In the 1920s, the Continental Baking Company began making sponge cakes that were mainly used for making strawberry shortcake. At the time, strawberries were only in season during the summer, and hence their shortcakes were sold only during that time. The company sought ideas for products that could be produced so that the factory producing sponge cake could operate year-round. Jimmy Dewar, a Chicago bakery manager, came up with a banana creme-filled cake that could be sold year-round at the price of two for a nickel. Dewar claimed that he named the new product Twinkies after he saw an advertisement for the Twinkle Toe Shoe Company on a trip to St. Louis. Twinkies’ popularity increased such that they became the best-selling snack cake in the United States after World War II.
During World War II, it was difficult to acquire imported bananas. The Continental Baking Company substituted a vanilla creme filling, which has been used in Twinkies ever since. During the 1950s, the company advertised Twinkies extensively, particularly on children’s television programs such as the Howdy Doody Show, and Twinkies sales greatly increased.
Twinkies became a cultural icon. They have inspired a cartoon character (Twinkie the Kid) and have appeared in many movies, such as Ghostbusters (1984), Grease (1978), and Sleepless in Seattle (1993). Perhaps the most unusual cultural connection was with the so-called Twinkie Defense. At the 1979 trial of Daniel White, who admitted to the murders of San Francisco mayor George Moscone and supervisor Harvey Milk, White claimed that he should be absolved of his crime because of impaired mental capacity resulting from compulsive eating of too much junk food, such as Twinkies, candy bars, cupcakes, and Cokes, which caused a chemical imbalance in his brain. White said he therefore murdered because of his abnormally high blood sugar. Although this was a novel defense, White was still convicted. In 1981, Congress outlawed the Twinkie Defense. While many people are convinced that children’s behavior is influenced by the large amounts of sweets they consume, little scholarly proof has been offered for this assertion.
Twinkies remain an American culinary icon. When health advocates have argued for a tax on the sale of junk and fast foods, they called it a fat tax or a Twinkie tax. Deep-Fried Twinkies became a cult favorite during the 1990s. In 1999, the White House Millennium Council selected Twinkies as one of the items to be preserved in the Nation’s Millennium Time Capsule, representing “an object of enduring American symbolism.” The manufacturer, Hostess, produces more than 500 million Twinkies a year.

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