One of America's best known and most loved snack cakes, Hostess Twinkies, made by Interstate Bakeries, turns 80 today. Tantalizing taste buds, filling lunchboxes, being deep fried at state fairs, eaten right out of the package, shared with friends, being part of scientific experiments as to their longevity, Twinkies are the stuff of legends.
President Clinton put one in a time capsule - and the sweet treat has achieved the status of cultural icon, with the American Society of Media Photographers recently mounting a photo exhibition featuring Twinkies. But to most people, they're just fun to eat.
In this time of the food police, it's even more fun to put down your broccoli and acai and bite into the spongy, sweet treat, a reward that always tastes the same. Many agree. Hostess makes 500 million a year, which requires 8 million pounds of sugar, 7 million pounds of flour and 1 million eggs.
Twinkies were developed as an inexpensive treat during the Depression. Jimmy Dewar, manager of the Schiller Park, Ill. bakery, noticed the pans for Hostess' Little Shortbread Fingers were only used during summer months. Dewar decided to make use of the pans throughout the year by filling them with golden sponge cake and banana filling. Today's vanilla filling was the result of a banana shortage during World War II. En route to show off his new idea in St. Louis, Dewar saw a billboard for "Twinkle Toe Shoes" - and the name Twinkies was born. Dewar later said, "Twinkies was the best darn-tootin' idea I ever had."