Dumbing Down Our Food: A Letter from Woody Tasch

Woody TaschGoodbye, Twinkies?

Hostess Brands, the manufacturer of Twinkies and a roster of brands that date back to 1888, shut its plants and began the liquidation process in November.

But rather than celebrate the prospect of 75 billion nutritionally challenged calories disappearing from store shelves (that’s 500 million Twinkies per year times 150 calories each), commentator  George Will prefers to celebrate the power of brands, calling them “the gods of the marketplace” and expressing confidence the powerful Twinkies brand will be “resurrected”:

“Are you a Ford or Chevy person? Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Ward? Camels or Chesterfields? Wooed by advertising, people plight their troths to brands in marriages that often are more durable than boomers’ actual marriages.”

To rebut Will’s brand-studded noneulogy — it neither contains the phrase “junk food” nor refers to any of the ingredients in Twinkies, but does cite 36 manufacturing plants that employ more than 18,000 people — let’s go to Joan Gussow’s essay “Can an Organic Twinkie Be Certified?”:

“Food ‘manufacturers’ in my parents’ generation could do little more to foods in the factories — heating them, for example, or drying them, or putting them aside to ferment — than could be done in the household. Today, however, the food technologist’s power over the products of nature has multiplied to the point where he can create foods never before eaten by humans, foods whose safety and nutritiousness are at best unprovable and at worst doubtful.”

It’s hard to think of a more manufactured food than Twinkies. OK, Gummi Bears.  Which raises the real question: Just what do we mean by the term food?

Gussow continues: “A professor of our acquaintance once used an apple and a Twinkie to distinguish between ‘food’ and something he called ‘gut filler,’ food being something that points us toward a particular place, a particular time of year, and a set of ongoing global processes, and gut-filler being something that is ‘manufactured.’”

Could it be that food manufactured by food technologists, designed by chemists and lacking connection to place and season makes us dumber? More susceptible to the fast and the cheap, the artificial and the abstract? Too ready to choose empty calorie over nutrient density? Too willing to say hello to the virtual and goodbye to the real?

Now, picture a futures trader or an arbitrageur or a hedge fund manager or an investment banker or an advertising executive or a TV pundit, standing on a corner in lower Manhattan, snarfing down a Twinkie.

And say, “Au revoir.”


5 replies
  1. Jerry Cunningham
    Jerry Cunningham says:

    When I picture the Wall St. Thugs, I picture is The Walking Dead – them along with all their equally ignorant kin in the rest of America – we are walking dead people in the making.

    Sixty-Six Million Hectares of Genetically Modified farm land in the U.S. – and where would Twinkies be without my tax dollar enabling Corn-Kings to produce High Fructose Corn Syrup from genetically modified corn?

    And where would they be without a very corrupt USDA as the rotten grape on the vine of corporate dominance of mine and your government – the Lawmakers the Regulators and the K-Street pipers.

    I just hope that we will awaken from our gross inattention to the basics of our soil-food connection to our vibrant Earth.

    Thanks to all of “Slow Money” for fighting the good fight…


  2. Kathy Jernigan
    Kathy Jernigan says:

    I’m interested in connecting with other people in Alabama and Georgia who are part of your movement. My sisters and I will likely inherit a small 30 acres of old farm land in the future and I’d like to build my knowledge of options for sustainable farming.

    I don’t have alot of time to devote but would like to connect locally in Atlanta. Any suggestions? kathy

  3. Rick
    Rick says:

    The manufactured substance named Twinkies is understandably something that should not be consumed. That aside: 18,000 people out of work. And more considering the so-called supply chain. Whatever solutions come to mind, imaginative or not, are probably moot. The redirection of any ‘American’ industry is problematic without a restructuring plan implemented by ‘government’ and even then it usually is sub par and the aim is not to create viable jobs making a ‘product’ that is genuinely ‘nutritious and delicious’. Celbrating the demise of Hostess is actually rather odd,as it is indeed a tragedy in so many ways, ongoing over the years in terms of food, now interms of employ. The knaves who lord over it, no matter the trajectory of thoswe below, escape with a wad of cash.


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