An American Icon Becomes a Science Experiment

An American Icon Becomes a Science Experiment.

Urban legend says Twinkies last forever.  My wife decided to put it to the test.  Today, the package looks as good as the day we bought it last year.  Will it ever spoil?  Who knows?

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An American Icon Becomes a Science Experiment

Last November when Hostess Brands announced that it was closing its bakeries and liquidating all of its assets, Carrie and I realized that our children had never had the opportunity to taste an American icon – the Twinkie.  On that Friday night in mid-November, I raced all over the eastside of Spartanburg attempting to find Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs, Zingers, and Sweet Sixteen Donuts.  I went to three grocery stores, Wal-Mart, and about 3 other gas stations before I finished amassing my collection of tasty treats for us to share.

Hostess Collection 2012

Over the next few days, we enjoyed eating our treats together as a family.  The kids were getting to experience something that Carrie and I enjoyed when we were kids – actually me more so than Carrie.  She was more of a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll girl.  Lydia really enjoyed the Sweet Sixteen donuts and the Ding Dongs.  The girls didn’t really like the Twinkies as much as I thought they would – not enough chocolate, I guess.

Lydia Hostess Pic

As we got down to the last few items from our stash, Carrie decided it would be a good idea to set aside one package of Twinkies to see if they really do spoil after a period of time.  In doing my research on the topic, I found that the Old Hostess Brands, Inc. guaranteed the freshness of their products for 26 days.  The new Hostess Brands, Inc. will guarantee that the Twinkie will stay fresh for at least 45 days.  A common urban legend claims that Twinkies have an infinite shelf-life – well not infinite, but more than a year.  Twinkies are made of mostly sugar and flour, but they do contain a lot of ingredients that you find in processed foods which help extend the shelf-life of the product.  If they contained real eggs and milk, they would spoil much quicker.  In his book Twinkie, Deconstructed, Steve Ettlinger notes that each Twinkie contains 1/500th of a real egg in each cake.  It also contains only one real preservative – sorbic acid.

As I’ve done my research before writing this blog, I have found that Carrie is not the first one to take on this experiment.  Apparently, there is a school in Maine that has a Twinkie that is over 40 years old.  The Twinkie hasn’t crumbled, but the appearance has changed dramatically – a “ghastly ash gray.”  The folks at NPR are also a year and a half into their own experiment.  Their Twinkie looks good, but it is as hard as a rock.  Our Twinkies are still soft and still look edible if you ask me.  It’s tough to see on the photo, but the expiration date for my pack of Twinkies is December 9, 2012.

2012 Twinkie Pic

Fortunately, this isn’t the last Twinkie in circulation.  The new Hostess Brands, Inc. started manufacturing Twinkies again July of this year.  I might have to go buy some so I can get my fill of polysorbate 60, sorbic acid, and sodium stearoyl lactylate.  I am a chemist, but I think I would have a hard time drawing the chemical structure for that last ingredient I listed!

Happy eating!

Saying Good-bye To An Old Friend – RIP My Favorite Pants

Sometimes we develop emotional attachments to people or things.  These things provide a certain level of emotional and physical comfort.  It was a sad night for me tonight.

My favorite pants are gone and now it’s time to move on.

Saying Good-bye To An Old Friend – RIP My Favorite Pants.

Saying Good-bye To An Old Friend – RIP My Favorite Pants

I had to say good-bye to an old friend today.  My friend was worn out.  My friend had been part of my life for over 5 years.  We got together once or twice a week during those five years.  My friend went with me to work, to church, to meetings, and on a couple of dates with my wife.  My friend was loyal and provided me with a certain level of comfort that no other friend really had before.

Tonight, I finally had to throw away my favorite pair of pants.  I bought them four years ago at a Jos A. Bank’s store in Concordville, PA – I think.  They were a pair of Tobacco colored Wrinkle Resistant Cotton Twill Pleated Front Pants, size 38 x 32.  They had cuffs at the bottom and a seam in them that allowed them to be folded perfectly after every wash.  No dry cleaner ever had the pleasure of touching these pants.

Wrinkle-Resistant Cotton Twill Plain Front Pants

I wore them every week at least once a week.  They weren’t very attractive pants.  Baggy, pleated pants with cuffs went out of style a long time ago, but I still wore them.  They were the anti-skinny pants/jeans.  They looked good with a nice plaid shirt or a sweater.  I probably sported a blazer and a nice tie with them once or twice.  I even wore them to work in the yard a few times.

But tonight I had to throw them in the trash.  They were starting to tear around the back pockets.  My boxer shorts were apparently starting to show.  The cuffs were frayed and torn in some places.  There were holes in the legs along the seams at the bottom.  One of the pockets had a hole in it.  These weren’t a pair of pants that I could donate.  They wouldn’t have made it past the clothes sorter at Goodwill.  They would have ended up in a recycle pile or in the trash.  I had to bite the bullet and throw them out once and for all.  I didn’t need someone else to do my dirty work for me.

I’ve tried through the years to acquire another pair that fit the way these pants did.  I have a closet full of various Jos. A. Bank pants that I’ve either purchased at the store here in Spartanburg or online.  You know – the Buy 1, Get 2 Free deals.  I’ve tried other brands too.

