Ode To The Twinkie

Valentine’s Day seems to be a good day to talk about Hostess Twinkies, maybe because there’s a little red heart on the box.

Unfortunately Hostess Brands, Inc., the manufacturer of Twinkies, recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. They had filed once before and, it seemed, had recovered. But now it appears the game is over. This is not good news for wildlife rehabilitators.

So many urban myths have sprung up around Twinkies (“they have a shelf life of 150 years” / “they last longer than the cellophane they’re wrapped in,” / “they contain embalming fluid”) that Hostess once felt compelled to issue a statement saying they actually have a shelf life of only 25 days. They also added that “it takes 45 seconds to explode a Twinkie in a microwave,” just in case anyone was interested.

But this is not the point.

What wildlife rehabilitator has not – during some dark time – looked to Twinkies for comfort? Personally, I have been up to my eyeballs in injured birds, exhausted, stressed out, and in a foul mood, and believed the only remedy for my situation was to scarf down two packs of Twinkies. However, there are always Yodels, Devil Dogs, or even Gummi Bears, so this is not why I mourn their loss.

Why do I care so much about Twinkies?

Because that cream stuff in the middle takes gunk off bird feathers.

Glue, sap, tar – almost any kind of disgusting sticky stuff that a rehabber swears will never come off – comes off when Twinkie innards are applied. Somehow, it all dissolves away. The question is, who came up with this idea, and under what circumstances?

1) Child: Mom, I don’t want the rest of this Twinkie.

Rehabber: That’s ok, honey, just give it to me and I’ll smear it all over this bird.

2) Rehabber #1: Wow, that bird’s a real mess. Whoops, sorry, I didn’t mean to drop my Twinkie on it.

Rehabber #2: That’s ok, let’s just rub it into its feathers and see what happens.

The real story came from Dr. Helene Van Doninck, a veterinarian/rehabber at the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Nova Scotia. Someone had asked, on a rehabber listserv, how to remove glue-trap gunk from a bird; the question provoked great hilarity in Helene, who remembered having seen the same question posed on a veterinarian listserv. Evidently, one vet had said she could not find a way to remove a mysterious putty substance from her dog’s foot, and another – who had been a chemist in a previous life – had replied that she should use something with polysorbate 60 in it. He told her the best source of polysorbate 60 was … yup … the filling in Hostess Twinkies. The first vet tried it, off came the putty, and another Twinkie legend was born.

Helene posted all of this on the wildlife rehabber listserv, reported that the stuff was water soluble, warned that it was an eye irritant, denied having recommended it, and committed all sorts of typos while laughing, probably because she was envisioning what happens when any kind of cream-pie incident goes too far.

So if you are running to the store to stockpile Twinkies, just know that the reason they’ll probably all be gone is because a rehabber got there ahead of you.

Much more importantly: do check out Helene Van Doninck’s great place in Nova Scotia!

Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

RR#1 Brookfield Nova Scotia Canada B0N1C0

http://www.cwrc.net

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About suziegilbert

I live in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley and have been rehabbing birds for over twenty years. I’ve written a memoir about the slippery slope all rehabbers eventually slide down, called “Flyaway: How a Wild Bird Rehabber Sought Adventure and Found Her Wings,” published in 2009 by HarperCollins; and a children's book called "Hawk Hill," published in 1996 by Chronicle Books. I also write all kinds of freelance content. Please see my website, www.suziegilbert.com
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7 Responses to Ode To The Twinkie

  1. Jodi says:

    Ha! I never knew! Damn u think the cupcake filling works the same?

    • suziegilbert says:

      Well, I have a whole box of Yodels right here – how did that happen? I’m looking at the ingredients and what do you know, among them is polysorbate 60! The problem is the cream is whirled around the chocolate, which would make it hard to extract. There’s probably poly60 in Ring Dings, but I’d guess that the chocolate/chemical whatever would stain the bird’s feathers, making Ring Dings trickier to use than Twinkies. Rehabbers will have to add one more talent to their list now: Ring Ding Cream Extractor.

  2. Didnt know about the Twinkies,, very funny.

  3. I’ve never like Twinkies…something about the filling was yucky…but I guess this is a tribute to the food chemical industry..I bet those little things called “snowballs” have the same cream in them and they could probably survive a nuclear explosion…I am hoping to take a wildlife rehab course .. really a first-aid stabilization course at Hawk Creek (East Aurora NY) this spring. I would like to know enough to get the wildlife to a rehabber as it seems that things get into trouble on the pond here…of course from man-made activities…Michelle

    • suziegilbert says:

      Imagine a nuclear explosion, with nothing left but cockroaches eating “snowballs.” I’m really glad you’re taking a rehab course, Michelle – you’d make a great rehabber! And then you can write all the stories up on your blog 🙂

  4. ingrid says:

    Suzie, I’m so glad to have found your blog by way of your new ‘beat’ at 10,000 Birds. The Twinkie remedy is new to me, and it’s one I never heard the staff mention at the wildlife facility where I was affiliated. I’m now inspired to ask my former supervisors about how they could have left this critical information out of the volunteer training manual. 🙂 Beautiful writings, and even more spectacular work you do on behalf of our wild brethren. Thank you. I look forward to reading your books, as well.

    • suziegilbert says:

      Hi Ingrid, thank you, and always happy to meet another rehabber! Asking around, it seems warm canola oil works even better than Twinkie filling … I will post the details tomorrow. Thank YOU for everything you do. We’re all in this together!

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