Issue #44

Last Update March 2, 2006

Technology Peeps Preparation by Sten Grynir   Although they are available year-round, Easter brings Peeps to prominence. For those who don't know, Peeps are those lurid yellow or pink marshmallow chicks featured in drugstores and supermarkets nationwide in spring. Peeps aficionados can be fanatical, denouncing substitutes and proclaiming color preferences on websites devoted to Peepology (see www.marshmallowpeeps.com (the official Peeps website of the JustBorn company, the manufacturer of Peeps), www.peepresearch.org (devoted to the use of Peeps as research subjects in physical, chemical and biological studies), www.lordofthepeeps.com, which retells the Lord of the Rings story with Peeps as Hobbits, www.geekbabe.com/peeps/, which provides a list of Peeps links, or any number of other sites relating the history and origin of Peeps, soliciting stories about Peeps in the style of The X-Files, and other contributions to Peeps lore).

The critical question for Peeps, though, is how they should be eaten. Two issues are involved: bite their little heads off first, or nibble on they tiny feet; and whether Peeps are best eaten fresh, stale or frozen. The first issue is so much a matter of personnel preference that no rational discussion can be had. To avoid flame wars, I decided to concentrate on the second issue, Peeps preparation, which at least is amenable to some degree of comparative testing.

The experimental protocol was as follows: Three packages of fresh, lurid yellow Peeps were purchased at the local supermarket for the experiment. They were prepared in three different ways: one was immediately opened and all six Peeps eaten, with careful notes being taken as to texture, flavor and mouth-feel, as the food industry terms it; a second package had its plastic wrapper punctured to allow air in and moisture out, and was stored in this condition on a shelf for four days; the third package was stored, wrapping intact, in a nearby freezer for four days. At the end of four days, the second package was opened and all six Peeps were eaten, with careful notes being taken as to texture, flavor and mouth-feel. The experimenter that waited for his nausea to die down, cleansed his palate with seltzer, and opened and ate the third package, taking the same careful notes.

While matters of flavor, texture and mouth-feel certainly contain a measure of personal preference, several objective results can be obtained from this experiment. Fresh (or raw, as I tend to think of them) Peeps are extremely sweet, with a texture that is a mixture of pillowy soft and slightly crunchy ( due to the sugar grains with which they are coated), and tend to almost dissolve in the mouth, leaving a sweet but fresh aftertaste. Stale (or aged, as I tend to think of them) Peeps are less sweet than the raw Peeps, though still extremely sweet, satisfyingly chewy and crunchy (with some of the crunchiness being contributed by the staleness), and have a firm mouth-feel that softens as they warm and moisten in the mouth. Frozen Peeps (or Peepsicles, as I tend to think of them), like stale Peeps, are less sweet than the raw variety,  are firm, chewy and cool, with the sugar crunchiness being slightly reduced by their time in the freezer, and have a complex mouth-feel that begins firm like stale Peeps but transforms to a dissolving softness like raw Peeps as they unfreeze in the mouth.

My own preference is for frozen Peeps. They combine the best features of stale or aged Peeps with those of raw Peeps. Further research needs to be done, however. Due to an inadequate grant by the funding agency, only yellow Peeps were tested. The experiment should be redone with pink Peeps to rule out color effects, with Peeps bunnies to rule out morphological effects, and with competing brands to ensure that these findings are not due to some special ingredient peculiar to the JustBorn company. Generalization to other marshmallow confections (Joyva's marshmallow twists, for example) should then be possible.

A grant proposal has been submitted to the funding agency for an experiment that would explore these possibilities.

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