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Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown

by Steve Ettlinger (Author)



Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
In this delightful romp through the food processing industry, Ettlinger, who
writes on consumer products (The Complete Illustrated Guide to Everything Sold
in Hardware Stores), says, "Believers of urban legends take note.... Twinkies
are not just made of chemicals," nor will their ingredients allow them to last,
"even exposed on a roof, for 25 years." But what exactly their ingredients are,
and how they come from places like Minnesota and Madagascar to be made into what
Ettlinger calls "the uber-iconic food product, the archetype of all processed
foods," is the subject of his book. Each chapter looks at individual
ingredients, in the same order as on a Twinkie package, so Ettlinger finds
himself traveling to eastern Pennsylvania farms to study wheat, as well as to
high-security plants that manufacture highly toxic chlorine used in minute
amounts to make the bleached flour that is "the only kind that works in
sugar-heavy" Twinkies or birthday and wedding cakes. His exploration of the
manufacturing processes of cellulose gum ("perfect for lending viscosity to the
filling in snack cakes—or rocket fuel"), for example, cleverly reveals how
Twinkie ingredients "are produced by or dependent on nearly every basic industry
we know."

From The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com
If you want to explore all the unpronounceable and highly suspect ingredients we
consume daily, what better starting point could you choose than that classic
golden crème-filled cake reputedly capable of withstanding a nuclear holocaust?
In Twinkie, Deconstructed, Steve Ettlinger sets out on just such an exploration,
with mixed results.

"Where does pol-y-sor-bate six-tee come from, Daddy?" This is the question that
inspires Ettlinger to research every ingredient listed on the back of the
Twinkie wrapper, from enriched flour right on down to Yellow Dye No. 5. Having
"always wondered what those strange-sounding ingredients were" as he read food
labels "purely out of habit" (though not, apparently, out of any concern about
what he was pouring down the throats of his innocent progeny), Ettlinger travels
to plants, mines and refineries the world over, where he witnesses all manner of
centrifuging, sifting and mixing of the flammable petroleum products that
eventually make their way into these snack cakes. He also talks to lots of PR
guys, who alternately give him the big tour, the runaround and the reassurance
that there is absolutely no reason to fear any of the highly processed,
sinisterly named ingredients that make a Twinkie's creamless "crème" creamy and
its eggless cake crumbly -- even when, as happens time after time, they say they
can't really go into how those ingredients get made. And Ettlinger, it seems, believes them.

Twinkie, Deconstructed takes such a rosy view of its subject as to give the
reader intellectual whiplash. Ettlinger sees no omen of imminent apocalypse in
the fact that the biotechnology corporation Monsanto produces both Roundup®
herbicide and Roundup Ready® soybeans, genetically modified to resist Monsanto's
own product. Those ®s, by the way, appear on every page of Twinkie, in loving
lists of the countless processed foods -- "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter® . .
. Lee Iacocca's Olivio® . . . Edy's® Grand Light Rich & Creamy Vanilla" -- that
incorporate, say, mono and diglycerides.

Nothing wrong with divergent opinions -- that, plus polysorbate 60, is what
makes chocolate and vanilla. "Processed" doesn't equal "toxic" -- enriched flour
wiped out pellagra, a once common nutritional deficiency that killed 100,000
Americans in the 20th century alone. But Ettlinger's characterization of
partially hydrogenated soybean shortening as a "magnificent culinary
achievement" is hard to swallow, as is the argument of high fructose corn syrup
producers that portion size, rather than HFCS itself, is responsible for the
obesity epidemic. I can't help suspecting that rather than getting some answers
from the huge, and hugely opaque, food-processing industry that profoundly
affects the way we feed ourselves, Ettlinger settled for drinking the Kool-Aid®.


Product Details

Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Hudson Street Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1594630186

 

 

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