When I first went to the United States of America, I had a mission. I was 27 years old and had never eaten a Twinkie. In fact, I’d never even seen one. Twinkies, though they are a definitive piece of American snacking, were unavailable in the UK. So on day one of my first US trip, I went to a supermarket and found the Hostess snacks section. Finally, I was able to experience the wonder of the Twinkie.
You may wonder why this was such a big deal. Especially if you’re American.
I had been fascinated by this “golden sponge cake” since my childhood days, when I voraciously read every Marvel comic book I could get my hands on. Between the thrilling tales of Spiderman, The Avengers and the Fantastic Four (amongst others) were numerous adverts for American products that fascinated my young mind. X-Ray Specs; Sea Monkeys; t-shirts and posters for KISS, Evel Knievel and Farrah Fawcett. I had no idea what these things were, there was nothing like them in my world. This pop culture ephemera were tantalising clues to the world I saw on television and in films.
Also advertised within the pages of these comic book master pieces were adverts for Hostess snack foods. There were fruit pies, cup cakes, and of course Twinkies.
These ads featured Marvel superheroes defeating the villains with the aid of snack food items. A short one page comic strip told how the hero would be able to distract the bad guys with the treats and save the day. The plots were somewhat random mini stories that shoe horned the products in any way they could. My mind absorbed it all. Of course, there were ads in DC comics too, featuring their stable of characters. You couldn’t escape Hostess snacks anywhere in comic land.
A typical Twinkie comic advert
Add in the fact that these cakes have been featured in films and television as well, and you have a pop culture phenomenon. Twinkies are featured in Ghostbusters, Die Hard and Zombieland, as well as many others. One of my favourite examples is Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, where the villain – whose touch decays everything – finds the only food he can hold without it crumbling to dust is a Twinkie. A nice reference to the old comic ads, there – and the urban myth of Twinkies being imperishable!
But what is a Twinkie? It’s basically a sponge finger cake, with a creamy filling. As I found out when I first ate one, they’re not that amazing really. In fact I was a little under whelmed. Mr Kipling this ain’t. But then Mr Kipling didn’t stop Galactus from devouring the planet with a Bakewell tart.
Nowadays you can find Twinkies on sale in the UK, and in various forms too. Along with the original variety, I’ve tried banana; and chocolate is available too. All easily found in your local B&M store, and a lot cheaper than the speciality American sweet shops that sell boxes for £13 (more like £3).
They’re good, but not the most delicious of cakes. However the Twinkie is without equal in the realms of popular culture. At least for those, like me, raised on American superhero comics. Twinkies are still an exotic treat, to be enjoyed with a wry smile and fond memories of those old comics.
There are some great examples of Hostess adverts in comic books here.
The Hostess cakes website is here.
More Hostess foods soon!