I'll know that it's officially spring when I'm bitten the head off of my first Peep. It has to be yellow - I don't really consider the pink, blue, lavender, or (yikes!) green ones authentic Peeps. Nor do I like the Easter bunnies. I will not even mention the jack-o'lantern, snowman, Christmas tree, or Valentine's Peeps. Faux Peeps, all.
When it comes to Peeps, I accept no substitutes. The little marshmallow critter on the right (and huddled in the box) are the real deal:
When it comes to Peeps appreciation, I am not alone. As I learned from the JustBorn web site, Emeril LaGasse, Diane Sawyer, and Ellen DeGeneres are Peeps aficionados. You do have to wonder what Emeril actually does with them. JustBorn - "Born", by the way, is the family name of the folks who make Peeeps - tells us that some people use Peeps as pizza topping, but I don't imagine that would be Emeril's thing.
If you want a Teletubbies kind of Peeps experience, JustBorn has a site dedicated to just Peeps.
JustBorn, by the way, also produces retro products like Ike 'n Mikes and Hot Tamales - candies that were considered weird throwbacks when I was a kid, let alone now. Maybe they've jazzed up the packaging a bit.
But Peeps - "Always in Season" - are JustBorn's biggest claim to fame, and they produce an awful lot of them:
Due to demand, Just Born now produces over 1.2 billion MARSHMALLOW PEEPS® a year covering all of its holiday seasons. That’s enough PEEPS® to circle the earth twice.
Which I wouldn't mind seeing.
Although steel is no longer produced there, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania is where those 1.2 billion Peeps are made up to 4.2 million a day. They can make so many because, since 1953 - when JustBorn acquired the Rodda Company that invented the Peep, they've made an amazing leap in productivity:
In 1953, it took 27 hours to create one MARSHMALLOW PEEP®. Today, it takes six minutes.
Hey, if the steel industry had made this type of gain, they'd probably still be a big American industrial force.
Given that it's not - and given that Bethlehem is in Pennsylvania - I think it would be nifty idea if the Pittsburgh professional football team - The Steelers, named and logo'd when U.S. Steel was a mighty local force - changed their name to the Pittsburgh Peeps. (They could still keep the black and yellow color scheme, although obviously they'd have to get rid of the U.S. Steel-ish logo.)
Peeps are, in fact, almost as durable and sturdy as steel. According to the Peeps article in Wikipedia,
...scientists at Emory University performed experiments on batches of Peeps to see whether they could be dissolved. They concluded that the candy is indeed difficult to destroy.
There may be more info on Peeps indestructibility on a site dedicated to Peeps research.
There are, according to Wikipedia, numerous contests involving Peeps: photo contests, dioramas, and (over)-eating.
You can check out some mighty fine shots of stuffed Peeps - first introduced in 2005, but first seen by me this year in CVS - at artist David Ottogalli's PeepsShow. Note that key extra "s" in the middle. Failure to include it will take you to a place I doubt you want to go.
It's not just stuffed Peeps, by the way. There's all kinds of cool Peep-ish merchandise. Peeps have got to be second only to M&M's as a candy brand that's taken on an extra-confection commercial life of its own.
Then there's Peeps.Com, which has nothing whatsoever to do with Marshmallow Peeps, but is yet another social site - "your crib, your crew, hittin' the web Summer 2008."
Well, my crib, my crew, we'll be hittin' the Peeps. Can't wait to bite that first - and last - Peeps' head of the season off.
Peeps on the store shelves: must be Spring!