Dedicated to Leonard Read
I am a Twinkie. The classic variety of Twinkie familiar to generations of Americans with an affinity for an occasional sweet indulgence.
I’m just that, a snack and not a meal, and I have never pretended otherwise; it is what I am, and I am satisfied with that.
I am writing my genealogy so that generations yet unborn may remember me. While my story lacks historical relevance, it does not lack for history or relevance. I am relevant in spite of the fact that for many years now I have been maligned and even ridiculed simply for fulfilling my purpose: satisfying an individual’s yearning for an occasional sweet indulgence.
At the surface, I appear rather dull and boring. I am not adorned by filigrees of syrups or encrusted in exotic nuts, my shape is rather uninteresting and unimaginative, and my flavor is a synonym for lacking flavor, yet I have been called upon to discharge duties worthy of pastries fit for Kings and Cardinals alike. I have provided comfort in those times when comfort can be derived from consumption; I have kept the secrets of some who wished to consume me without judgment. I have been both faithful friend and quiet co-conspirator.
I may appear simple to the eye lacking insight, and many claim to be able to imitate me, but if there is one thing that I can say with conviction it is that no one person can ever by themselves replicate me.
Perhaps you are surprised and my temerity. I am after all, just merely a Twinkie. But maybe you should not fall so fast victim to your innate sense of superiority; I am far more complex that you can possibly imagine. I don’t know that I can fully list the seemingly endless number of hands that helped shape the rather dull, uninspiring protagonist in this story, but perhaps if I mention enough of them you will see intricacy where now you just see a golden sponge cake with creamy filling.
My story begins many places, as I am born in many places.
Fields in Kansas covered in golden wheat are my birthplace, and I have roots in the ocean of corn covering so much of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska; any place where corn and wheat grow is my birthplace.
I am also born under a tropical sun in the sugar fields of Florida, and in the soybean fields of the Buckeye State. Any place where eggs are hatched are also a birthplace to me.
Imagine the countless thousands of anonymous hands that plant me, care for me, harvest me, produce me, mill me, pack me, trade me, transport me, receive me, and warehouse me, all long before the first mixer comes to life and the first oven begins to warm.
There are stabilizers and artificial flavors that are a part of me, all bearing the touch of thousands of nameless others who take part into my becoming that unassuming pastry you’ve known for the greater part of a century. Many other thousands labor to raise, pick and transport the crops used as the raw goods from whence my packaging originates, and an equal number turn those crops into my cellophane wrapper and my waxed cardboard bedding. Imagine the multitudes of they who take part in my simply producing the raw ingredients from where I arise, all assembled under one roof, along with the thousands of other who provide machinery, services, and support for all those directly involved in the process thus far, all dependent on me to one degree or another for a living wage. The sight of them all assembled together would be breathtaking indeed.
And finally here I am, ready for the mixers and the ovens, ready for the packaging and transportation, ready to become that which I am meant to be, and to fulfill my preordained purpose, those few minutes of pleasure that I came into being to provide. Here again thousands more working to achieve those goals.
This is the partial accounting of the masses that have a hand in my coming into being. Partial in the fact that it leaves out the men and women who mine for the ore that feeds the foundries that form the iron and steel used to build the trucks and the ovens and the mixers. The thousands more who toil the forest where the rubber trees begin the process of becoming the tires on those trucks, or the oil fields in places near and far from where Mother Earth’s black and rich blood flows, to be transported into the refineries that turn blood into power.
It’s all far too complex to be stated here, certainly by someone as insignificant as your humble servant. It is enough that I have tried, enough that I have acknowledged the hands that formed me.
I have been produced with precise efficacy for many decades now, blended in mixers manned by nameless thousands, baked in ovens watched over by thousands more. Few – if any – left who can recall my inception, yet millions are aware of my demise.
I have provided honest labor for truckers and even a bit of sweetness as they rolled over the black ribbon highways that cut across our vast landscape. I have been shelved by stock boys in neighborhood groceries, and sold in school concession stands in towns big and small.
For a time, I was financier to Howdy, Bob and Clarabell and friend to the members of the Peanut Gallery. I was far less than insignificant to all whose livelihood depended on those broadcasts. I was Americana then.
I have been many things to many people. And insignificant as I have been, I have been instrumental in bettering the lives of so many along the way, that if properly accounted, the numbers would appear to be overstated. Yet, as you can see, I have been just that.
And now the last of me have been produced. The ovens are cold and the mixers are still, and I, along with my brethren exit the stage.
Some may say that my absence leaves no void, but I beg to disagree.
For the growers of the wheat, corn, soy and sugarcane there will be less to supply, and less to provide them with a living. There I leave a void.
There will be less for the makers of the stabilizers and the flavorings, less for the truckers to transport, the stockmen to shelve, and the machinists to build and maintain. Their ability to earn a living likewise impacted. I leave a void there as well.
There will be less for the support personnel to manage, less for the stock boy to resupply, and less for the school fundraisers to sell.
There is less to be had by all the others recessing back into the unfocused complexity of the free market system traveled by all my individual parts with such precise efficiency that it made the process seemingly effortless.
It bears mentioning that brinkmanship and belligerence in the part of what amounts to a relatively small percentage of all who took part and derived wages from my coming into being, ended my existence by interfering with that free market flow. They took work and wage from that intricate and far-ranging net of growers, producers, transporters and distributors of my raw ingredients, and the industries which provide them with the equipment and ancillary services, without ever offering them seat or voice at the negotiating table.
The greed of the few superseded the needs of the many, and in the end, that greed turned on its own source when demanding more than what they received by producing nothing until they got it, netted them the unexpected.
Many lost some, the belligerent few lost all, and all lost me.
There is a larger lesson to be learned here about the negative impact of artificial interference with the delicate balance of a free market economic chain, but I am not the one to teach it. I am after all just a Twinkie, and Twinkies are fluff and sweet cream and indulged cravings. I was just that, and I never pretended otherwise, and I was satisfied being just that. I’ll leave the lesson to be taught by those possessed with more substance.
And I, Twinkie, will choose to bid you a fond and forlorn good bye instead.