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food

Not that Twinkie is on its death bed. If anything, the Twinkie brand is probably the winner in this sad story of labor struggle, failed business and the eventual undoing of the 18,500 underpaid, overworked factory workers.

In the past week Twinkies have been the center of the public reminiscence because Hostess was said to file bankruptcy. I held my breath as the good news that Hostess and its workers were to start earnest negotiations came and then went. Sadly, it was announced an hour ago that Hostess has won the court approval to start selling its assets and more importantly, to start laying off its 18,500 workers.

We have all joked about how “Twinkies are forever”. Well, in this case, because of the sudden surge of attentions being paid to Twinkies, esp. in the social media sphere – now the arbitrator of brand marketability,  I do believe that some VC will quickly swoop in and pick up the venerable Twinkie Brand. In contrast, the workers will be left jobless and most likely fall into the life style of sustaining on cheap, unhealthy food such as Twinkies. The irony is alarming.

I was not going to jump on the wagon and eulogizing Twinkies exactly because I do not believe in its imminent demise. It will live. However, I came across this video posted by my good friend Ry

 

And it reminded me that I have written about the cultural obsession with Twinkies before. The following is from my 2009 post “Twinkies got a bad rep ’cause we find the name irresistible”.

 

In the American Pop culture conscious, there is this curious obsession with Twinkies.  One of the new exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is about Twinkies.  Putting our obsession with this oddity on view.

CIMG7562

A Twinkie was born

For once, let’s scientifically study the myth that Twinkies will never die.  Observe and report.  (I will visit MSI later again to check on the Twinkie that is on view there).

Of course, Twinkies are not the only food that are believed to be evil-incarnate.  Why such revilement?

My theory is that half of that ill-begotten fame came from the name, Twinkie.  What’s in a name? If it were called “Hostess Cream-filled Yellow Cake”, or, let’s say, Snow Puff, it would not have become such a legend, warts and all. Kudos to the marketing team that came up with this name that is now a major part of American pop culture.

Upon further investigation, I learned that the name Twinkie came from a chance encounter with a billboard:

In 1933, James Dewar, a baker at Continental Baking Company in Indiana, was inspired and came up with this name when driving by a billboard advertising shoes from the “Twinkle Toe Shoe Company”.

This is serendipity!  In our collective consciousness for food, Twinkies share a significant space with the shoe in Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush…  Ok. Maybe it is proven once again that I am easily amused. TOO easily.

 

Ode to Twinkies

‘Tis but thy name that makes thou irresistible;

Thou art thyself, though not a Twinkie.

What’s Twinkie? it is nor Monoglycerides nor diglycerides

Nor Polysorbate 60, nor Hydrogenated shortening, nor any other part

Belonging to proper CAKE. O, be some other name!

What’s in a name? that which we call a Twinkie

By any other name would induce as much grimace??

So Twinkie would, were it not Twinkie call’d,

Retain that dear longevity which it owes

Without that title. Twinkie, doff thy name,

And for that name which is no part of thee

Take all the cream.

This March (March 2012), I did go back to check on the Twinkie at MSI, and surprise surprise, it has not aged one bit. Sigh. Perhaps we should start putting Twinkie on our faces?

Twinkie on display (since October 2009) at MSI Chicago as of March 2012

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Dear Costco,

I don’t know how you did it. But you won.

I shop at the Costco near our house in the Chicago suburbs right before every one of my trips home and throw money at you as if money were grown on trees: vitamins, vitamins, and more vitamins. These are popular items that will sure to please everybody back home. The tiny shelves in my parents’ already cramped bedroom proudly display the vitamins and nutritional supplements that promise to improve the condition of ailments from A to Z like a mini drugstore. Don’t get me wrong: I appreciate your role in my parents’ happiness and pride as they tell their friends which one is for what and the fact they were all brought back from the USA by their wayward daughter. Something to show for.

Ever since your appearance in Taipei, you have become the new love of people here. They love you so much that there are now 3 of you. The one inside the city proper is so crowded that you need to station employees in the street, trying to entice people to drive to another Costco “8-minute drive away” with a coupon for a free drink. I rolled my eyes at the craziness of this all. It is ONLY Costco, people.

Yes, I will confess. I visit Costco every time when I am in Taipei: I go with my family so they can replenish their supplies. It is one of those regular mundane boring things I do not get to do with them. So yes I am paying my dues. When I walked in yesterday, I was at first floored by how exactly like my Costco it was. Eerie almost.

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Everything looks the same at first but once I got into the thick of it, I noticed a lot of differences. Kudos really for finding the perfect formula to adapt a quintessential American warehouse shopping concept (and seriously, you really need massive pieces of land to support this concept, no?) to the small island of Taiwan. You started with smaller packages since people have not as much storage space, are accustomed to making more frequent shopping trips, and are in general more frugal. Instead of giant rolls of Bounce paper towels, the ones sold in Taiwan are half the size. I wonder whether you have heard stories of old folks washing, line drying, and reusing Bounce, driving their children in sane with a house full of sheets of Bounce in varying drying stages. Nevertheless, I was very impressed with the homework you have done and continue to do.

