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Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats [Kindle Edition]

Steve Ettlinger
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $16.00
Kindle Price: $10.53
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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

A pop-science journey into the surprising ingredients found in most common packaged foods

Like most Americans, Steve Ettlinger eats processed foods. And, like most consumers, he didn't have a clue as to what most of the ingredients on the labels mean. So when his young daughter asked, Daddy, what's polysorbate 60?, he was at a loss and determined to find out.

From the phosphate mines in Idaho to the oil fields in China to the Hostess factories and their practices, Twinkie, Deconstructed demystifies some of the most common processed food ingredients, where they come from, how they are made, how they are used, and why. Beginning at the source (hint: they're often more closely linked to rock and petroleum than any of the four food groups), we follow each Twinkie ingredient through the process of being crushed, baked, fermented, refined, and/or reacted into a totally unrecognizable goo or powder, all for the sake of creating a simple snack cake.

An insightful exploration of the modern food industry, if you've ever wondered what you're eating when you consume foods containing mono- and diglycerides or calcium sulfate (the latter a food-grade equivalent of plaster of paris), this book is for you.  Consequently, as Hostess plans to permanently close its doors in 2012, this book will provide a relevant guide into the practices of one of the biggest companies of all time. 



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." (Mar. 1)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“You will never read a label the same way again.”
Newsweek

“[A] delightful romp through the food processing industry.”
Publishers Weekly

“Everything you ever wanted to know about the ingredients in a Twinkie but were afraid to ask. . . . A fascinating global tale.”
—Andy Smith, editor in chief, Oxford Companion to Food and Drink in America

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
61 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If we are what we eat .... OY!!! April 23, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Steve Ettlinger is an interesting man. In about a dozen previous books, he has often demonstrated not only his interest in and concerns about various consumer issues and realities, but has investigated each to a degree not commonly found in books written for the general public. For example, The Complete Guide To Everything Sold In Hardware Stores, The Complete Guide To Everything Sold In Garden Centers, The Complete Guide To Everything Sold In Marine Supply Stores, and Guides For Dummies to both French and Italian wines, he probes each seemingly obvious area to a degree of depth and detail so that more than information is provided: Reading his books can be more accurately characterized as an experience.

In the volume at hand, his newest published effort to date, he chooses one seemingly simple, immensely popular and globally ubiquitous food snack item, the Twinkie to scrutinize, one ingredient at a time, as a sometimes humorous and sometimes gut wrenching example of what has come to pass as food in our times. He is not picking on these readily recognizable little cream-filled snack cakes. Rather, he is using them as a paradigm representative example of how foods and non-foods alike are processed and folded into our intake supply. He raises more questions than he answers - seeing his responsibility as primarily that of providing consumers with information that might be helpful to them.

He researches, visits manufacturing plants, speaks with various company people and winds up with a chapter by chapter analysis of the etiology, processing and purpose of each and every ingredient listed on the Twinkies label.
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71 of 85 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fun and Follies with Food Facts July 13, 2007
Format:Hardcover
Asked by his children what the ingredients in a Twinkie creme-filled cake really were, and where they came from, Steve traveled the world to find out, interviewing over a hundred people in the process. The book is well-written in the sense that it can be read very fast, and is entertaining until the number of technical errors and chemophobia intrude, which for me began on p8. I happen to enjoy processing plant and mine tours, even vicariously, and do not shy from hundreds of facts and factoids. It was fascinating to find where the biggest plants were that made the ingredients of a Twinkie, which are: wheat flour, bleach, iron(II) sulfate, vitamins B1, B2, B3, sugar, corn sweeteners, corn thickeners, water, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, lecithin and soy protein isolate, eggs, cellulose gum, whey, leavenings, baking soda, sodium acid pyrophosphate, monocalcium phosphate, salt, mono and diglycerides, polysorbate 60, natural and artificial flavors, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium and calcium caseinates, calcium sulfate, sorbic acid, FD&C Yellow No. 5 and Red. No. 40. All but 2 of the chapter headings follow this ingredient list. There is an inadequate index and no references, an ominous sign of what is to follow. There are no pictures or drawings, which this topic screams for. The concept was excellent, as were the metaphors. Between that and the potential entertainment value my rating would have been 5-star, even though the target audience was 12-14 years old, IMHO.

