Farewell to Twinkies, America's most futuristic food

Illustration for article titled Farewell to Twinkies, America's most futuristic food

Today Hostess, maker of Twinkies and Ding Dongs and HoHos and every other geometrically precise cake, announced it was closing its doors. You have less than a week to buy your last Twinkie before the troubled corporation vanishes forever. It's not just the end of a company. It's the end of an era of food futurism.


At one time the perfect yellow tube — filled perfectly with white sugar foam — was the epitome of futurism in America. Imagine if every piece of sponge cake could be made by a robot! That was what Hostess promised with its symmetrical treats. No more burned cakes; no more misshapen desserts; and no more laborious afternoons squirting icing inside our baked goods using nothing more than our frail human hands.

Eating a Twinkie really was like eating the sweet products of an industrial revolution done right. Each cake was marked by bore holes in its underside, where a mechanical arm had drilled into the exact same spots on the exact same golden shapes a million times, to insert its chemically-enhanced creamy goodness.

It's hard to believe that there was once a time in American history when artificial foods and mechanically produced meals seemed like the height of a healthy civilization. Those were the days when TV dinners were awesome rather than sad. And the idea of artisanal anything would have been loathsome, because of course doing things from scratch, by hand, was how grandma had done it back in the nineteenth century when everything sucked because there were no telephones or electricity. Back in the 1940s and 50s, few people would have protested at the idea of eating genetically modified bananas and tomatoes. Hell, soon we would be eating food pills and extracting tomatoes from the air using our replicators!

The future is a moving target. Now we view Twinkies as something disturbing, almost inedible. Today, the future is "slow food," organics, heirlooms, and hydroponics. Now, the height of culinary civilization is a locally sourced meal, hopefully grown on your green roof. We buy tiny bits of fresh ingredients, no more or less fetishistically packaged than Twinkies, to produce meals that conform to a new idea of what tomorrow should be: green, sustainable, local.

Can the Twinkie survive in our new future? Yes, of course. Only now it will be something we make ourselves, from "fresh" ingredients. You'll find them on the menu at your local gastropub, called something like Buttermilk-Laced Sponge Cakes with Berkeley Farms Cream Filling.


Annalee Newitz

I have spent decades being mildly repulsed by Twinkies. But suddenly, today, I am craving them! I have retro future food nostalgia! And no, I don't want your homemade vegan alternative. I WANT A PIECE OF CAKE MADE BY ROBOTS.