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What is it about Peeps?

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By Bobbie Lanham

Do you love them or hate them? Do you prefer them stale or fresh?

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There are no mixed feelings about Peeps, those various-colored, sugarcoated marshmallows that arrive in homes everywhere at this time of year courtesy of the Easter Bunny or an outright purchase.

They are more than the sugar, corn syrup and gelatin they contain. They are a fun tradition of Easter.

Even children who don't like Peeps miss them from their Easter baskets. And Peeps sometimes can be found on tops of refrigerators as late as the Fourth of July.

Just for the record, Peeps come in six colors and contain about 32 calories each. Unofficially about 1.2 billion are produced each year.

And there seem to be about that many arguments about them.

Peeps fans debate whether it's better to eat Peeps fresh or stale. Discussions regarding Peeps color preferences disrupt Easter meals.

Haley Shepherd, 17, was asked to choose between the two most popular colors, yellow and pink. "Definitely yellow. Sunshine versus Pepto-Bismol," she said. Jim Robinson of Simpsonville said he also prefers yellow Peeps, but he does not care if Peeps are stale or fresh.

"Stale is the only way to eat them," Rita Whitehouse of Simpsonville said in an e-mail. "Buy them when they first come out, puncture the package, put back out of sight and enjoy 4 weeks later."

But not everyone even likes these saccharine sweethearts. John Raisor of Shelbyville does not care for Peeps at all. "I'm not a Peeps fan. I'm a Russell Stover's fan. And jelly beans," he said.

His wife, Melissa, and daughters Savannah, McKenzie and Madeline, however, like Peeps.

So many others embrace Peeps that the Internet is peppered with Peeps. There is even an official Web site (marshmallowpeeps.com), where people can join the official fan club, browse Peeps history and find Peeps recipes and crafts.

Some Web sites are devoted to what some might consider Peeps mistreatment, such as putting Peeps in a microwave oven to see what happens.

Just Born Candy Company manufactures Peeps, and though it does not endorse any dangerous activities that compromise safety, microwaving is okay, "if it's all in good fun," spokesperson Ellie Deardorff said.

She suggested that Peeps diorama contests, sponsored by many groups, might be a better alternative.

Or maybe you want to share your favorite color with a friend. You can do just that on Facebook.

Still, there are videos of all manner that show Peeps being melted and burned. There is even video of jousting Peeps.

Another point for the record: Microwaving Peeps creates a gooey mess that becomes hard, crusty burnt divinity.

Kaley Scott, 14, who says she prefers blue Peeps, said she found that they can substitutes for marshmallows when making the bonfire goody s'mores.

Roasting them was "cool," she said. But the sugar melted and "They didn't taste very good," she said.

And taste really is what Peeps ultimately are all about. If you like the sweetness and the rough texture, then this is your time of year.

If not, then maybe you prefer to debate whether you prefer your chocolate bunnies solid or hollow.

      Peeps facts  

Colors of Peeps: yellow, pink, green, lavender, green and orange.

Serving size: 5 Peeps, 32 calories each, 160 total. Unconfirmed production number: 1.2 billion per year. Peeps history:

1917 -- Russian immigrant Sam Born opens a candy store in New York.

1932 - Just Born candy moves to Bethlehem, Penn.

1953 - Just Born buys Rodda Candy that handmade chick-shaped marshmallows.

1954 - Just Born creates machine to mass-produce Peeps.

1960 - Seasonal Peeps are added for Halloween and Christmas.

1995 - Lavender Peeps are introduced. 1998 - Blue Peeps are introduced. 2006 - Peeps are placed inside chocolate eggs.  

Just Born also makes Mike and Ike, Hot Tamales and Peanut Chews candies. The company employs 525 workers in Bethlehem, Penn. and Philadelphia.