STILLPOINT Archive: last updated 05/30/2012

Twinkie Freshness: a Longitudinal Study

In 2004 Professor Irv Levy explained to his organic chemistry class how chemists can prepare molecules that were previously unknown, because of some potential use they may have: a better pain reliever, a better engine lubricant, or—his playful example—an ingredient that could make Twinkies stay fresh forever.

Unknown to Levy, several students took this as a challenge to see how long Twinkies stay fresh without that magic ingredient. Jenn Kerry ’06, Jenn Hayden ’06 and Eric Mehlberg ’06 “dined on Twinkies before class started and before Prof. Levy popped open his perpetual can of soda,” Jenn K. writes. “We shared the moment in the second row on the left-hand side of the ultra-orange organic chemistry classroom: orange tile, walls, furniture, benches, art and periodic table of the elements. Jenn Hayden and I each bought a box of ten Twinkies; we vowed to eat one each year on Groundhog Day until they were gone.”

Every year since, the two women have eaten another (progressively less fresh) Twinkie. This past Groundhog Day they ate Twinkie #9. Groundhog Day 2013 will bring the experiment full circle. “Our real goal with this experiment,” Jenn K. admits, “was to have a reason to keep in touch for as long as possible if only for one day a year. We call to compare notes, and then we talk for hours.”

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Twinkie test