Believe it or not, the Twinkie didn't start off so bad. Perhaps the scapegoat for the ills of junk food everywhere, we all know that Twinkies have a disturbingly long shelf life and offer little to no nutritional value.
However, when James Dewar, the manager of a baking plant during the Great Depression, had the idea to utilize sponge cake pans all year-round, he filled cakes with banana cream -- not chemicals.
The Twinkie was born. (Later during the war there was a banana shortage, and the cream became plain vanilla.)
This story and more are celebrated in The New York Times' tribute to the great men of our country who invented various junk foods.
I'll be the first in line to slam junk food, then I'll head over to the Sno Cone line. It is so very American, and so very bad for you. Convenience, plus cheap food has created a number of problems in Americans from obesity to cancer. Perhaps if we only enjoyed a chili cheese dog at a ballgame, instead of every Friday night, junk food wouldn't have such a bad rap.
Beginning with a ballgame favorite, Cracker Jacks were the first junk food on record, invented in 1896. Coming quickly after was the Tootsie Roll, and then in one of my favorite stories of delayed gratification, Popsicles were introduced to children everywhere:
One unusually frigid night in San Francisco in 1905, 11-year-old Frank W. Epperson accidentally left a powdered-soda drink he had made for himself on the porch with the stirring stick still in the cup. The next morning, he awoke to find a frozen concoction, on a stick.
He tasted it. He showed it to his friends at school. And then he went on with his life, eventually going into real estate. It was not until 1923 that Mr. Epperson finally applied for a patent for his discovery. These days, Unilever sells two billion of them in the United States each year. Mr. Epperson initially called his product Epsicles. His children had another name: Pop’s ’sicles.
Check out the article if you're still dying to know how bubble gum came to be and how the Big Gulp has evolved. It's all kind of adorable. Well, except the Big Gulp thing. That story is just straight up disturbing.
Image via Christian Cable/Flickr