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Twinkies turn 80, which reminds us of a certain former S-T columnist

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Happy Birthday, Twinkie.

The iconic snack cake is 80 today, which means we can run these bits of useless but charming trivia:

The original Twinkie was filled with banana cream, but the recipe was tweaked in the '40s because of a banana shortage.

James Dewar, a manager at Continental Baking Company's Hostess bakery in Schiller Park, invented the Twinkie. He called it that after seeing a billboard advertising Twinkle Toes Shoes.

Back in Dewar's day, Twinkies were two for a nickel.

Also, this gives us an excuse to run arguably the finest piece of Twinkie journalism by our own Zay N. Smith, whose prose was largely what drew us to want to work at this paper lo so many years ago. (Smith left the Sun-Times last year.)

Smith's column, after the jump, ran on April 4, 1996 under the headline, "Twinkie Experiment Goes up in Smoke."

By Zay N. Smith

The Hostess Cake company, marking the 66th anniversary of the
Twinkie, announced it takes 45 seconds for a Twinkie to explode in a
microwave.

QT takes nothing on faith.

Following are its findings, with appropriate time notations:

3:30:00 p.m. Sun-Times vending room is empty. QT has been
waiting for this chance.

3:30:28 p.m. One Twinkie is unwrapped and placed in Sun-Times
vending room microwave machine. Setting is 100 percent. Microwave
door is shut.

3:31:00 p.m. Button is pushed.

3:31:19 p.m. Twinkie appears to grow slightly in size.

3:31:22 p.m. Halfway to theoretical point of explosion, Twinkie
shows no further outward signs of change.

3:31:29 p.m. A 1-inch fissure opens in top of Twinkie. White
filling pours out in slow stream onto microwave's tray.

3:31:38 p.m. Flow of filling stops.

3:31:45 p.m. Theoretical point of explosion.

3:32:00 p.m. Twinkie turns darker shade of brown. Bubbles noted
in filling.

3:32:13 p.m. Twinkie turns still darker. Gone too far to stop
now.

3:32:35 p.m. Twinkie ignites.

3:32:36 p.m. Black smoke billows into Sun-Times vending room.
Use giant wad of wet paper towel to grab smoldering Twinkie. Throw it
under stream of cold water. Leave it there. Fan wildly at smoke.

3:33:00 p.m. Uneasy wait for Sun-Times sprinkler system to go
off.

3:34:00 p.m. Take wad of wet paper towel out of sink. Slowly
open to inspect Twinkie. Break Twinkie in two. More smoke. Throw
under water again.

3:35:00 p.m. Twinkie fire appears to have been struck. Sun-Times
vending room still hazy with smoke. Somebody coming down the hall.
Put wad in wastebasket. Walk slowly out the door.

3:35:40 p.m. Arrive at desk in city room. Faint smell of burnt
sugar has spread across fourth floor. Several people comment. QT too
busy at work to notice.

Conclusion: Do not try this at home. Maybe at work. But not at
home.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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