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Props to the Peeps Man

Easter is over and now you have to deal with the peeps. Because the plain sticky truth is that the only one who really likes them is your weird cousin Alice and she's gone home to Pennsylvania and now you've got three boxes of Peeps on the counter and they will sit there and slowly--very, very slowly--harden until sometime next spring, just before Easter, when someone finally says, "Ok if I toss those Peeps?"

Peeps, a product of the Just Born company in Bethlehelm, Pa., were not something I knew about growing up in mostly Jewish, Japanese and Puerto Rican neighborhoods of The Bronx. But Peeps, like Oreos and Rice Krispies, are one of those essentially American ingredients, a food product that morphs into something far more important, a construction material and a pop culture phenomenon.

Peeps, spongy little chicks and bunnies, are sickly sweet, have a shelf life of two years, and are pretty much indestructible. This has been proven scientifically. (University researchers, supported by tax dollars, no doubt, have put their all into these projects. This is science for the peeps, so to speak.) From the Emory University Peeps project, courtesy of Fortune magazine: "James Zimring, an assistant pathology professor, and Gary Falcon, a computer scientist, found that the only liquid that would dissolve Peeps was an industrial-strength, protein-dissolving chemical solution. Zimring notes that closing a Peep in a microwave incited a fear response: 'The Peep expanded, just like a scared cat sticking out its fur, and its eyes dilated.'"

But the ultimate Peeps person may be a Washington artist named David Ottogalli , who a few weeks ago created a seven-foot-tall palm tree made entirely of Peeps. Displayed at a Miami Beach food festival, the Peeps were skewered and dipped in chocolate. Ottogalli's previous work was an eight-foot-tall shrine of and to Peeps.

This man works as an MRI field service engineer, but his life is really a celebration of Peeps. He has had sugar in his blood from an early age. As a child, he lusted after Boo-Berry cereal, but his parents restricted him to the slightly less sugary but still artificially colorful Trix. He dyed his Cream of Wheat purple.

Today, his art runs to circus peanuts spray-painted gold and Peter Max-style pop art versions of white bread. And, of course, the infinite possibilities of Peeps.

My own approach to Peeps is not nearly as creative or refined as Mr. Ottogalli's. I'd like to see an entire landfill committed solely to the little sugar critters. I'd like to see a government agency procure a fleet of trucks and hire a staff of drivers solely to carry the petite confections to their final destination. And then I'd like to see a horror film made at the Peeps landfill. Happy Easter.

By Marc Fisher |  April 20, 2006; 6:26 AM ET
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I think the site below is where the raw data generated by Zimring and his colleague is posted. Note that they conducted quite an extensive program of research. Not just observations of fear reactions and solubility, but also effects of smoking and alcohol on the health of Peeps and the reactions tPeeps to hot and cold.

They also demonstrate an experimental surgical procedure, now being developed to separate conjoined Peeps.

Check it out:

Don't miss this folks! Cut and paste the link. You know your work will wait.

P.S. Marc, can you get the web people to put some instructions on these pages as to how to make clickable links in blog comments? Thanks.

Posted by: A | April 20, 2006 9:12 AM

Huh . . . that link worked. Wonder why didn't all those other times. Anyway, enjoy.

Posted by: That was me | April 20, 2006 9:13 AM

Huh . . . that link worked. Wonder why didn't all those other times. Anyway, enjoy.

Posted by: That was me | April 20, 2006 9:13 AM

I love Peeps. But what is it with all tha hatin' that Fisher has for animal life in all it's forms? Doesn't like live animals and doesn't like animals made from sugar. Man, can't you be hatin' something else?

Posted by: Stick | April 20, 2006 9:28 AM

Posted by: Corinne | April 20, 2006 9:35 AM

Peeps jousting is a lot of fun. Take 2 Peeps and 2 toothpicks. Stick one toothpick into each Peep. Place them face to face on a paperplate. Put it into the microwave, and set it for about 2 minutes. Whichever one pops first loses. It is a good time, and it keeps the kids interested, too (not to mention the adults!)
As with the Dippin Dots, expect a letter from the Peeps people too... They do taste awful--but the make for good science experiments!

Posted by: Max | April 20, 2006 9:52 AM

Marc does hate something else. He hates candy too.

Last fall, he told us (us being the chatters in his weekly web chat) that he treated his children's Halloween candy as if it had an expiration date on it. If they hadn't eaten it by within a few days, it was GONE.

So, Peeps are the worst. Candy in animal form.

Posted by: Anonymous | April 20, 2006 9:55 AM

Wow! Mr. Ottogalli is, um, very talented. Really, I do think his stuff is terrific. I'm glad you pointed this out to us. He should be invited to build something that could be on display at the White House Easter Egg Roll next year. The kids would love it. Or, perhaps DC could hold a Peeps are contest similar to the panda and donkey/elephant art contests that we've had in the past couple of years. Peeps don't have a DC indication, but I'm sure we could make up something.

And, in the realm of making art out of small pastel things, within the past week or two (on Letterman, I think), I saw a couple of guys who made various kinds of "paintings" from Post-it notes.

All these folks are essentially doing some combination of carpentry and laying tile. I guess this is construction work for guys who don't like to get dirty.

Posted by: THS | April 20, 2006 10:05 AM

Posted by: Peepsfan | April 20, 2006 10:08 AM

The tastiest Peeps are STALE Peeps! Yummy.

Posted by: Peeps4Ever | April 20, 2006 10:53 AM

Uh oh, I must be someone's weird cousin Alice because I love Peeps! I look forward to them every spring!

Posted by: misschatter | April 20, 2006 11:57 AM

I like them too, but only in the sense that it's a kick to have a taste of something that was a treat as a kid. Since Marc didn't get that early imprinting, he can perhaps be forgiven for being anti-Peep.

Posted by: THS | April 20, 2006 12:26 PM

Check out what flickr users did with Peeps this easter!

Posted by: mmm | April 20, 2006 1:41 PM

The Emory Research is a crock (and clearly made up). Peeps are simply marshmallows formed into shapes and coated with colored sugar. Marshmallows are made from corn syrup and gelatin, as the Emory researchers would have discovered if they had checked the bottom of the Peeps box for the ingredient list. The gelatin is the source of the protein they discovered.

Peeps dissolve quite nicely in hot water, such as a cup of tea (some stirring required). Try it yourself!

Posted by: Myth buster | April 20, 2006 2:00 PM

This is cool, you have to try it. I guessed 10212, and this game guessed it! See it here -

Posted by: Allison Trump | May 22, 2006 9:46 PM

I think that this whole thing is fake!!

Posted by: dont worry bout it | September 14, 2006 2:05 PM

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