I used to think that my personal preference for stale marshmallow Peeps ― the bird- and bunny-shaped marshmallows that will indeed be available for Easter 2020, despite their factory closing due to the coronavirus pandemic ― was a palate outlier. As it turns out, there are a lot of people like me in the world, people who prefer their marshmallow crunchy, their sugar crystallized. For my part, I have a long-established method for expediting the staleness of my Easter candy, and it goes something like this:
Slice open cellophane wrapping. Leave the package in the refrigerator overnight. Eat Peeps cold.
For me, cold is always key, but I like lots of candy cold, even Twizzlers, which is a peccadillo many can’t wrap their head around. Still, when it comes to Peeps, my candy peculiarities are much more understandable. They’re common, even. Recently, I surveyed a handful of people who shared my fondness for stale Peeps, because, it turns out, stale Peeps have a following.
Why eat Peeps stale? “They just taste better stale!” Caitlin Kneram Gross of Kennebunk, Maine, said. “I think because they’re crispy on the outside and still soft inside, and the sugar crystalizes and tastes better.” She also uses the holiday-specific Christmas ones ― made stale, of course ― in her hot cocoa. Her drying out process involves a little preparation. “My husband even knows to open the package for me ahead of time!”
Elizabeth Erickson, of New York City, is also a stale Peeps devotee. In fact, she’s so dedicated to the candy ― and to eating them stale ― that she made it a point to bring them to Morocco with her when she ended up there for Easter. “We have an annual Peep Toss as part of our Easter celebrations, and stale Peeps are absolutely required. Two years ago, when we were going to be in Morocco for Easter, I packed stale Peeps in my luggage, and we tossed the Peeps in our riad!”
Erickson’s process of readying her Peeps is time-intensive, if not necessarily labor-intensive. “We buy them a week in advance and slit open the packaging,” she said. “Bringing them to Morocco was kind of a mess, because the loose sugar escaped into my bags. In some years, we’ve even bought them on sale after Easter and stored them away until next year.”
For Thom McCaffrey of Ipswich, Massachusetts, Peeps, stale and otherwise, inspire a certain nostalgia.
“I loved them. And I still do. Anyway, as a kid, I loved them stale, get home, slice some lines down a pack with a knife, and get a taste test of a fresh one, for reference, gotta make sure it’s a good batch,” McCaffrey said. “Then let the pack sit. I put one in the microwave, ’cause someone told me they expand and contract. They do, but I also noticed that, after cooling off, they were chewy. I started microwaving Peeps all the time and finishing whole packs at once. It wasn’t the same as waiting for them to get stale, but it was good enough for a kid, until one day, I put too many in my mom’s microwave for too long and forgot, and, well, the inside of that machine was never the same.”
Most felt no ambivalence. “Love, love, love them,” said Bridget LeRoy of Center Moriches, New York. “Just rip the packet open and let them air out for a day or two. There can be no ‘almost’ when it comes to Peep mouthfeel. Can I also say that I only eat yellow chick Peeps? Does that make me a snob or a purist?”
For my part, I won’t eat pink Peeps. I don’t know if it’s right or wrong, but I have always associated pink candy with a bitter taste, and whether or not this taste really exists, I cannot, even at 39, force myself to eat it.
Some regaled me with lore. The father of a friend’s friend allegedly cures his Peeps in a garage for months before eating. I can’t speak personally to the efficacy of his method, but I’m not unwilling to try it. Microwaving has its followers, producing chewy, stretchy mallow, and, after all, texture is what those of us who love a good stale Peep are hunting for. So it’s no surprise that I found so many microwave enthusiasts in my hunt for fellow stale Peepists.
There was, for all of us, a certain ritual to all of it, a practice that we had observed for years upon years: exacting, personal, palate-pleasing. We had all come to these notions of taste on our own, separately, and yet we had all reached the same conclusion, which was that there was something compelling about the granular crunch of sugar stiffening over just-forgiving marshmallow. It was, and is, so very, very good.