Posted by: trevormeers | April 8, 2012

Peep Thrills

Marshmallow Peeps should not be equated with Easter. The holiday recognizes the most important day in the history of mankind. It’s a time for solemn reflection that has been co-opted, Christmas-style, by our consumerist culture and transformed into yet another opportunity to overeat and fuel the fake-plastic-grass industry.

Back at the home base, we celebrate the Peep harvest with a plate full o' poached mallows.

As far as I can tell, Peeps deserve most of the blame for this. The marshmallow treats—if that’s what they’re really made of—have no real substance, aren’t very good for us and distract us from what actually matters this time of year. Chocolate bunnies, by comparison, are petty criminals.

All of this is what led one of America’s finest magazines to put out a public hit on Peeps. In a recent issue of Field & Stream (nominated again this year for General Excellence in the nation’s most prestigious magazine awards), Peeps made a surprise appearance in the back-of-the-issue “Save/Splurge” column. The article highlighted various ways to enjoy target shooting with a .22 rifle, the small-caliber gun that teaches nearly every shooter the basics of the sport. In the budget column, there was a photo of Peeps in all their yellow garishness. “Peeps are evil and should be shot on sight,” the column advised. “And they die a spectacular death.”

I was immediately sold. In addition to my long-running PR campaign against Peeps and all they represent, I’m constantly looking for entertaining new .22 targets, just like every other shooter. The traditionally favored pop cans are readily available, but unless you catch the can’s rim with your shot, the bullet passes through, barely wobbling the can. Golf balls make great sport, with their habit of bouncing wildly and splitting open. But they get pricey as targets. When I was a kid, my dad ushered me into shooting on a Sunday afternoon with the first shots from my fresh-from-the-box Daisy air rifle. Amazingly, my dad showed up at the makeshift gun range with hard-boiled eggs. I’d never seen my dad make toast or boil water for his own Ramen, but he somehow managed to produce eggs for me to explode with the lethal tandem of pellets and compressed air. They made wonderfully responsive targets, but they also represent more work than I’m generally willing to put into a spare hour of shooting.

All the ingredients required for a fun day afield.

Thus my joy at the idea of putting Peeps in the crosshairs. On a sunny Saturday, Allison and I headed to the public ground we use as our shooting range, armed with a 500-round box of .22 long rifle ammo and several boxes of Peeps purchased expressly for this purpose. We sat them in a row 25 yards away, licked the yellow dye from our fingers and set in shooting.

Though I’m slow to do it, I must quibble with Field & Stream’s assessment. Peeps do indeed make fantastic targets. When struck, they piroutte off into space, disappearing into the tall grass around our cardboard box stand. I would not, however, qualify this as “a spectacular death.” The Peeps absorb a hit like that liquid-metal Terminator that couldn’t be stopped with any number of shotgun blasts from Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton.

Down but not out, this specimen endured 8 shots without a significant loss of structural integrity.

In our field tests, we discovered that the average Peep can survive at least eight strikes from a .22 rifle. A glancing shot simply creases the mallow, leaving a deep furrow that doesn’t even make the Peep sag. A direct hit just pokes a round tunnel through the Peep, leaving a clean shaft of daylight shining through the snack, but not wiping the sugary smirk off its beak.

I later learned that we certainly weren’t the first people to discover the Peep’s undead properties. The Source That Does Not Lie (popularly known as Wikipedia) reveals any number of experiments that have shown Peeps’ zombie ways. The treats are made of a combination of marshmallow, gelatin, corn syrup, carnauba wax and a pinch of pure evil. (Disclaimer: The last part remains unproven in labs.)

After an hour soaking in phenol in some geek's lab, the Peep finally succumbs--except for the eyes, which have an unsettling tendency to follow you around the room.

Tests have apparently shown that Peeps will not dissolve in water, acetone, sodium hydroxide or—and it’s on the Internet, so it must be true—sulfuric acid. That’s right, science fans. In a vat of acid, you would melt away while the Peep in your hand would bob happily on the caustic waves.

None of this data, of course, is enough to daunt an elementary school kid from consuming Peeps. So after our time at the range, we returned to the test kitchen so Allison could wreak a bit more havoc on the Peeps that had survived the hail of bullets. Traditionally, melty gooiness is the best thing about less freakish incarnations of marshmallows. So Allison long ago decided to heat her Peeps before consumption. The pleasant side effect of this is that the Peeps deform into exciting new shapes after only moments in a microwave.

It seems reasonable to assume that a Peep only becomes more dangerous when subjected to microwaves, much like gamma rays transform lizards into monsters that terrorize Japan. So we generally limit Allison to a single melted Peep each year.

And we don’t eat them on Easter. We try to avoid polluting the holiday with a manufactured food that could survive the apocalypse without losing any freshness. Besides, we’re all too full from eating Spam to even think about dessert.

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