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Twinkie reigns as a pop culture rock star

3:09 PM, Nov 16, 2012   |    comments
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Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY 

November 16. 2012 - Twinkie, Twinkie pastry star, how we wonder what you are -- made of.

The iconic, cream-filled dessert is as familiar to millions as a nursery rhyme, but its cosmic aura -- not to mention its ingredients -- remains as mythical, if not mystical, as science fiction.

The critical question: Can the squishy yellow snack -- once rumored to be able to survive for years on a shelf -- survive the impending death of its equally-famous maker, Hostess Brands?

Answer: Probably. Ditto for Ho-Hos. And Ding-Dongs. And perhaps even those pink, coconut-coated Hostess Sno Balls that left millions of hands sticky and mouths tingling. These, after all, are iconic brands whose cultural value far exceeds their slumping sales. None moreso than Twinkie.

"Twinkies were the rock stars of the 60s," says Barbara Lippert, pop culture guru and columnist for Mediapost.com. "Everyone still delights in the word and thoughts of the golden orbs, but do you actually know anyone who eats them?"

Millions used to. Daily. For a generation of Baby Boomers, Twinkies, which were created in 1930, were as much a lunch-box necessity as a thermos filled with Kool-Aid, a bag of Fritos and a bologna sandwich between two slices of sister brand Wonder Bread.

"What Hostess now makes were most of the major food groups that constituted lunch for millions of kids," says Robert Thompson, professor of pop culture at Syracuse University. "The fundamental roots of Baby Boomers was this: We are what we eat. And we ate a lot of Twinkies and Wonder Bread."

But Baby Boomers stopped right there. Concerned about unpronounceable ingredients and preservatives in Twinkies, they didn't pass them along to their kids.

Above all, says Thompson, that is what's led to the slow, painful death of the Twinkie.

Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky, Twinkie, Twinkie little star, how we wonder what you are.

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