And you thought funnel cakes were bad

I was going through yesterday’s New York Times and I came across an article about the fall off in attendance at state fairs throughout the country. I was astonished to come across a picture of a 9-year old girl eating a deep-fried Twinkie. This has got to take junk food to the ultimate extreme. I mean, a Twinkie is bad enough, but a Twinkie deep fried? In order for it to last the duration of the fair, I’m sure the oil in the fryolater contains a pretty good percentage of trans fats, which, combined with the sugar (HFCS) and trans fats already in the Twinkie, make the combination a powerful means to drive said trans fats into all the tissues. Is it any wonder that we’re all fat? What is the next vile thing someone is going to come up with to sabotage health? Maybe the ultimate would be sugar mixed with high-fructose corn syrup, rolled into balls, then deep fried. It could make someone a fortune. God help us all.

Mackenzie Intlekofer, 9, eats a deep-fried Twinkie
Photo by Mark Kegans for The New York Times
Erased deep-fried Twinkie.JPG

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12 thoughts on “And you thought funnel cakes were bad

  1. “What is the next vile thing someone is going to come up with to sabotage health? ”

    It may be vile, but I can say from experience that fried twinkies are oh so gloriously tasty. Actually, I had a deep-fried brownie recently as well. It was also superb. Food shouldn’t be allowed to taste that good.

    I know it’s bad, but I know it’s sooo good. Such is our predicament.

    Hi Jason–

    As a friend of mine says, ‘pleasure is a nutrient.’ At least that’s always the excuse I use when I indulge. But, if we didn’t have it around, we wouldn’t be tempted. I’m not at all tempted by a deep-fried Twinkie because I don’t like Twinkies in their native state, so I can’t imagine liking them more deep fried.

    Thanks for writing.

    MRE

  2. You are too late, that aready exist. It’s called a “deed fried mars bar”. Its a Scottish specialty. As the name implies, it’s a Mars bar dipped in batter and then deep fried. Since it’s sold by chip (fries) shops, they use the same oil they do for the french fries.

    Jesus wept!

    MRE

  3. I have your blog set up in my newsfeed ticker, and usually agree with you, but in this case it almost sounds like you’ve gone over to the “other side”, to me.

    Certainly there are a lot of people for whom eating a fried twinkie on a regular basis would be harmful.

    But, even for those people, eating one each year at the state fair would have zero effect on their overall health. And there aren’t a lot of other places, outside of Mississippi and its neighbors, where you can find such a thing without going out of your way, as far as I know, so it’s probably just about that rare as a dietary component.

    One of the unhealthy sources of hysterics in today’s world of cultural repression is the treating of some things as if they were being done every day. If you rarely eat a fried twinkie, or knead a stick of the trans-fatty kind of margarine into an equal amount of sugar and eat it like cookie dough once per year (not that I think anyone does that), you’re not hurting yourself at all. It’s the big picture which is important.

    But, aside from that, there is the problem of generalization, which it again sounds like you’re temporarily joining. As you know, there are people who can chain smoke and remain healthy, people who can eat all the worst foods and remain healthy, et cetera.

    In fact, instead of researchers glomming onto the hysteria with projects focused on finding new ways to scare people, I’d like to see more of them trying to study those who remain healthy with supposedly bad habits, trying to isolate what allows them to do so. Think of it as being like researching Elite Controllers and Elite Repressors — people who are immune to either AIDS or HIV entirely — in order to see how they can help everyone else. What if there were keys to helping other people remain healthier in the genes, metabolisms, or lifestyles of healthy chain smokers and fried twinkie eaters?

    But my biggest point is simply that “this is bad” isn’t one size fits all…because twenty-something percent of gradeschoolers are officially counted as obese, for example, pediatricians have taken to advising ALL parents to carefully watch fat and/or starch intake, as if ALL kids were obese. One size fits all. My kids are all thin and as fit as kids can healthily be. My oldest is very much on the low side of thin, in fact, maybe as much as he can be while still having the doctor pronounce him to be perfectly healthy and thriving…yet the doctor /still/ suggested that we put him on at least lowfat, if not skim, milk, and other such things, simply because “that’s what they’re advising for all children, thanks to the rise in obesity”.

