THE BLOG
06/01/2007 12:04 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Why Do We Both Love and Hate Twinkies?

What is it about Americans and their extreme, emotional ties to Twinkies®?

For the last few years, during which I was writing a book about the ingredients in Twinkies (Twinkie, Deconstructed), and during the last two months, when I've been giving dozens and dozens of interviews about it, virtually no one I've spoken with has hesitated to tell me how they feel about Twinkies, often before we even discuss the book itself. And those feelings are decidedly mixed, as in "I loved them as a kid, but now I wonder how I could have eaten that junk!"

Even though my book only deals with Twinkies' 39 ingredients, not our reaction to them, day after day journalists of all stripes and citizens who I happen to encounter demand to know if I like them (I'm more of a Mediterranean Diet kind of guy), if I'll feed them to my children (no, but they hate them anyway), if they are really terrible (oily and heavy, with a huge greasy aftertaste), if they are good for you (now THAT's a tough question!) and how many I ate doing the research for my book (31....and it was fun). Then they usually feel compelled to tell me how much they loved them as kids, or that they feel oddly out of the mainstream because they did not eat them, usually due to a preference for Ding Dongs or SnoBalls, for which they have often felt compelled to apologize. I've become a snack food confessor!

While they also ask me about the kind of things that I cover in the book --where these ingredients come from and how they are made-- and are duly amazed, as I was, to hear about mines and oil refineries along with farms and mills, they stump me with the questions about Twinkies themselves.

In fact, the bottom line, the big gorilla question is, "why do we have such an thing for Twinkies?" I mean, even Hostess' Cupcakes sell more, and there are plenty of other snack cakes out there. And most of them have virtually the same ingredients (trust me, I checked this out). But mention Twinkies, and everyone has a story or a comment.

It may have something to do with the cute shape. Or the light blond color --we do love our blonds. Or the fact that they were first brought out during the Depression, were cheap, and were a big hit then.

But still, how do you explain our fascination with them? The jokes? The use of Twinkies as symbols of all junk food, or the worst junk food? Those are questions I just can't seem to answer.

Maybe it's the polysorbate 60 in the filling.