As I was rolling my eyes at the exuberant crowd and their shopping carts piled high with goods, I was at the same time WOWed by the unique items you have managed to source and stock in the store: Frozen, ready to heat, Chinese dishes. I believe you have single-handedly changed how Chinese women make dinners at home.

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Whiskey Tasting in Costco. (And yes, sigh, Christmas stuff in Taiwan now too...)

I became dejected as I mentally calculated the pros and cons of smuggling some of these frozen dishes in my suitcase, esp. the “Buddha Jumping Over the Wall” which traditionally takes a lot of time and work to prepare and in no friggin’ way would I even attempt to make. But you cheered me up with tasting tables, esp. this one, that I KNOW will never be seen in my Costco.

I left with souvenirs for people back in the U.S. purchased from Costco. Don’t tell me you do not find it ironic.

Either way, I am not able to escape you. You got me in and out.

You won.

Sincerely,
A loyal Costco member

p.s. Would you ever consider REVERSE-import the Costcos in Taipei into the Chicago area?

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It always feels kind of surreal when I am home. In fact, what I called “home” is an apartment I did not grow up in. It is home simply because my parents live here, with my nephew who, instead of my two elder brothers (long story…), takes care of them.

I am a different person when I am over here for many reasons. It is even stranger to come home by myself because I am all of a sudden the lone girl in the family who everybody wants/needs to take care of. My father keeps on asking me whether I am hungry even after I have been stuffing my face non-stop. My mother won’t stop asking me whether I am cold; she is wearing a thick jacket while I, a short-sleeved t-shirt. The night when I arrived, when I was not paying attention, she unpacked my suitcases, put away all my stuff, hung up all my clothes and even folded my underwear. My nephew and his fiancée will not let me lift a finger because, even though we are only 9 years apart, I am still his aunt. I am an elder and he has to be respectful. So the rules says. Sometimes it is simply AWESOME to be Chinese.

People often ask me what I do when I go home. Eh. Nothing exciting really. I am chaperoned around to eat, eat and eat some more. I also go to a lot of department stores because that is what my mother likes to do. Judging by the crowd and the lines outside of many popular restaurants, these are also activities enjoyed by 90% of the people in the city.

Just like every other big city around the world. Right?

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Wordless Wednesday. Ok. Just One Word: Hot

August 18, 2010 no manual for parenting

Or, How I Broaden My Kids’ Vocabulary and World View . Wait for it… . . . . .

37 comments

Celebrate my birthday this Sunday? Have a Slurpee from 7-Eleven and a Solar Eclipse on me!

July 10, 2010 random

That’s right, peeps. I’ve got you all FREE Slurpees AND a Solar Eclipse on my birthday because that’s how I roll… You do need to get to the Southern Pacific Ocean in order to view the Solar Eclipse though you will thank me when you are staring at your own feet taking a sip from a […]

27 comments

Teaching Kids Simple Words: Egg

April 29, 2010 no manual for parenting

7 Year Old: Mom, what’s the yoky part of the egg? Me: You mean the Yolk? 7 Year Old: No, I mean, which part does the baby chick come from? Me: Ok, honey, the eggs you are eating? These are not the kind that baby chicks come from. 7 Year Old: Why? Me: These are […]

38 comments

Chicken and Egg

January 4, 2010 through the looking glass

I wonder what the statute of limitations is for going on and on and on about a trip one took in the blogosphere. Bear with me here: there is an urgent whining I need to unload… WTF ASIA?! What’s up with all the skinny bitches? If you know me, you know that I’d be the […]

41 comments

“The Simple Grace of Sharing a Meal” Or, My first gig as a guest blogger

November 6, 2009 random

Velva over at Tomatoes on the Vine kindly asked me to be a guest on her blog.  I had to agree because if she was crazy enough to ask me, who knows what’s going to happen if I had said No to her? So, please hop over now (but NOT like a frog) and visit […]

1 comment

Twinkies got a bad rep ’cause we find the name irresistible

October 23, 2009 through the looking glass

In the American Pop culture conscious, there is this curious obsession with Twinkies.  One of the new exhibits at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is about Twinkies.  Putting our obsession with this oddity on view. For once, let’s scientifically study the myth that Twinkies will never die.  Observe and report.  (I will […]

10 comments

I want to love my airlines, I really do… Just keep bringing me the alcohol…

August 26, 2009 through the looking glass

These are the grapes served with dinner on one of my UA flights. Notice the white fussy thingy in at least two places? Mold. No. I didn’t say anything to the flight attendant since I was for once upgraded to the first class, and boy, was I grateful! Besides, the flight attendant was pretty good […]