"Cockroaches and Twinkies were to be the only survivors of a nuclear holocaust, or so the legend went."
Sugar. corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup and colouring.
The standard price of one's dignity is about $1.50, and Jimmy Marshall didn't hesitate to part with his cash.
"Oh, choice," he said as he flicked through the meagre rations hanging limp from a convenience store shelf. "Twinkies."
Now, in Jimmy's defence, I should probably state first that cameramen need lots of energy. Television news cameras are much heavier than most would imagine and the job demands physical strength and finesse. Besides, snow was forecast and Jimmy was stubbornly refusing to change out of his shorts.
You can take a cameraman out of Christchurch - even if only for a week - and he'll still consistently out-tough you. I knew, though he'd never admit it, Jimmy would probably be glad for the extra conditioning the famously average Twinkie cream cakes might provide.
As we stood in the 7-Eleven he passed me a packet with two golden lumps, each as cubic and unappetising as the other. I pinched a Twinkie between my thumb and forefingers and gently relieved the pressure. The lump slowly resumed its original form, like one of those spongy noodle swimming pool toys. I wondered if the Twinkies' ingredients might actually be the same.
"Gas in the tank, bro," said Jimmy, giggling at my uppity contempt as I scanned the nutritional information.
I asked: "Why would you want to do that to yourself?"
"It's the culture," said Jimmy, laughing still. "You know, when in Rome and all that. It's the culture."
You may have guessed by now that Jimmy's not a quinoa-and-lentils kind of guy and, without generalising about an entire profession, it's fair to say most cameramen probably aren't either.
I've yet to meet a vegetarian shooter and, when eating at restaurants, cameramen seem regularly drawn to servings and items with words like "truck stop" in the title.
Truck Stop Breakfasts. Truck Stop Fry-Ups. Truck Stop BLTs. Twinkies are perhaps a natural junk food progression and Jimmy, my friend, bought four.
Jimmy assures me he was joking about United States culture, but no sooner had he returned to Christchurch than Twinkies were suddenly American choice-du-jour. Mediation talks between Twinkie manufacturer Hostess Brands and its bakers union failed, and the company announced it would shut its factories and sell its assets.
As Hostess Brands seesawed and scrapped with its union, Jimmy's preservative-and-sponge-cake indulgence seemed weirdly and worryingly prophetic. In his fleeting trip to the US, Jimmy had gazed on the final glacier. He'd petted the final dodo. The fabric of humanity could lose a thread forever with Jimmy's soaring cholesterol the only reminder of what once was a convenience store staple.
There was an irony that a food best known for its perceived shelf-life should face such immediate extinction. Cockroaches and Twinkies were to be the only survivors of a nuclear holocaust, or so the legend went.
But oh, how America responded; 7-Elevens were selling out as people stockpiled them.
But having resisted Jimmy's junky indulgence, somehow I was hit by the nagging pang of regret. Booted from my high horse, I pushed open the convenience store doors and wandered to a back aisle.
There I found the last few packets of turd-ish yellow lumps.
It's the culture, I told myself. This could be my only chance. It's only $1.50.
I picked up a Twinkie and pinched it once again.
Sugar. Corn syrup. High-fructose corn syrup and colouring.
Naaaaaaah.By Jack Tame