Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Mama Hen

To see a Peep born is a very interesting thing. I have no idea how the engineers figured out how to get a machine to do it, but it is fascinating to watch. Cindy calls this machine the Mama Hen and she births a lot of Peeps. She's loaded with this marshmallow glop that reminds me of the white stuff in the mushroom in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory. Remember when Augustus scoops a handful of the stuff out of the mushroom and shoves it in his mouth? Well there was a vat of pink marshmallow stuff and I really wanted to pull an Augustus...but some lines do not need to be crossed. And hey, we all saw what happened to Augustus! I wasn't ready to be ejected from the factory.
The Mama Hen makes the base of the Peep, sweeps in and does the body, and finishes with the head - the end forming the tip of the beak. Let's refer to the Peep statue that resides in the factory lobby:



This is the ideal Peep - notice how there's a base, then the body, then the perfect little head and beak. The Mama Hen machine pumps out a long row of these babies all at once - in sets of five. I swear I could watch that machine all day. What a feat of engineering! The Eiffel Tower - bah. That has nothing on the Mama Hen.

The day I was there they were making one of the two new colors for this Easter. Yes, you get all the scoop here!! The new colors are........

orange and green! Yay!!!! Existing Peep colors are classic yellow (of course), lavender, blue and white. There are also some red ones you can order on the site, but I'm not sure they still make those.

Peeps have their own website
http://www.marshmallowpeeps.com/ and there is a fan club you can sign up for. There is also a Peepmobile, but I didn't get to drive it. Or ride in it. Or actually even see it.

Okay, so the Peeps come out of the Mama, they ride down the line and they get some colored sugar sprinkled on them, but its also on the conveyor when they are born, so it's on their base too. These little guys are white marshmallow on the inside and whatever color they are making on the outside. They are completely covered. Check them out - zero white shows on these babies. The art form is high. The only small "flaw" (if you even call it that) is that five Peeps are joined together. These are not individual Peeps like our ideal Peep in the lobby. But hey, why be picky? We're taking a feat of engineering here!



So vats of marshmallow are loaded in, cute Peeps come out, they are coated with colored sugar - it was at this point that Cindy snagged a defective Peep (although to my eyes it looked perfect) off the line. Actually there is a little chute the defective ones are routed to. (Don't worry - if possible they will be recycled. Just Born practices as much recycling as they can and they are going as green as they can (not just with the Peeps).

Oh - Peeps are also low in fat and each one has only 28 calories!

Hey - back to Cindy snagging a Peep. She grabs one right off the line (doesn't even have it's eyeballs yet) and hands it to me. It's still warm! It's even melty! Imagine a toasted marshmallow but with no crispy edges. It's like having a hot Krispy Kreme donut. I am ruined for life and only want hot Peeps. Damn it was good!!

But I want to know how they put the eyes on the Peeps. I've wondered about this all my life. I want to see the eyes!! I think I was chanting, "Eyeballs, eyeballs!" and maybe stomping my feet. Cindy smiles and promises she will show me that before we leave.

We also see a line where they are making sugar free hearts. Hey - if you haven't tried the sugar free ones they are really good too and have even fewer calories! Cindy grabbed me a warm one of these. I was jumping up and down with glee at this point and cheering on the Ooompa Loompas. Massive amounts of sugar and shiny colorful candies do that to me.

They were also making orange eggs:

Now this picture doesn't do them justice because not only are they orange, they have some multicolored shiny sprinkles in with the sugar coating. They are really pretty. I ate one of these off the line too. I was starting to feel a little ill at this point, but it was still awesome!

These are interesting because they have to hand pack all these seasonal shapes. Peeps get packed automatically, but these have to be packed by hand. Three ladies were doing it while we we there and they were moving fast. But if one messed up, you could see how an egg pile up could happen. Like that Lucy episode. I tried to distract one of them.

One of the three started talking with us about how much she loved to eat Peeps. She was skinny as a rail and you could tell she loved the product and her work. We was way too tall to be an Ooompa Loompa. Plus the Oompa Loompa never really seemed very happy in Willy Wonka. Actually they were kind of creepy.

The distraction didn't work - no egg pile up - these ladies are pros. Cindy told us if anything - even a completely packaged and sealed item - hit the floor it had to be thrown away. They run a tight ship at JustBorn.

Tomorrow - the eyes! The eyes!





1 comment:

Heidi said...

Oh this is torture.
Just sheer torture.
You are the devil.
Excuse me, but I have to go microwave a marshmellow now and pretend it is a Peep hot off the assembly line.

(As I head to the microwave, I can be heard mumbling, "Devil woman, devil woman, devil woman. Where are my marshmellows????")