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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
 
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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 [Paperback]

Steve Ettlinger
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)

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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Steve Ettlinger, author of six books, has long been fascinated with everyday consumer products, from hardware to beer. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The Washington Post

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®.

Copyright 2007, The Washington Post. All Rights Reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From AudioFile

Its the quintessential snack treat, the subject of myth and legal proceedings. The Twinkie stands for all that is right and, perhaps, wrong with American processed food. The author examines each of the ingredients of the Twinkie, starting from the most common all the way to the unlisted less than 1 percent additives, such as color. He also examines where each ingredient comes from. Its a delicious lesson in organic chemistry, world trade, and gastronomic history. Mark Lund narrates with enthusiasm. He warms to the subject, and his tone engages listeners. He could have rendered the book as stale as a Twinkie past its sell-by date. Instead, like his topic, he is bouncy and fresh. R.C.G. © AudioFile 2007, Portland, Maine-- Copyright © AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
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