    Yet, like myself, my oldest son clearly has genes, metabolism and/or lifestyle (probably all) which make avoiding obesity almost irrelevant.

    The question of “avoid fat because of obesity” nonsense aside, such generic attitudes — “everyone should eat low salt” or “everyone should drink skim milk”, or even “everyone should carefully watch their carbs” is, in and of itself, unhealthy.

    Whether or not the specific case is true, that now-famous story of the 105 year old guy who lives on a diet of toast fried in fatback is true in its implication; SOMEONE out there could eat fried twinkies every day for the rest of their lives and stay healthy. Few, if any, kinds of food are universally bad and opprobrious.

    Hi KAZ–

    Thanks for your comment. To a certain extent I agree with it, but to another extent I don’t. Before I get into specifics, though, the point of my post was more or less: what will they think of next?

    I’m sure that deep-fried Twinkies are delicious (to some people) and I’m equally sure than if eaten occasionally they are fairly benign. My problem with them is that they supply little that is good and a lot that is bad (nutrition and healthwise), yet they are consumed avidly because of their effect on the (without getting into neurotransmitters and brain anatomy) the hedonistic centers in the brain. In other words, such foods (using the term loosely) are consumed not because they are inherently good, as, for example a tomato or a blueberry or even a Porterhouse steak, but are consumed instead because they make us feel better briefly in the same way as, say, drugs.

    I’m sure there are people out there who use crack cocaine and/or crystal meth and don’t seem to suffer any ill effects from it. Does that mean that it should be made available to the public at large? Or that the public at large should be encouraged to indulge as long as they don’t over do it. (I don’t want this to devolve into a debate on the drug issue. My stance on that is that I firmly believe that drugs should be legalized basically to remove the huge profit incentive from the illicit drug business. But, despite my desire to see drugs legalized, were they so, I wouldn’t want them to be handed out at state fairs across the country.)

    As to your argument about kids and obesity, I agree with you that physicians shouldn’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. But I disagree that just because particular kids are thin and appear to be able to eat anything without consequence they should be allowed, or even encouraged, to do so. When I was a kid I was rail thin and continued to be thin long into high school. I played college football at a weight of about 165 pounds at 6′ 2″ tall. I tried desperately to gain weight without success. My grandfather was thin, my mother was thin, my brothers and sisters were all thin, and, so, I was told that I should consider myself lucky that I could eat anything and not gain weight. Well, it ultimately caught up with me, and I became (to put it euphemistically) portly. I’ve had to work since to keep my weight down, and I’m here to tell you that fat adulthood lasts a lot longer than thin adolescence. Unfortunately, adolescence, that period of time during which we all feel invincible, is the time that we start damaging insulin receptors with all the sugar and other crap that teens tend to eat whether we gain weight then or not. There is no immediate damage, but the effects show up later and can be devastating. It’s just like smoking. Although some people seem to not be all that harmed by it (although how do we know? because we don’t know what the state of their health would have been had they not smoked.) it is well established that overall it is tremendously harmful. If a teenager smokes a cigarette is that going to do him (or her) in? Not likely, and neither is eating a burger, giant order of fries, and a liter of HFCS laden soft drink. But continued pursuit of those habits can. Just as I wouldn’t encourage a kid to smoke a cigarette just because it made him feel good and didn’t seem to cause any immediate harm, I wouldn’t encourage one to go face down in the fries and HFCS either.

    Best–

    MRE

  4. At a recent carnival I attended, in addition to the usual cotton candy etc, there were deep fried candy bars and oreos. Grease and sugar, a deadly combonation, but it smells sooooo gooood!

