die and they take Ding Dongs down with them. Good riddance to one of America’s most embarrassing foods. Some may claim, like my husband, that they are decent road food – a name that implies their anonymous consumption in an enclosed vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed. I am not going to suggest a healthy alternative like an apple (high in fiber!) or a banana (great source of potassium!), both of which would be good alternatives because I know that when you want a real treat, fruit lacks decadence.
Twinkies, by contrast, are consistently sinful. Whether they are purchased in Denver or Dillon, they taste exactly the same. While an expiration date is required on the packaging, they are rumored to last forever. Therefore, I would not argue with the claim that they are great post-apocalyptic food.
In order to achieve immortality Twinkies boast an impressively long list of ingredients – 37. Most are unpronounceable and vaguely reminiscent of high school chemistry class. Better living through science?
Unfortunately, Twinkies and foods like them do not make lives better. They make Americans fatter and less healthy. Twinkies are emblematic of all that is wrong with the American diet and food industry – the expectation that food must be fast, convenient, predictable and above all, cheap.
I bake from scratch, and it takes time. Most of my recipes have fewer than a dozen ingredients. The most chemical-sounding ingredient I use is sodium bicarbonate. Most flavor and color additives in industrially produced food like Twinkies are developed in labs. By contrast, to get lemon flavor I add lemon zest and for vanilla I add my own homemade vanilla. Food coloring? Never. No preservatives mean my muffins are great the first day, good the second and gone by the third.
I am not glad the employees of the Hostess Co. may lose their jobs and their company may go under. But I am glad that an industrially produced food may have met its demise. Technology continually transforms our lives, but should it transform our food? The FDA may claim they are safe, but since the introduction of unnatural ingredients like artificially produced flavors, colors and preservatives, corn-based sweeteners and hydrogenated fats, the collective American girth has expanded.
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Perhaps the cultivation and preparation of our food can only be enhanced by technology to a limited degree, like tractors. At some point we reach a point where food is cheap and tastes OK but contains no nutritional value. Then food ceases to be food.
Need some advice for surviving a post-Twinkie world? Here are few alternatives in our neighborhood:
Batter Cupcakes boast more than 30 varieties of cupcakes in their repertoire. Even one of their most complex cupcakes, the cookie dough cupcake, has a modest 19 ingredients – eight in the cake, six in the cookie dough and five in the buttercream frosting. Liz, Batter’s creator, explains, “We only use sweet cream butter, Philadelphia cream cheese, Hershey’s cocoa, farm fresh eggs and Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract. Elevated ingredients are the key to making not just great cupcakes, but great food.”
Rhonda Niederhaus at Columbine Bakery suggests you try one of their seven varieties of Danish. Her favorite is the almond raisin. She explains that it is the marzipan, which her husband makes from scratch, that sets this Danish apart from the rest.
Sage Pierson at Sticky Fingers Cafe and Bakery in Minturn insists they have the best buns in the valley. No national chain with a sugary icing can compete with Sage’s buns and their cream cheese icing. My husband concurs. He claims that they are more of an experience than a mere cinnamon bun.
Lauren at Mountain Cupcakes affirms that no preservatives ever find a way into their cupcakes. Like their fellow bakers in the valley, they make all their cupcakes from scratch. Lauren suggests the carrotcake cupcake that contains lots of carrots (beta carotene!) and is topped with a real cream cheese frosting.
Choosing any of the above supports local businesses. While none of these options are saintly foods – such as kale, quinoa or bulgur wheat – they are all handcrafted locally with fresh ingredients and not a chemical in sight. Sinful, but with a silver lining.
Deirdre Claire Noble