Don't Be Ashamed of Loving Marshmallow Peeps

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In this Easter edition of Ask Corby, our expert explains why you should cherish neon-colored, industrial puffs of sugar

4489719699_385eca3298_b_wide.jpg Q. It's Easter, and as usual I bought Peeps for my two small children. Here's the thing: I really like Peeps. But all my friends are foodies and heavy into sustainability too, so I don't let myself buy them except at holidays. And then I eat most of them. Should I be ashamed? My kids won't be small forever. And do they come in any colors besides yellow and pink?

A. Peeps are their own food group, as you intuitively know but haven't let yourself admit. I'm the right person to ask, as I have an ever-present supply in pretty much every shape and color, thanks to my friend Mrs. Pilver, who finds the full array of Just Born's Peeps, still made in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at a factory store near her in Westfield, Massachusetts, and presents me with a big assortment at the holidays where we meet, including this week at my family's seder.

Why is the marshmallow different from all other marshmallows, as we might ask during Passover? (Tragically, Peeps are not kosher for Passover, at least according to this WikiFAQ answer.) They're industrially processed, of course—very industrially processed, leading to claims that they will handily survive nuclear winter. The official "Just Born" Easter site doesn't have any of those predictions, nor does it feature dioramas of the kind various groups sponsor every Easter, including this one from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, perhaps because one of the dioramas has a hand-colored sign emblazoned "Despicable Peeps." But these provide hours or hobbyist amusement for children and adults alike.

I'd argue, though, that they're different, and not just because they're strange, inhuman artifacts in strange, Day-Glo colors that themselves look toxic (and there's quite an array) that look straight from the better-living-through-chemistry 1950s, which they in fact they are. I think they taste good. The texture is unlike anything homemade, and I'm a complete fan of the new vogue for homemade marshmallows. It's airy, dry, evanescent in a way that big, S'mores marshmallows aren't. Most important, it has a sanding of sugar that gives marvelous crunch to every bite, and that makes other mushrooms seem namby-pamby and flaccid.

Sneak Peeps from your deserving childrens' mouths no more. Buy extra—now, before the theoretically seasonal supply runs out—and eat them with pride.


Want to submit a question for the next column? Ask Corby for food, drink, or restaurant advice by emailing askcorby@gmail.com.

Image: katerha/flickr

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Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." More

Corby Kummer's work in The Atlantic has established him as one of the most widely read, authoritative, and creative food writers in the United States. The San Francisco Examiner pronounced him "a dean among food writers in America." Julia Child once said, "I think he's a very good food writer. He really does his homework. As a reporter and a writer he takes his work very seriously." Kummer's 1990 Atlantic series about coffee was heralded by foodies and the general public alike. The response to his recommendations about coffees and coffee-makers was typical--suppliers scrambled to meet the demand. As Giorgio Deluca, co-founder of New York's epicurean grocery Dean & Deluca, says: "I can tell when Corby's pieces hit; the phone doesn't stop ringing." His book, The Joy of Coffee, based on his Atlantic series, was heralded by The New York Times as "the most definitive and engagingly written book on the subject to date." In nominating his work for a National Magazine Award (for which he became a finalist), the editors wrote: "Kummer treats food as if its preparation were something of a life sport: an activity to be pursued regularly and healthfully by knowledgeable people who demand quality." Kummer's book The Pleasures of Slow Food celebrates local artisans who raise and prepare the foods of their regions with the love and expertise that come only with generations of practice. Kummer was restaurant critic of New York Magazine in 1995 and 1996 and since 1997 has served as restaurant critic for Boston Magazine. He is also a frequent food commentator on television and radio. He was educated at Yale, immediately after which he came to The Atlantic. He is the recipient of five James Beard Journalism Awards, including the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award.
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