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Twinkies & Our Relationship with Food

Twinkies & Our Relationship with Food

The recent bankruptcy of Hostess and the passionate responses it evoked raise some interesting questions about our culture’s relationship with food. After the announcement, grocery stores reported a spike in sales of Twinkies and other Hostess products – suggesting that many customers may have been planning to hoard the products. This despite the fact that the rights to produce Hostess products will likely be purchased by another company, meaning Twinkies will probably not disappear off the face of the earth. In fact, in Canada, the rights to Twinkies and Hostess cupcakes are held by Saputo Inc. and production of the items has carried on unaffected. In addition, the announcement of Hostess’s bankruptcy sent social media feeds buzzing with comments about how sorely the company’s products would be missed. Clearly, people found the news distressing.

So why are people so attached to Twinkies? It’s not how they taste, of course. It’s emotional eating gone awry. Emotional eating often gets the short end of the stick in conversations about how to lead a healthy lifestyle. But as Marc David, founder of the Institute for the Psychology of Eating, says, emotional eating can be a good thing. I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed my Thanksgiving dinner last week immensely. In fact, I had two Thanksgiving dinners – a quiet one with my fiance on Thursday and a larger one I prepared with a friend on Friday. On both days, the cooking and eating reinforced the bonds I share with those I care about.

Sharing a meal with a loved one is a powerful way to connect. Rituals around food create a sense of continuity and shared meaning. Favorite foods from childhood evoke powerful memories. Eating should be emotional. We should allow ourselves to enjoy and appreciate our food – rather than scarfing it down mindlessly in the car or in front of the TV. Human beings have a powerful capacity for emotional eating, and that’s a good thing.

What’s not good is when the corporate food system takes advantage of that capacity and uses it to sell us Twinkies and other harmful products. The dismay that many people demonstrated at learning of the potential demise of the Twinkie demonstrates how out of touch we are as a culture with what we put in our bodies. Many of us don’t cook. We don’t know where our food comes from or how it’s prepared. Our children can’t identify fairly commonplace vegetables. We’ve allowed the corporate food system to convince us that convenience is better than quality when it comes to food. So we take our capacity for emotional eating and apply it to Twinkies, rather than a beloved family recipe.

The antidote to this is to learn more about food. Read about the organic and local food movements. Eat better quality food and learn to tell the difference between real food and fake food. Cook more. Emotional eating is often a good thing because it is a part of the larger picture of what it means to be truly nourished. Enjoying good foods nourish both the body and the spirit. But when we stop eating real food and eat processed, packaged foods instead – and then become emotionally attached to those foods – we do ourselves a terrible disservice because we begin to convince ourselves that we actually feel nourished by these processed foods. When we’re used to eating frozen dinners every night, we start to believe we don’t even want better food.

That’s not to say that the occasional nostalgic bowl of Count Chocula is a crime. Enjoying those kinds of products every once in a while is not necessarily a bad thing. No food should be forbidden because that can cause us to associate a moral value with particular foods, which further distorts our relationship with eating and leaves us with unnecessary feelings of guilt. However, when we take the time to cook and to be mindful of what we eat, we are much more likely to choose whole, organic, local foods. And that is enormously beneficial for our bodies, our spirits, and our local food cultures and economies.

Read more: Eating for Health, Food, Spirit, , , , , , , ,

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Sarah Cooke

Sarah Cooke is a writer living in California. She is interested in organic food and green living. Sarah holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University, an M.A. in Humanities from NYU, and a B.A. in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University. She has written for a number of publications, and she studied Pastry Arts at the Institute for Culinary Education. Her interests include running, yoga, baking, and poetry. Read more on her blog.

35 comments

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5:39AM PST on Dec 20, 2012

You are right about the Hostess brands being picked up by another company. We have knock offs of Twinkies, chocolate cupcakes, etc. in the commissary down the hall. Twinkies will never decompose, or die off.

5:38AM PST on Dec 20, 2012

makes me feel better

6:15AM PST on Dec 11, 2012

Interesting

2:25AM PST on Dec 1, 2012

Never liked this crap, but I admit I've eaten my share of it. It's cheap and handy, especially in vending machines when one has to buy lunch at work.

I'm finding a lot of ethical questions involving the fact Hostess must file bankruptcy and disperse assets, but they're in Bankruptcy Court to get huge bonus' for the C.E.O.'s???? Something not quite right with this picture. Let them retire with a box of stale Twinkies and Ding Dongs.

3:05PM PST on Nov 29, 2012

Every time I tried a Twinkie when I was younger I would get sick. I was fond of the taste but after the 10th time of having to miss playing outside because my stomach was upset and my sinuses were so swollen I could only breathe through my mouth, I decided to give them up, and all Hostesses, as well as Little Debbies. I was 8 when I decided this. And while I still yearn for it'sd sickening sweetness every now and then, I reach for homemade sweets (I know what is in them and use natural sweeteners) or natural sweets, like fruits and the occasional sweet tasting edible flower, or a sweet tasting vegetable, like a sweet carrot.

1:29AM PST on Nov 29, 2012

sell us Twinkies and other harmful products
I loved this phrase!

To my knowledge I have never eaten a Twinkie, and I have no desire to start. I am often startled by all the 'home products' my North American friends hoard and share out. When with them, I allow my child to try it without commenting, but would never, ever consider buying most of the stuff myself.
It is a clash - pride and shame - to say 'yes, that's a Canadian product' and then to see the list of ingredients. I want to move back to Canada soon, but keeping my child out of the chemical feeding chain will be even more of a challenge than it is here in continental Europe.

And yes, eating with emotions is very important - provided it is coupled with eating with awareness. Well said Sarah Cooke!

12:11PM PST on Nov 28, 2012

Too bad the Twinkie isn't really going to be gone! The real tragedy is the treatment of the Hostess workers and now...all their former sacrifices were for nothing! But you can be sure all the fat cats got their bonuses.
People love their Twinkies because of the fat, mouth-feel and the sweet cream...GROSSLY bad for health! And because they remind us of better days, long gone! I was a fan of Hostess as a very young kid until they changed the taste to what I thought had become "plastic off-taste". UGH! I haven't eaten Hostess in many years, despite my sweet cravings!

8:47AM PST on Nov 28, 2012

I was dismayed that people cared more about the Twinkies going away than they did about the fact that Hostess employees were forced to take cuts in pay and benefits a few years ago to help out the company, and then Hostess refused their demands to increase their pay when the company was doing better financially. Hostess claims the employees' recent demands are the reason for their bankruptcy when in reality, management ran the company into the ground and took all the profits. Not to mention the fact that 18,000 Hostess workers lost their jobs. It's the same old thing, over and over again, CEO's get richer at the employees' expense. When is this going to stop?

7:20AM PST on Nov 28, 2012

Ernest-- are you confusing twinkies with Banana flips? I don't like artificial banana flavor reminds me of penicillin when I was a kid.

6:39AM PST on Nov 28, 2012

I think it actually is how it tastes, at least in the case of Twinkies. The combination of butter, vanilla, and sugar is appealing to just about everyone, and the texture is indulgent, too.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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people are talking

Disgusting vile stuff, I refuse to buy it for our grandchildren when they come to stay, never bought…

Thanks for reminding us how important and precious are our eyes.

Keep it up!! You have done the nice job having provided the latest information. Zed A. Zed A.
on 25 Ways to Upcycle Old T-Shirts
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Seldom take anything for pain.

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