The Twinkie invented: April 6, 1930

A confection with a somewhat dubious reputation is born near Chicago when a plant manager at the Continental Baking Company creates new kind of treat he calls a “Twinkie.”

Jimmy Dewar had become frustrated that he could use the baking pans for sponge cakes only during the summer when strawberries are fresh.  So he takes sponge cakes and injects them with banana crème. Dewar calls his invention a “Twinkie,” inspired by a billboard near the plant advertising “Twinkle Toe” shoes. The company puts two Twinkies in one package and sells it for a nickel.

The filling was switched to vanilla during World War II when it was hard for the company to get bananas. Also, because the original ingredients of eggs, milk and butter allowed Twinkies to stay fresh for only a few days, they were replaced with less natural ones. That change, along with airtight packaging, gave Twinkies a shelf life that became legendary.

That longevity, along with the exposure the brand received as a sponsor of the popular “Howdy Doodle Show” in the 1950s, made Twinkies a favorite desert packed in the school lunch boxes of Baby Boomers. And then, during the height of the Cold War between the U.S, and the Soviet Union, they were celebrated as food that could be stored forever in fallout shelters. More recently, in 1999, President Bill Clinton placed a package of Twinkies inside a millennium time capsule, describing it as an “object of enduring American symbolism.”

In truth, the life of a Twinkie was estimated to be about 25 days.  Also, it developed a reputation as the type of junk food that was helping Americans gain too much weight. Again, though, that reputation isn’t really merited. Each Twinkie has about 150 calories, which isn’t that bad as far as snacks go. It does, however, contain 4.5 grams of fat, including 2.5 grams of saturated fat, 19 grams of sugar and no fiber.

So Twinkies aren’t recommended as a daily treat, although, according to legend, their inventor, Jimmy Dewar, ate 40,000 of them during his lifetime. He lived to be 88 before dying in 1985.

Over the years, chefs have done some exotic things with the iconic confection. It’s been deep-fried, converted into wedding cakes and served with sushi and tiramisu.

But the basic Twinkie endures, even surviving the bankruptcy of its parent company, Hostess Brands, in 2012. Under new ownership, Twinkies returned to grocery store shelves last summer, although they had been changed a bit. Their shelf life is now 45 days, about three weeks longer than before.

More history slices

First artificial heart:  April 4, 1969

First batch of Coca-Cola:  March 29, 1886

Finally, antiseptic surgery:  March 16, 1867

Flu pandemic begins:  March 11, 1918

**First frozen food sold:  March 6, 1930