Even Twinkies count as homemade

Tim Krohn, The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.
·3 min read

Apr. 11—"Americans are eating healthier" has been the story line of recent years.

The claim got a big boost over the past year with countless stories of people cooking their meals at home rather than going out.

But eating at home doesn't necessarily mean eating healthy. And home cooking doesn't necessarily equal nutritious.

I do a home-baked bean recipe that's a hit during grilling season.

Homemade. Legumes. Maybe I'll get a star sticker from Dr. Weerts at my upcoming physical.

Of course, there are 2 cups of brown sugar in them. And 2 cups of sugar-filled barbecue sauce. Oh, and bacon and salt.

Still, it is home cooking.

While much has been made of people cleaning out grocery shelves to cook at home, many of the sale surges weren't exactly staples of good eating or cooking: flour, sugar, canned soup, chocolate, cheese.

A recent survey found that 75% of people believe they are eating healthy. But the obesity rate in America is near 43% and keeps ticking up.

Food companies didn't miss a beat when all the talk of healthy, natural and organic foods became new catch words. They mostly just changed their marketing and packaging.

Atkins-type diets fueled a host of products, like low-carb snack bars that, if you read the ingredients, don't have a lot of carbs but also don't have anything resembling food ingredients.

"All natural ingredients" are emblazoned on labels. They just hope you don't notice that sugar is "natural."

Fruit juice sounds healthy, and they line the store shelves. But a lot of them are just liquid sugar.

While we feel good hearing and talking about healthier foods, it's still the junk food stories that really grab our attention.

A recent COVID-related food story was focused on a national shortage of ketchup. Particularly, the little packets used by fast-food and take-out restaurants. Heinz can't keep up with demand and announced it would ramp up production 25% to make 12 billion ketchup packets a year.

Some might argue the tomato-based ketchup isn't a junk food. But a 20-ounce bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup contains about two-thirds of a cup of sugar, not to mention added colors, flavors and preservatives.

National Twinkie Day also happened last week, a story no one could resist.

There was the annual visit by reporters to the retired Maine science professor who placed a Twinkie in a glass case as part of a class discussion on food additives. The 45-year-old Twinkie is still in the case, looking not much different than when it was on the store shelf.

Hostess — which makes the iconic Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Wonder Bread — is a company with a staying power that rivals its Twinkies. In 2012 the company went bankrupt, laid off thousands and closed the doors, including those on its store off Highway 169 in North Mankato. Many attributed the demise of the company to healthy eating habits, but in actuality it was a bitter union fight and inefficient operations.

But just a few years later, Hostess was resurrected by equity investors and became a publicly traded company. Hostess is soaring, with its fourth-quarter revenues up 7% over the previous year.

It turns out that all those shoppers who were snapping up ingredients for home cooking were also filling their carts with Ding Dongs, Twinkies and Cupcakes.

If you feel a little guilty eating them, there are a bunch of homemade Twinkie recipes available online. Making them yourself might make you feel better.

Tim Krohn can be contacted at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 507-344-6383.