Due to popular demand and the fact that we love trying weird foods and candies, The A.V. Club will now regularly feature "Taste Tests." Feel free to suggest disgusting and/or delicious new edibles for future installments: E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banana Split Creme Oreos
Okay, kids. Gather round, settle down, stop punching each other and bitching about what we left out of this week's Inventory and arguing over who posted to it first, and I'll tell you all a story of the Before-Time, the Magical Long-Ago when men were men and sheep were scared, dinosaurs roamed the Earth, and all Twinkies were banana-flavored.
Seriously, they were. Twinkies were introduced back in 1930, the invention of an enterprising baker who wanted to get his money's worth out of specialty pans that were normally only used when strawberries were in season. Bananas proved easier to come by in the off-season, at least for a while. Or as The Washington Post put it in a 2005 retrospective, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Twinkie: "Back then, James Dewar, manager of Chicago's Continental Bakery, wanted to find another use for his company's shortcake pans. He decided to fill the small, oblong cakes with a banana-cream filling and name them after the 'Twinkle Toe' shoes he saw advertised on a billboard in St. Louis. Banana cream-filled Twinkies—selling two for a nickel—debuted as part of the Hostess baked-goods line. During World War II, when there was a banana shortage, the filling flavor changed to vanilla."
So basically, unless you're a senior citizen who was around in the Banana Era, your whole Twinkie-eating life has been a lie. (If you are a senior citizen, then your life has only been a lie since World War II. But chances are good that you feel that way anyway.) We've been robbed of our proper banana heritage, and inferior vanilla Twinkies have been pawned off as the real thing for some 60 years. But take heart… banana-filled Twinkies are back. Hostess re-introduced them last year in a limited-edition run, and sales skyrocketed, so now they're back on the shelves "permanently." Meaning, of course, however long they continue to bring in the bucks.
Nabisco has no such historical precedent/excuse for its new limited-edition "Banana Split Creme" Oreos, which fill the venerable crispy sandwich cookie with foamy banana-flavored bright-yellow stuff. But presumably they don't need an excuse to make a cookie so addictive that Josh Modell makes me keep them on my desk so he has to actually get up and leave the office to get them, rather than just snarfing down the whole box in private. In theory, this minor exercise barrier has been cutting down on his Banana Split Creme Oreos consumption. In practice, I think if there were anything like real bananas in these things (the ingredients list indicates only tasty, tasty chemicals, which suggests that if Nabisco had just introduced them in the '30s, they would have made it through the war just fine, recipe intact and unadulterated), Josh would have denuded the Nicaraguan banana plantations by now. In cookie form.
Taste: There was a great deal of mocking of Banana Split Creme Oreos among the editors, who noted that the packaging prominently promises "cremey" banana flavor, and also that "banana split creme" seems like a pretty ambitious title for an artificially bananaed-up lard cookie. That said, they did turn out to be more sundae-flavored than expected. The usual firm disc of Oreo filling has been replaced by a soft, gooshy material with the light, whipped consistency of cake frosting. It does actually taste like a mixture of whipped cream, bananas, and sugar. The filling is so soft that the usual Oreo "twist, separate, and lick" maneuver (yes, yes, kids, get it out of your systems, we'll continue once you stop tittering… oh dear, I said "tit," didn't I? Sigh.) is even easier than usual. Also, if you just squeeze the two cookies together, the filling squooshes out on all sides and can be eaten separately. Some Oreo aficionados openly wished that regular Oreo filling was this soft and sweet. And make no mistake, it's crazy sweet, like only a froth of sugar and sweet banana could possibly be. The taste is overwhelming and artificial—even the inside of the package smells like banana esters were poured into the plastic cookie separators. It's tasty nonetheless. While many tasters were unenthused, the roughly 50 percent of the office that liked them really liked them, returning to the package over and over for more. In a Taste Test first, the A.V. Club Tasting Labs bought another package of them for the office the day after the first one was opened and scarfed down.
Banana Twinkies, surprisingly, proved to be a lot milder. They're filled with banana cream, but the cake part has an unmistakable banana flavor too, whether it's suffused in from the filling or baked into the cake. But either way, it's relatively subtle, more a strong hint of banana than an overwhelming wash of it. Banana Oreos taste like BANANA!!! oreos. Banana Twinkies taste like Twinkies. With some banana. And less sticky-sweet fake-O banana at that. (The ingredients note that they contain "less than 2% banana pulp," but even if the makers just waved a bunch of bananas in the direction of the batter vats, that's still closer than Banana Oreos got.)
