X-Men: Days of Future Past - The Twinkie Experience

TwinkiesThere’s a phrase often attributed to Benjamin Franklin stating that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. If that’s true, then Twinkies suggest that there is a Devil, that he hates us, and that he wants us all to have diabetes.

Twinkies Still In BusinessThat being said, I do have a soft spot for Twinkies if for no other reason than that they gave us those wonderfully ludicrous ads featuring scores of superheroes using economically-priced baked goods to combat evil.

As a result, I follow news about these artificially engineered confections pretty closely. I was honestly intrigued to hear that Hostess would be releasing specialty X-Men: Days of Future Past tie-in flavors in strawberry and blue raspberry. Not only was I intrigued but I just knew that I would have to try and possibly review them.

Somehow this felt like a special event, a return to form if you will. Twinkies and comic book superheroes have a long and illustrious history of collaborative advertising that has put a smile on the face of many a comic fan both young and old. Part of me was hoping that this would be the start of a new Golden Age of Twinkie-based crime fighting. Frankly, the last time that I was this emotionally invested in Twinkies was back when I heard that Hostess would be going out of business.

I was horrified when I heard the news and hurriedly picked up some of their products so that I could say I’d tried the genuine article. That’s right, the first time I tried a Twinkie, Hostess was technically no more. Why did I wait so long? Well, lack of urgency and a sense that anything sturdy enough to survive one or more apocalypses must not taste very good. What did I think? Well, in order to review and do justice to the specialty Twinkies that will shortly be under consideration, let’s take a look at the original genuine article.

twinkies_ghostrider_061213_articleSetting Our Baseline for Comparison: Twinkie Classic Having tried both pre-Crisis and post-Crisis Twinkies, I can honestly say that there isn’t much difference. In other words, they both suck.

(Not unlike the franchise-killing Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, which had a Twinkie product placement as seen at right)

Yeah, I’m not going to sugarcoat this, there’s more than enough sugar in these abominations against nature already to give even Willy Wonka cavities. Oh, and don’t try to defend them by referencing those recent articles pointing out that some “healthy” yogurts have more sugar. That says more about the yogurts than it does about the Twinkies.

Also, don’t think for a second that the normal Twinkies with the X-Men packaging (yes, there is specialty X-Men: Days of Future Past branding for the classic Twinkies as seen above) taste any different from or better than your gardens-variety Twinkie. They are exactly the same, very much to their detriment.

Surprisingly, just holding a Twinkie is an unpleasant experience. Opening their wrapping and clapping flesh to pastry, one immediately begins to regret their decision when they feel their oddly greasy exterior. Honestly, I’m not sure that I’ve ever held another pastry that makes me feel quite the same impulse to immediately wash my hands after making contact.

Getting down to the actual eating of the Twinkie, putting it in your mouth it isn’t much of an improvement over holding it in your hand. Paradoxically, despite the greasy exterior and pseudo-cream filling, this is a very dry pastry. Without a glass of water or milk, swallowing one of these bad boys is frankly a chore. Considering the “cream,” I have to say that it doesn’t have a very nice mouthfeel. One can immediately tell that it isn’t real cream though how could it be when these little yellow bullets practically have the half-life of bismuth-209? As it stands, the filling is oddly insubstantial with an almost oily texture that is fairly off-putting.

Flavor-wise there isn’t much to say about a Twinkie. They are excessively sweet, fairly neutral-flavored yellow cake surrounding excessively sweet and fairly neutral-flavored white filling. If you feel like cheap baked goods and don’t have much in the way of a discriminating palate or self-respect, then you might be able to do worse than a Twinkie. Maybe. Honestly, I’m not sure if you can do any worse. Someone please do let me know.

As far as the packaging goes, it’s pretty nice. For the regular Twinkies, it’s just a plain metallic X-motif background with a pretty standard character lineup featuring Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, Mystique, Colossus, Beast, and Storm. It’s perfectly serviceable if a little lifeless. Everyone has an almost blank expression with notes of grim determination, but what should I expect from snack cake packaging?

[Editor's Note: these appear to be the same generic character images used on the movie's viral website]

Anyway, since I obviously don’t like these suckers, I’ll have to be creative in reviewing the specialty flavors. So, here’s how it’s going to work. I’ll give you my thoughts about each and then score them on a scale of 0 to 10. Having just discussed the classic Twinkie, that will be our baseline with a score of 5. Specialty Twinkies will then be scored relative to the classic either higher or lower than a 5.

The Twinkie Scale: Classic Twinkie – 5/10

Twinkies-0022Strawberry So as you can see, the box of strawberry-flavored Twinkies features a red metallic X in the background and a smaller lineup of characters, this time made up of Bishop, Professor X, and Storm. Personally, I don’t think this is a bad look. Certainly the red is more eye-catching than the box with the plain Twinkies and the color of Bishop’s cape at least provides a reason for why he was selected to adorn this box. I have to wonder though why Magneto isn’t here. Traditionally, his costume is red and while his costume in the film is more muted, I can’t imagine why a character with more recognition than Bishop and more cachet than Halle Berry’s Storm wasn’t selected for inclusion.

Getting to the confection in question, right off the bat I just need to point out that the pastry is exactly the same and the “cream” is exactly the same texture. This means that it’s still dry, greasy, and artificial in taste and texture. It also means that any differentiation is going to come in the strawberry filling itself.

