There’s a joke about what could survive Nuclear Fallout: “Cockroaches and Twinkies.” Cockroaches, because of their unbelievable hardiness to endure–extreme cold, depleted oxygen, scarce food, etc. Twinkies, because of their unnaturally long shelf life.


My children enjoy an animated movie that riffs on this idea (WALL-E). In a dystopic scene, set far in the future, when a cockroach crawls inside a Twinkie, I laugh out loud, and my kids want to know what’s so funny. So I try to explain.

Though Twinkies are famous for their long shelf life, they are infamous for their lack of nutritional value. One of my favorite classes in nursing school was Nutrition–incredibly helpful not only professionally, but personally. Through all the information about nutrients, food, food myths, medical diets, nutrition fads—my professor kept emphasizing healthy habits and moderation. As for moderation, you’re not going to die if you eat a Twinkie. But don’t make it a daily habit.

As we raise our kids, we’re trying to model this moderate approach. You don’t need to be afraid of your food. You need to be smart and balanced over the long-haul.

So, to further their cultural awareness and food education, we recently bought a box of Twinkies. I made a joke about reading the super-long list of ingredients and explained how that relates to the abnormally long shelf-life, and why Twinkies don’t make the old Food Guide Pyramid as their own group.

I don’t know why exactly–it could be that they recently tried some amazing homemade cakes from Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking–but, the Twinkie tasting was a flop–in the best way possible. They really didn’t like them. This was very surprising to me, because they typically enjoy processed food quite a bit.

My son said, “It tastes weird.” Then he said, “I sure hope this experience doesn’t ruin American Cheese for me!” I laughed my enormous laugh, and we all enjoyed the moment.