Friday, April 10, 2020

Why I Love Easter: Peter Pan, Jesus, And Marshmallow Peeps

Easter was always a big deal at my house when I was a kid. For my mother, it was all about dressing my sisters and me in ruffled dresses, and patent leather shoes for the Sunday service at Church. My ten-year-old brain automatically tuned out the sermon and focused instead on Peter Pan's advice for Neverland---to think of the happy thing that would give me the power to fly on Tinkerbell wings.

That thing was Easter Peeps.

I was still dreaming of the sugar-coated, chick-shaped marshmallows when my parents insisted on an additional hour of biblical education in a Sunday school classroom that smelled of Elmer's Glue and mothballs. The teacher tried to engage the class in a rousing rendition of Peter, Paul and Mary's "If I Had A Hammer," but nothing could distract me from the promise of the spongy yellow birds nestled deep in the plastic grass of my Easter basket.

The only thing I learned during those formative years of Sunday school instruction was that (1) I owed Jesus an enormous debt that I couldn't possibly repay, and (2) Jesus was a forgiving man who would understand if I didn't want to share my Peeps.

I learned how to negotiate my Easter candy stash like a Blackjack dealer with my friends until I owned the lion's share of squishy, marshmallow birds. I was a Peeps aficionado who preferred to eat my neon yellow chicks while they were still fluffy and fresh, unlike my best friend, who left the package open for days to age the marshmallows like a fine wine until they were a harder, crunchier bird.

My penchant for Peeps followed me well into adulthood and was passed down to my own children. My youngest son was especially fond of Peeps, introducing me to the joys of microwaving them until they expanded like Macy's Day Parade floats---a confectionary feat no other candy could duplicate.

There are recipes online for deep-fried Peeps, 'Smore Peeps, and even Peeps pizza, but nothing tops eating them in their original puffy form----beady eyes and all.

Being the Peeps purist that I am, I've found the new, dizzying array of flavors on the market disappointing. Pumpkin spice, cotton candy, bubble gum, and caramel apple----these are just poor substitutes for the real thing. Faux Peeps, indeed.

The latest flavor hitting the market just in time for Easter is the love child of marshmallow Peeps and Hot Tamales chewy candies, and the result is a baby chick with an attitude.

Sold as Peeps Marshmallow Hot Tamales Fierce Cinnamon, they come in a box of ten fiery-colored birds: "Two classic candies come together in one sweet and spicy treat!" One fat-free, gluten-free serving is 110 calories for four chicks (but let's be real, these sticky birds are conjoined in sleeves of five, and expected to be eaten by the row). That's 24 grams of sugar per serving, or 60 if you consume the entire box. Enough to keep your dentist busy for a year.

I wrestled with what felt like a child-proof package until the cellophane tore, and was greeted by the aromatic scent of cinnamon rolls baking on Christmas morning. I tested the sponginess of the marshmallow---it was fresh---and then swiftly decapitated the bird with one bite. The nostalgic flavor combination of cinnamon and sugar instantly transported me back to my grandmother's kitchen, where a plate of homemade snickerdoodles awaited after a hard day of playing tag in the summer heat.

Eating an entire sleeve of these Peeps is like drinking shots of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey without the annoying hangover side-effect. Despite the fiery Hot Tamale brand, fans of Flamin' Hot Cheetos will be disappointed that these marshmallows don't pack the same amount of heat. There's only a subtle hint of warmth when the cinnamon spice hits your tastebuds and turns your tongue bright red.

The crazy thing is, this Peeps purist likes them, and I've found that roasting them over a campfire enhances their flavor, adding an extra zing to my 'Smores. As tradition calls, I also tried the microwave test, but after the initial swelling of the marshmallow, the bird shrank into a hard, chewy ball reminiscent of stale bubble gum. I had difficulty scraping the gooey mess off the microwave plate, which made me wonder what affect the Peeps might have on my intestines if I ate another sleeve.

Although the marshmallow itself is made up mostly of sugar, corn syrup, and gelatin, the main ingredient of Peeps' eyes is carnauba wax---the same component found in furniture and shoe polish, lipstick, and car wax. They're also insoluble, which means that I might be carrying a giant ball of Peeps eyes in my belly that has been accumulating since 1969.

Peeps Marshmallow Hot Tamales are good enough to become a holiday staple in our family. But just in case this durable, cinnamon bird is ever pulled from grocery store shelves, I'll hang onto a few boxes to pass down my Peeps legacy to future generations. They'd make a great addition to any Easter basket since they never age, and no matter how many years into the future they're opened, they'll still taste fresh.


  1. Ha! This is hilarious but at the same time...very serious. It's about Jesus after all and Peeps and Jesus go together on Easter like PB & J. I can't even begin to fathom a hot tamale peep but you did make it sound enticing, Marcia. The eyeballs being a type of wax is a bit frightening tho. I guess we eat our lipstick off our lips without realizing it, so it isn't much different. LOL.

    Happy Easter to you and your littles!

    1. Yep, just like lipstick, LOL. Happy Easter to you, too!

  2. Although I'm not a Peeps fan - never have been! - I love knowing the wild and wacky flavors out there. Enjoy your stash this weekend! Happy Easter.

  3. Uh-oh. Here's where I admit I've never tried them! But I do love marshmallows, so moving on to Peeps will be a short, delicious trip.
    We celebrate the Saviour on Easter Sunday, but Easter Monday has always been reserved for Peter, the Frugal Easter Pig. (Because all the Easter chocolate goes on sale for 50% off or more on Easter Monday!)
    And BOY, does Peter know how to pile on the candy!
    Just FYI: Peter has already stocked up and has things totally in hand for porch drop offs on Monday!

  4. OMG, this is hysterical!

    Never been a really big peeps fan, the thing I always loved was the creme-filled eggs - not the Cadbury ones but the big Russell Stover's ones decorated with frosting flowers and filled with something reminiscent of 3 musketeers filling. I loved those!

    Very brave of you to try the cinnamon peeps.

  5. Bit of a Peeps virgin, sitting here celebrating Passover eating dry crackers and crying a bit because I LOVE Hot Tamales. Maybe next year Passover won't land on Easter and I'll get to try them. But if not, I may have to work on a good trade to get a package of them away from you.

  6. Caution, I have a sugar rush just from reading this post.



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