Luckily, the flavoring is where this variety of Twinkie shines. Honestly, strawberry was a perfect selection as a specialty flavor as it puts me in mind of strawberry shortcake, an association which mitigates some of the artificiality and produces an almost pleasant eating experience. It helps that the flavoring is actually fairly mild and understated. It doesn’t beat you over the head with “STRAWBERRY!” Honestly, I’d vote for this to be a regular flavor of Twinkies. It wouldn’t make me buy them with any regularity but I’d at least consider it now and again.

The Twinkie Scale: Strawberry Twinkies – 8/10

Twinkies-003Blue Raspberry A little story before I go into this flavor. You would not believe how much effort it took me to find these things. For some reason in the Midwest, every Kroger has tons of strawberry-flavored Twinkies and almost no blue raspberries. I had to find a Wal-Mart (of which there are not many in my area) to get my hands on a box of these.

And while I’m on the subject, it’s annoying that you have to buy a full box of these to try these flavors. It would be nice to be able to buy one or two, and see if I even like them before committing to a box of 10. Anyway, I bought two boxes thinking that this would at the very least be an interesting experience and I might as well stock up… Keep reading to see how much of a mistake that was…

The packaging for this one is the same as the last two just with a blue X instead of a white or red one and a different hero lineup. Frankly, this might be the best one because there are actually two characters that are entirely blue and thus are perfectly suited to representing the team on this box. Mystique and Beast look completely at home just chilling next to Colossus. But about Colossus… Why isn’t he in metallic form? I mean, I have no idea who this actor is except that I know he’s playing Colossus so why isn’t he transformed to make his identity apparent to potential pastry patsies who might pick up this product but aren’t familiar with the actor even to the that extent? Search me but I think it would have been an improvement.

Twinkies-blueGetting to the Twinkies themselves, I have to wonder about their appearance. As you can see in the image, the blue food coloring while dark enough to actually make the filling look like it does on the package, as opposed to the lighter strawberry filling, has leeched through the bottom of the pastry. Unfortunately, this gives the Twinkies a slightly moldy look that might turn off some consumers once they break into the box.

Still, if the appearance isn’t enough to turn you off, then the flavor certainly will! I thought the other flavors of Twinkies were sweet but these are ungodly saccharine. It’s almost like these are filled with maple syrup but with the maple flavor replaced by blue raspberry. Once again, the pastry has the same taste and texture and the “cream” filling has just as unpleasant a mouthfeel as any other Twinkie. The flavoring though is wicked and not in a good way.

If you’ve ever tried anything that was billed as “blue raspberry” then you know exactly what these taste like. Whereas with the strawberry Twinkies I complimented that the flavoring was pleasantly restrained, the blue raspberry variety is like Colossus punching you square on the bridge of the nose with blue raspberry flavor and sweetness. What the heck is “blue raspberry” anyway? They certainly don’t exist in nature. Sure the flavor has a passing resemblance to that of raspberries but why “blue?” Why not just “raspberry?” I’m sure the coloring is artificial anyway so why not just make it normal red raspberry?

Keep it together, anger subsiding… Okay, bringing myself back to the point. These are not very good. In a move that might surprise you given my minor rant, I’m actually going to rank them higher than baseline. Why? Because they actually HAVE a flavor as opposed to normal Twinkies and the experience of eating them is certainly more memorable. Basically, I’m giving them a point for the novelty favor. Plus (and I haven’t tried this yet), I imagine giving to unsuspecting friends will result in some pretty entertaining reactions when they first bite into them.

The Twinkie Scale: Blue Raspberry Twinkies – 6/10

Twinkies-001Banana I figured since I was reviewing the X-Men tie-in flavors, I might as well review this other flavor that I stumbled on while looking for the elusive blue raspberry. Going into this, I knew that there was going to be a very low probability of having a successful pastry experience with this flavor. Maybe it’s just my palette but I tend to find that anything artificially flavored to taste like a banana is going to taste more like garbage. Frankly, almost anything that I’ve eaten that has had banana (real or artificial) in it aside from a banana itself has at best not tasted particularly good to me. As for the real deal, I quite like bananas for out-of-hand eating and find them to be great for a quick breakfast when you can’t (or don’t want to) eat anything more substantial.

That being said, the banana-flavored Twinkie was not as bad as I expected. Just like the X-Men: Days of Future Past Twinkies, the texture is exactly the same as a normal Twinkie and the pastry has the same flavor. As such, the only differentiating element is the banana flavoring itself which is entirely carried by the “cream.” Perhaps it’s that the banana flavor was understated and didn’t beat me over the head, but it didn’t bother me as much as I was expecting. Oh, it wasn’t good and it definitely made these Twinkies worse than your standard Twinkie, but it didn’t make me want to spit them out either.

In the final analysis, if you like artificial banana flavoring, then you might like these. If you love artificial banana flavoring, then you might even like these more than classic Twinkies. For me though, I can’t score them particularly high. The packaging certainly doesn’t save them either. It’s pretty much just your standard Twinkie box with some floating banana slices and some yellow around the Twinkie name. Well, whoop-de-doo!

The Twinkie Scale: Banana Twinkie – 2/10

So there it is, the Twinkie review. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go wash my hands… And find some insulin. Anyone know how to restart a pancreas?