Hostess Limited-Edition Peppermint Twinkies
Submitted by Amy Barnes

I spent my childhood with perpetually bright red kneecaps and elbows. I was klutzy and my mother had the magic of Mercurochrome. The dangers of red dye just weren’t on ’70s mom radar. The hot dogs of the ’70s and ’80s were barely indistinguishable from the medicine. Bright red. Scary red. Radioactive red.

I thought artificial red was all behind me. These days, both Mercurochrome and bright red hot dogs have been banned by the FDA. But I was wrong thinking the red was completely gone; a secret red food spy has returned, and at Walmart, of course. For whatever reason, most of the oddly-colored throwback foods seem to end up on Walmart’s shelves. It’s like aisle 5 is the bastion of weird, limited-edition snacks.

Enter Hostess Limited-Edition Peppermint Twinkies. Wedged in next to Flaming Hot Cheetos simply because they are both radioactive red.

Even on the outside of the box, it was clear Hostess had created something akin to devil’s food in a box; the very opposite of innocent pale Twinkies. The label showed bright red copycat Twinkies, with its signature white cream interior and cake exterior, both as red as ’70s snappy hot dogs. It was clear the “Limited-Edition” referred to some radioactive half-life that meant the Twinkies could survive a nuclear winter in a bunker.

Just like all other Walmart food oddities, I couldn’t resist buying the glowing red cakes and threw them in the cart. I then braved the parking lot of a Scary Walmart (for weird snacks are only available at the scariest of Walmarts), locked the car doors, and opened the box. On the surface, each Twinkie just looked like a red version of the classic vanilla flavored ones. I bit into one and found familiar white cream under the artificial, cake exterior. The peppermint flavor was as artificial as the red with the cream making it all like a weird, reverse, squishy candy cane. I knew instinctively the red cake crumbs would stay on my lips like Flaming Cheetos so I had wipes ready to hide the evidence.

One bite was enough. Not simply because it tasted as red as it looked, but because some suspicious characters were circling my car, which had to be glowing like a cop car. I had a passing thought that the ultra-red Twinkies were some kind of homing beacon. When I held my hand around one of the cupcakes, I swear it glowed in my hands like a Girl Scout camping flashlight. Note to self: give the rest of the box to our Troop leader. I took the rest of the Twinkies home and tried rubbing them on my kids’ knees. I figured if the Twinkies weren’t actually edible, maybe they could serve a medicinal purpose. My kids didn’t appreciate that. The red kneecaps or the actual taste of the cakes themselves.

Weeks later, my favorite white T-shirt still looks like a crime scene. And Hostess seems to have taken a few notes from their Christmas Mercurochrome-hued Twinkies by introducing a new Valentine’s Day cake version: Hostess Cupcakes Chocolate Covered Strawberry Valentine’s Day cupcakes. The exterior is deceptively traditionally chocolate. However, they haven’t learned completely. The interior of the traditional chocolate cupcakes appears to be white cream mixed with radioactive red. Maybe I can use the Valentine’s Day cupcake interiors as zit cream?

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Field Roast Frankfurters
Submitted by Ellen Rhudy

For years I have seethed with anemic vegetarian rage when I grocery shop, wondering what store manager would so cruelly display hot dogs and smoked sausages, already a tempting hickory brown shade, alongside the extra-firm tofu I would most likely fail to flavor. This rage is most often self-directed, as when I assured dozens of conference attendees that the paella is vegetarian, don’t worry, that chorizo you see isn’t real, (NB: the chorizo was real), but I had found a trusty external scapegoat in this “Field Roast” and their attempts to trick unwitting vegetarians like myself into eating meat again. “Just put it right next to the tempeh,” their marketers, bearing a striking resemblance to Mr. Burns, must have whispered to grocery store managers across the nation. “You’ll have them back on chicken and pork chops in no time.”

Imagine my shock, then, when my mother – my own mother! – told me to select a pack of the trickster hot dogs, assuring me that, yes, I absolutely could eat this artisanal purported “meat” product. Sautéed, given a bun just like old times, the snap of true hot dog skin, the salty perfection of, you know, whatever it is that hot dogs taste like, broken only by a stripe of Heinz Ketchup. They matched my memory – admittedly not a real fond one, but I write as someone who matured in the age of the boiled hot dog – and even my father ate them with no complaint. It tastes like meat (I think), it looks like meat (I think). Am I one step away from being the type of vegetarian who eats a burger that bleeds beet juice? Who is this “Field Roast” trying to fool, me or my father? What kind of monster cannot even distinguish between real and fake chorizo? These are questions I cannot yet answer, and in the meantime I guess I have no choice but to conduct my taste tests of the Mexican Chipotle Sausage and so-called FieldBurger in secret, far from the judging eyes of the uninitiated.