Sunday, April 20, 2003

Peeps are 50? It's time to grow up

OK, I admit I'm a little past the Tooth Fairy. No matter how much money she promises to leave under my pillow, I'd rather keep all my teeth. Santa was outed by Henry Napier in a disturbing incident on the school bus when I was in the second grade. Henry said all the presents came from our parents. Then he punched me on the arm and made a Frisbee out of my Brownie Scout beanie.

But the Easter bunny still leaves a basket for me at my mom's house. He knows just what I like. Marshmallow Peeps. Pepto-Bismol pink rabbits and unnaturally yellow chicks, loaded with sugar, unpronounceable preservatives and virtually indestructible beady little eyes.

Right now, they are soft and trailing strands of green wax straw. Later today, they will attach themselves to the sides of eggs and harden to a satisfying consistency guaranteed to pull the enamel off your teeth.

A Peep passion is irrational. Surely not good for you, although each Peep is only 32 calories and has 0 fat grams, in case you are counting. And they are certified Kosher, which seems peculiarly ecumenical. Peeps look decidedly low-rent next to elegant Fawn candy rabbits and Graeter's chocolate eggs.

But we Peep-aholics don't care.

Boomers strike again

"Last Easter, more than 700 million Marshmallow Peeps were consumed by men, women and children throughout the United States," claims the manufacturer, Just Born Inc. Well, they sold 700 million of them. They don't really know what happens after that.

"Whether for eating or using in a craft or recipe," says product manager Wendy Esch, "demand for Peeps is growing."

My theory is that Peeps consumption is continuing evidence that anything we baby boomers valued when we were real babies, we are hell-bent on inflicting on future generations. This is the only rational explanation for VW Beetles and Stevie Nicks.

Just Born publishes recipes and craft ideas, including such things as Peep-A-Boo Puff (a Peep in a cream puff) and instructions on how to make a mobile, a wretched affair in which innocent Peeps are suspended from a hanger with fishing twine.

It was bad enough when they started making them in weird colors. Lavender. White. Blue. But now the company is hawking Halloween cats and ghosts and Christmas trees and snowmen.

This is just greedy and seasonally unsettling. Peeps belong in Easter baskets. Period. Peeps also were not meant to be carried around in knapsacks, despite a company recipe for Peep S'Mores. You don't see the Girl Scouts putting out yellow and pink Thin Mints.

But you have to admire a company that in this day and age has not caved in to special interests. There still are no tofu or anatomically correct Peeps. And there's no label on the package warning that they're not good for you.

Marshmallow Peeps are celebrating a 50th anniversary in 2003, says the official Web site, promising a year full of "Peep-tacular anniversary events."

Peep-tacular? Purple? Orange? Suspended by their ears from a hanger?

Peeps are 50 years old.

Fine. Act your age.

E-mail or phone 768-8393.

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