A fine appreciation of food chemistry was finally given on p258-260: "The fact that chemicals, especially those in foods, are part of nature...
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
My wife has worked for years as a safety manager in the food industry, so I didn't expect too many surprises when I read this book. After all, I had been hearing about some of these products for about 15 years, in one fashion or another. And it didn't come as a shock that what is in snack cakes is also found in chips and cereal, as much of highly processed food is similar in content; it's just the arrangement that changes.

Maybe I took these materials for granted, as I have seen them in their finished state in boxes which the companies were getting ready to use. Somehow a material that is labeled "... Company Concentrated Chip Spice (Sour Cream & Onion)" just does not seem as intimidating as the chemicals presented in this book.

I was disgusted by the manufacturing technique of many of the chemicals, but realize that the science of chemistry is taking one molecule and making it into an entirely different molecule in the quickest and cheapest method possible. As long as the hazardous reactants are removed, I'm not really that terrified by eating most of these compounds, although I'm not that thrilled, either.

I can't wait to show my daughter this book, as she insists that canned spray cheese is really cheese, even though I keep telling her it is cheese food product. Reading this book will make her realize the difference between cheese food product and real cheese!

I did find the book fascinating and easy to read. The author did a wonderful job of blending the material with its source, its manufacture and then with its need within the recipe for the finished product. It was somewhat like reading a travelogue, a cookbook and a chemistry book rolled into one.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
No problems
Published 1 month ago by Paul Singley
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book. Very interesting and informative ...
Everyone should read this book. Very interesting and informative! Actually wrote to the author and he wrote back.
Published 3 months ago by Blues Lover
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Thank you
Published 3 months ago by Jennifer
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Very good
Published 4 months ago by C. Scott Strumello
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye opener
Reading this is enough to make you go totally homegrown. Not that I haven't eaten my share of Twinkies, but this book really makes you aware of all the modern ingredients that go... Read more
Published 7 months ago by C. B. Long
5.0 out of 5 stars diamistifies The ingredientes of highly processed food.
Nice book. Helpful to understand the food Industry. And the source of all unpronounceable ingredients on all food labels on the market. I still don't want to eat them.
Published 8 months ago by Guilherme C. P. Reis
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a must read for food lovers.
The Twinkie story is not just about those delightful creamy cream cakes. It goes way beyond that into research about foods, little known facts about food distribution and food... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Carol A. Gerber
5.0 out of 5 stars Phenominal
If you like people like Alton Brown, you are going to love this book. I've read it several times now. Also check out what Einstein told his cook, just as good.
Published 9 months ago by Kevin Lawrence
3.0 out of 5 stars What's in a Twinkie
Interesting topic and informative. Agree with others that, like a Twinkie, it leaves you wanting more... Read more
Published 11 months ago by B. Yarger
5.0 out of 5 stars Good revelation about where our food comes from
If you are interested in food/diet/health eating habits, I think it's a good idea to read this, become familiar with the components and begin educating people around you about what... Read more
Published 11 months ago by Marcelo F.
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More About the Author

Since 1988 Steve Ettlinger has written seven books and has produced, edited, or agented a total of 40.

Steve specializes in explaining very common but complicated subjects in an entertaining way. His most popular book is about artificial food ingredients ("Twinkie, Deconstructed"); he gives presentations around the country about his work on this book. His first book, "The Complete Illustrated Guide to Everything Sold in Hardware Stores," has remained in print for well over 22 years and is now an e-book. Steve has appeared on all the morning network TV shows in the course of publishing his books.

For more information, or to see past TV interviews, please visit Steve's website, www.steveettlinger.com

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