Thousands, no, probably tens of thousands of little beady eyes watched me enter the store. The official greeter said, “Welcome to Wal-Mart.” There were shelves overflowing with fluorescent pink, blue and purple creatures, impossible colors in nature.
“What?” I thought.
Oh, that’s right, Easter is right around the corner, and these are Peeps. Moving ever so slightly to one side, I noticed their eyes following me — just like the eyes of Jesus in that painting that hung in your grandmother’s house when you were a little kid.
It was a tad creepy.
Now, I have to admit, I was a newbie when it came to Peeps. I had never eaten one. I always thought they would taste gross.
But here they were, right in front of me, begging to be bought and tasted. So I did. I bought three packages of chicks, one in each color. I didn’t notice if there were any bunnies or not.
With great trepidation I bit into the first purple chick. Well, for Pete’s sake. They were just marshmallows covered with a sugary coating. I didn’t know that.
Inspired, I stuck one on a fork and held it over a gas burner.
Wow, yummy! The sugar coating caramelized, making a crispy outside that surrounded a typical melted marshmallow center.
I tried them frozen. OK, but not nearly as good as roasting/toasting them. Frozen, they tasted a bit bland — as if I had taken a bite of a frozen cloud. Now they are about two weeks old and have been sitting open to the air. The texture has changed from light and fluffy to more chewy, think “Peeps al dente.”
Now the Wal-Mart in Barstow is not huge, but I thought about how many Peeps there were in just that one store. Can you imagine how many were distributed nationwide? Worldwide? It boggles the mind.
In fact, coming straight from the official Peeps Web site, the amount of Peeps chicks and bunnies eaten at Easter could more than circle the earth’s circumference.
If you visit the official site you can vote on how fresh you like your Peeps, from early in the season to “the longer they age the better.”
Exploring the world of Peeps is pretty fascinating. Everything from recipes, fun facts, news, history and a factory tour is available on the Web site. I was going to join the fan club, but they wanted way too much personal information. Like where I live. Why? Are the Peeps going to pay me a surprise visit?
One of the more entertaining of the unofficial Web sites dedicated to Peeps is www.peepresearch.org, which takes a closer look at the technological wonder of the marshmallow candies.
They put the little critters through a variety of tests and environments to see how they react to cold and heat and to examine the effects of smoking.
Kids, do not try these experiments at home except under the guidance of a childlike adult.
Having thoroughly enjoyed my Peeps, I went back to Wally World a week after Easter, to purchase some more. They were all gone. Nothing left in the Easter section except a package of sad jelly beans, a couple of chocolate eggs and some wilted plastic grass.
I suppose I will just have to wait until next year and ration the few I have left.
For those always counting calories, each Peeps chick has 32 calories and 0 grams of fat. Not bad for a product that could probably survive a nuclear winter.