Let Them Eat Twinkies

Twinkies are 66 years-old this year. Well, hopefully not the ones sitting on the shelf at your favorite neighborhood convenience store, though that does bring up the possibility that the squishy little snack cakes you're holding in your hands may be a genuine antique since the urban legend is they have a shelf life of 100 years. Of course this comes from the same batch of urban legends that claims there are alligators living in the New York City sewer system, spider families have been known to live very comfortably in women's hair condos, and O.J. is innocent. That Twinkies are actually considered to be food is also another well-known urban legend. They are, after all, made from thirty different ingredients not counting unnamed flavors (artificial and natural), five possible hydrogenated vegetable and/or animal shortenings (axle grease luckily being a mineral shortening), and a secret combination of three leavenings. This is not to say Twinkies don't help build strong bodies at least one way: in width. To give them credit they do contain five vitamins and minerals embedded in the enriched flour, not to mention lactylate, sodium stearoyl and other ingredients found in better chemistry sets everywhere. If Sixty Minutes did an expose on this they'd call it spiking. If Inside Edition did a story on it they'd call it shocking. If Willard Scott looked into it he'd call it an hors d'oeuvre.College students everywhere are celebrating the anniversary of the world's most famous snack food. It turns out some of the college students aren't doing it just by using Twinkies in place of caffeine, amphetamines and abscessed molars to stay awake while cramming for finals ("Sugar, the official rush of Generation X"). No, they're doing what college students are supposed to do while wasting big piles of their parents' hard earned bucks: studying them. Last year a group of students at Rice University (motto: "It's a change from potatoes") took time out from their busy schedule of watching Beavis and Butt-head, putting boxer shorts on their heads when posing for their class photograph and pretending Jerry Garcia hadn't died, to conduct some scientific tests on Twinkies. They subjected these self-proclaimed "Golden Sponge Cakes with Creamy Filling" to carefully conducted experiments, testing rapid oxidation, solubility, maximum density, resistivity, gravitational response, radiation and turing. In other words they set them on fire, soaked them in water, threw them in a blender, plugged them in a wall socket, dropped them out a sixth floor window, put them in a microwave oven and quizzed them. Who says college students today have no ambition? Actually these students are putting their spare time to better use than Kenneth Dent did last year when he attended Bessemer State Technical College in Bessemer, Alabama. Allegedly he used the skills he learned at school -- not to mention their printing press -- to turn out $82,000 in counterfeit bills. The main difference between his science project and the one from the Rice University students is that the Secret Service isn't too concerned about the results of some Twinkie tests. On the other hand, you'd be hard pressed to fool your waitress at the Waffle House by paying her in Twinkies. Well, maybe the Waffle House is a bad example. The first revelation the Rice students discovered was that Twinkies won't burn unless first doused with alcohol. This will stop, once and for all, those nasty stories about spontaneous Twinkie combustion, including the one on X-Files last week when Scully ate the evidence before Mulder could prove that the reason they ignite is the aliens that live inside them smoke in bed. Yea, like aliens have never heard of smoke alarms. The budding young Mr. Wizards at Rice also discovered that Twinkies swell to twice their size when immersed in water (hence the "sponge" in Golden Sponge Cakes with Creamy Filling), they contain 68% air and 32% stuff like mono and diglycerides, and they're so soft and puffy they can be dropped from a 6th floor window with virtually no damage, much like Anna Nicole Smith. But the most interesting, and controversial, results came from putting a Twinkie in a microwave oven. To their delight the Twinkie collapsed, turned brown and gave off noxious fumes they compared to smoke bombs, sarin gas and Elizabeth Taylor's latest fragrance. This experiment elicited a response from one Gordon Meltzer who swears on a box of Ho-Hos that in 1985 he placed a Twinkie inside a microwave oven and it exploded in 45 seconds. So how do we explain these varying results? Gordon claims the "creamy filling" is different. Different than what he doesn't say. Others might wonder whether advances in microwave oven technology could be the culprit. Either way there's one thing that hasn't changed: college students still have way too much time on their hands. And considering that surveys continue to show that 80% of young adults can't figure out a bus schedule, compute their change from a bill or understand a newspaper article, it's a safe bet I could say anything I want to about their lame asses here and only 2 in 10 will know I'm giving them a hard time. So the next time you're about to wrap your mouth around a Twinkie brand "Golden Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling" remember two things: it's very important to get a college education if you want to succeed in life and alligators don't really live in the New York City sewer system. They've all moved to the upper West Side.NOTE: If you want to check out the complete findings of these Rice University masters of modern science, surf the Internet to: http://www.rice.edu/%7Egouge/twinkies.html# # # #


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