    Hi Kevin–

    Unfortunately, it tastes sooooo goooood, too.

    The ultimate taste sensation that seems to ring the chimes of the human taste buds is a combination of salt, sugar (or other refined carb), and fat. Mmm Mmm.

    If taste equaled health we would all have it made.

    Cheers–

    MRE

  5. Would you believe that they also serve fried “Snickers” at the fairs? Yep. I’m not exactly sure how they can pull that off without it melting, but it’s been done.

    Hi Mike–

    I guess they do it the same way they do fried ice cream.

    Best–

    MRE

  6. It’s not something I’m proud of, but apparently the British have been doing this for some time! The BBC claim that the first report of battered mars bars dates back to 1995. A 2004 article reports that they’re still being sold: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/4103415.stm

    Hi Janet–

    Thanks for the link. I’m glad to know that deep-fried Mars bars can still be had in the UK.

    Best–

    MRE

  7. When we first arrived in the Show Me state, an interesting item kept popping up on various restaurant menus – fried cheesecake! From what I could figure out from the pictures – the slice of cheesecake is battered and then deep-fried, topped with powdered sugar, caramel, nuts & whipped cream….

    Whatever happened to a slice of good cheesecake?

    Hi Regina–

    What’s wrong with a good piece of cheesecake? Beats me.

    We’ve got deep-fried Mars bars, Twinkies, ice cream, and now cheesecake. Who knows what will come next. Maybe another go round in the friolator. Maybe deep-fried chocolate covered deep-fried Twinkies, or Mars bars, or cheesecake…

    Thanks for the update from the state of my birth.

    MRE

  8. The idea that just because children are thin that they are healthy is part of the mixed up way we look at health and nutrition. My own children seem to have the metabolism of their father who at 43 can still eat anything, not exercise and stay slim. But is he healthy and fit – far from it! But he has no incentive to change his habits because there is a perception that thin=healthy. I continue to try and make my kids understand that they still need to be aware of what they eat and to move their bodies even though weight is not an issue. By giving children the message that they can eat anything because they are thin we are short-changing them on their long-term health. Personally I believe everyone should be aware of the dangers of HFCS, trans-fats, and overly processed foods. If 90% of my kids diet is whole foods (and we do organic & local whenever possible), then an occasional soda or deep fried twinkie isn’t going to kill them. Personally if I was going to go overboard in my diet, I would choose something exquisitely delicious and well prepared (why waste an indulgence on a deep fried twinkie!) and I hope through setting that kind of an example that my children will learn to make good choices when they don’t have someone overseeing what they eat.

    Well said!

    MRE

  9. I’m with the first commenter. The stuff that is the worst for us is the stuff that tastes so good. During my carbo eating for my GTT recently I was introduced to funnel cakes. OMG. Nothing should taste that good. Thankfully, they are not something I am around very often.

    I’d try a deep fried twinkie because I’ve never had one and it sounds intriguing.

    Most of the time I stick to low-carb (and I truly like the foods I’m allowed to eat), but once in a while french fries and other bad stuff call my name.

  10. One more comment about the difference between foods eaten once a year at the state fair, or regularly – the problem with foods that give us the drug-like “ahhhh”, is that they don’t stay at the state fair. A combination of the phenomenon of increasing tolerance and the demand side…. We find a way to get them into our weekly grocery cart, and manufacturers help us with that.

    Corn dogs are one example. They used to be a state-fair treat when I was young and now you can get them every day if you want.

    And now you can get funnel cakes at your local IHOP. No driving or parking to the state fair, LOL

    Hi Connie–

    That’s one of the wonderful (and I’m not being sarcastic) things about our capitalistic system. Someone develops a product, people love it, and soon it’s available everywhere. It’s great for virtually all kinds of merchandise except for food. Food, in my opinion, should be minimally processed and eaten in as close a state to nature as possible.

    Best–

    MRE