Banana Split Creme Oreos
— "It tastes like a really dense banana marshmallow between cookies."
— "These are really delicious. I could eat the whole box right now."
— "The filling really IS 'cremey.' Compress the cookies, and it all glorps out. Normal Oreos don't do that."
— "It's got a strong artificial banana smell and taste, but it's so sugary and smooth. These are to bananas what Reeses Whips are to peanuts."
— "I might actually like these better than original Oreos, which scares me a little."
— "The banana is pretty artificial-tasting, but the chocolate taste of Oreos is also kinda artificial, so it works. Please note, artificial-tasting does not always equal bad in the case of snack foods."
— "The banana flavor is nice—very artificial, but not super-heavy."
— "I can't recall a special-flavored Oreo that's been bad. They do it right."
— "It's like the 99 Bananas of Oreoes—like shitty flavored alcohol. You like it at first, but the taste gets old after the first 15 minutes, and it will give you horrible gut-rot the next morning."
— "It's like a softer version of the marshmallow Circus Peanut, sandwiched between chocolatey cookies."
— "The frosting won't stay put between the cookies. It really wants to slide out."
— "[Enthusiastic, mouth-full thumbs-up gesture.]"
— "Those are really good. I just became a fan."
— "Like pizza, all banana-flavored foodstuffs basically taste the same. I'm not really getting the 'sundae' part; it just tastes like creamy artificial bananas."
— "It tastes like a gummy marshmallow. With banana smell somehow coming out of it."
— "I think the chocolate cookies conflict with the banana."
— "It doesn't really taste much like anything to me." "Are you kidding? It's chockfull of artificial banana fakeness."
— "A totally decent variation, the kind of specialty candy you could eat during Easter without feeling weird about it."
— "Really pretty good. But why bother to fuck with it? The original's perfect."
— [After some overall reluctance to eat an entire Twinkie.] "You can share this Twinkie if you don't want a whole one." "Man, you guys are Twinkie pussies!"
— [Same group of people.] "It's just a hint of banana in the Twinkie. The Twinkie is way better than the Oreos." "You see? They said I was mad!"
— "Uck. Still, not half as bad as half the crap we usually eat."
— "Oreos could learn a thing or two about subtlety from Hostess."
— "Twinkies taste like the plastic wrap that vending-machine muffins come in. This one just tastes like it was used to wrap a banana-nut muffin."
— "I think this is way better than the Oreo. How is it that a Twinkie, of all things, tastes less artificial than an Oreo?"
— "The banana flavor is much less overpowering, and thus slightly more organic. Slightly."
— "I just imagine some sad individual trying to decide whether to eat a Twinkie or some fruit. Now there's a way to do both, kinda. Thanks, Hostess!"
— "I imagined a Twinkie with mushed-up bananas inside, but they've wisely focused the banana flavoring in the cake. Point! The finish is weirdly drier than a proper Twinkie, however."
— "Whoa, it tastes really banana-y at first. The filling actually tastes like real banana bread."
— "If you had handed me the Twinkie without telling me it was banana, I would have thought they just changed the normal filling slightly. It's not that strongly flavored."
— "I don't really like Twinkies to begin with, so I'm not the best judge, but I'd put these at 'okay.' The banana flavor is really, really subtle—too subtle for my liking. I need lots more banana flavor than this to justify eating a whole Twinkie."
— "It tastes like aspartame. Which is funny, because it should taste like animal fat, given what's in it."
— "It's very—subtle isn't not the right word, but it isn't overpowering. It has a burning quality to it, a sort of chemical harshness in your throat."
— "It's not as good as regular Twinkies, but it's all right."
— "It's so mild that it makes me wonder if there's a little banana flavor in normal Twinkies."
— "Basically tastes like a Twinkie. There's a slight banana taste reminiscent of the pre-packaged muffins you get at the counters in convenience stores. Unfortunately, the nuts and bread have been removed in favor of a disgusting white paste leaking out of three holes in the bottom."
— "These are basically banana-flavored death rolls."
— "Hey, not bad! I was expecting to hate this. Maybe I like Twinkies after all. It's much less artificial-tasting than I expected. If you served this at a fancy restaurant, in a less recognizable shape, I think you'd get away with it."
Where to get 'em: Grocery stores, Wal-Mart, random convenience stores, etc.