Banana Republic – too tight.

Polo – needed to be dry-cleaned; too fancy for an old-fashioned washing machine and dryer.

Chaps – to wrinkly and didn’t fold well after washing.

Izod – wrong shade.

LL Bean – too scratchy.

It’s been a struggle to say the least.  I wear the same size pants today as I did four years ago, and yet I haven’t been able to find a pair of pants that wore like these.

I think all men and women understand where I’m coming from.  We all have that favorite pair of pants or jeans.  We all have that favorite shirt or baseball hat that we just can’t seem to get rid of.  My wife still wears my very old Wofford College t-shirts to sleep in.  I think they’re close to 17 years old.  But they’re her favorite.

Some items hold a special place in our memory.  I still have my first Montreal Canadiens hockey team hat that my granddad gave me when I was a teenager.  I wore that hat to work almost everyday during the summers.  It has faded from its original red to a kind of orange color now. The logo is frayed and the plastic clasp could break at any moment.  It’s dirty and smells horrible, but it still fits me like it did when I was a teenager.  I can’t wash it.  It would probably fall apart.  It’s hard to let go of things like that.

Life is full of interesting twists and turns.  We all enjoy living comfortably.  We all want stability in our home life and our work life.  We all want to feel like what we do is fulfilling on a number of levels – intellectually, spiritually, emotionally.  There are times though when the status quo becomes boring and unfulfilling.  It’s during those times when making a change might be the best way to go.

Sometimes you just have to throw out that old pair of pants and start wearing another pair.

Doing that takes a certain level of courage and resolve.  It also takes support and understanding from friends and loved ones.  Finally, it takes finding the right situation or fit.

As I stood over the trash compactor and threw away my pants tonight, I thought to myself that I could wash them and wear them a few more times.  But as I looked at them again, I realized that it was time to make that change.  They didn’t fit anymore.  It was time to move on.

RIP my favorite pants.  It was a fun ride while it lasted.

Stranger in a Strangeland

If you were Jewish, would you live your life as a Christian?

Would you try to hitchhike across America without a penny to your name?

Would you walk across the street to spend quality time with your neighbor?

These questions and many others will be discussed in my most recent post.

Stranger in a Strangeland.

Stranger in a Strangeland

The Kindness of Strangers: Penniless Across America

While I was on vacation at the end of last week, I took the time to read a couple of books – actually finish one book and read another.  As a chemist with a sociology degree, I am drawn to the nonfiction realm.  Lately, I’ve been on a biography/memoir kick.  Most of the stories involve a person/author who feels the need to live life outside of their comfort zone.  The author is normally at a point in his/her life in which he/she wants to do something different.  He/she wants to interact with people that they wouldn’t normally interact with on a daily basis – to experience new things.

To have these experiences normally means leaving a job, their home, friends, and family.  In some cases, it means living a totally different life – like a devout Jewish person living a year as a Christian as I discovered in Benyamin Cohen’s book, My Jesus Year.  Or hitting the road without a penny to their name to see if society will still open up their lives and their homes to complete strangers in Mike McIntyre’s The Kindness of Strangers.

My Jesus Year: A Rabbi's Son Wanders the Bible Belt in Search of His Own Faith

The common theme in each of these books is the author’s reliance on others – normally complete strangers – to help them discover their purpose or achieve his personal mission.  For Cohen, it was living life as a Christian to gain a greater appreciation for his own religion.  For McIntyre, it was hitchhiking across the United States penniless, relying solely on the kindness of strangers.

How many of us today would even think of stopping to pick-up a hitchhiker?  Apparently people still do.  People from California to the coast of North Carolina stopped to help McIntyre achieve his mission – travel the country without a penny to his name..  And very rarely were they middle class people like you and me.  They were mostly people of limited means who knew what it was like to be in McIntyre’s shoes – penniless, living off the kindness of strangers.  For me the book sent a powerful message, and made me question how far I would go to help others.

When I read Cohen’s book, I asked myself: How many people would take the time to share their beliefs with a non-believer or even with fellow believers?  Could I do it?  In the book, Cohen shared his experiences with people from many different faiths – Mormons, Baptists, Evangelicals, Monks – and how their faith helped shape their everyday lives.  They all opened up their lives to a complete stranger – in this case Cohen.  As I read the book, I was a bit envious.  I have a hard enough time sharing my thoughts and feelings with my wife – much less a friend or a stranger.

So, you’re probably asking, Delton what is the point of this blog?

I’m not telling you to run out and pick-up hitchhikers or to run tell your wife or your friends your innermost thoughts and feelings.

The point I’m trying to make is don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.  Experience new things.  Be kind to people you don’t know.  Share your thoughts and ideas with new people.  Build a relationship with a co-worker, a fellow church member, or even build a stronger bond with your husband or your wife or your children.

Get to know your neighbors better.  As I’ve read in a number of publications and books, many of us hardly know our neighbors.  We are strangers in our own neighborhood.  So learn more about your neighbors and their families – not just what they do for a living or where they’re from.  Have a deeper discussion.  You never know when that neighbor could make a huge impact in your life or you in theirs.

What do you think?