The Deep-Fried Twinkie

A few days ago, after years of trying, I finally got to sample my first ever deep-fried Twinkie (DFT). I won’t go as far as to say that it was a religious experience, but it was otherworldly — a bit like experiencing unusual performance art, which is why the DFT deserves a mention here.

Before I go on, I should probably take a moment to explain what a DFT is. It looks like a battered, deep-fried hot dog on a stick, but it’s really a battered, deep-fried vanilla-cream-centered sponge finger cake on a stick. The regular, un-tampered-with Twinkies can be found at any American convenience store or gas station. They’re tasty, and, need I say it, exceedingly trashy. The Surgeon General should probably insist that each pack be sold with a health warning on it, like cigarettes. But a marvelous transformation takes place when the confection is dipped in fish batter, frozen overnight and immersed in a vat of canola oil.

I heard about the deep-friend Twinkie stand at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk long long before I first visited the quaint Pacific town on the Northern California coast. Vegan and raw food afficionados I know in San Francisco spoke in almost hallowed terms about the stand — how sampling its wares regularly converted people who would normally choose starvation over nibbling a Twinkie (or indeed any Hostess product) into DFT addicts.

When I went to Santa Cruz for the first time in 2003, I made a beeline for the Boardwalk, only to find the stand shut. I had to make do with some kettle corn. It was stale. I was disappointed. The same thing happened the second, third and fourth time I made the pilgrimage to Santa Cruz. Each time I got to the stand, even on a busy weekend in high summer, it was boarded up. One time, the cause was a malfuntioning fryer. Another time, I simply got there too late and business was done for the day. I started to think that the Boardwalk Gods were having a joke at my expense, perhaps because I was too chicken to go on any of the surrounding fairground rides.

Finally, a few days ago, while on a business trip to Santa Cruz, I managed to get to the Boardwalk when the stand was actually open. I had to rub my eyes to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. As I approached the stand, I half expected the guy at the counter to tell me that he’d had a rush on DFTs and was all out for the day. But he just took my order. I paid $3 for my DFT and wasted no time to taste what I had been waiting for all these years.

I was not disappointed. Food writer Melissa Clark did a pretty good job nof describing the DFT experience in The New York Times in May 2002:

“Something magical occurs when the pastry hits the hot oil. The creamy white vegetable shortening filling liquefies, impregnating the sponge cake with its luscious vanilla flavor. . . The cake itself softens and warms, nearly melting, contrasting with the crisp, deep-fried crust in a buttery and suave way. The piece de resistance, however, is a ruby-hued berry sauce, adding a tart sophistication to all that airy sugary goodness.”

Wanting to take a purist approach to my first DFT, I didn’t try any sauce with mine. Next time, I may give the chocolate syrup a whirl. But the effect of the confection was almost immediate on my system. I don’t know if I was feeling the effects of a sugar, fat and chemical high, but Santa Cruz seemed even sunnier and more colorful than usual that afternoon.

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  1. Karen says

    Yes, they made be bad for you but so is everything out there in this life. Hell, cigarettes, drinking, eating certain foods. So why not enjoy ONE DFT and live your life to it’s fullest. I am going to die one way or another might as well be with a smile.