Book Review: Twinkie, Deconstructed

I sit at my desk contemplating a Twinkie, lying like a patient aetherized upon a table. I have never tasted one, having been partial as a child to Hostess Cupcakes with the white squiggle on top, or the Canadian wonder food, the Jos. Louis. But I have just finished reading the fascinating Twinkie, Deconstructed by Steve Ettlinger.

Why read such a book? Perhaps when you are learning about local and natural foods it is good to know your enemy, and no more dispassionate and detached view of the enemy was ever written.

It is an extraordinary book; there is no plot, no story, no climax, just a chapter by chapter explanation of polysorbate 60, stearates, soda and salt; the table of contents is the Twinkie ingredient list. Ettlinger goes down mines, searches records, fighting Homeland Security and corporate spooks protecting the secret sources of ingredients.

Ettlinger is no Upton Sinclair, there is nothing here that we did not know intuitively, which is why Twinkies are not part of the traditional TreeHugger diet. He makes no value judgments about the health effects of any of the ingredients, he just tells us what they are, what they do and how they are made. One ends up speculating that the Twinkie is the culmination of American civilization, as complex as a Saturn 5 rocket.

Unlike its subject, it is an easy to digest, funny and informative read that will change the way you look at ingredient lists and cereal boxes. Great summer reading and an endless conversation piece, if not up there in importance with Michael Pollan or JB and Alisa. ::Twinkie Deconstructed

Now to taste that Twinkie....

For everyone's dining pleasure I list the chapter headings:

Where does Polysorbate 60 Come From, Daddy? (click here for excerpt)

2
Wheat Flour

3
Bleach

4
Enrichment Blend: Ferrous Sulfate and B Vitamins–Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid

5
Sugar

6
Corn Sweeteners

7
Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Glucose, and High Fructose Corn Syrup

8
Corn Thickeners: Cornstarch, Modified Cornstarch, Corn Dextrins, Corn Flour

9
Water

10
Soy: Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening, Soy Lecithin, and Soy Protein Isolate

11
Eggs

12
Cellulose Gum

13
Whey

14
Leavenings

15
Baking Soda
(click here for excerpt)

16
Phosphates (Sodium acid pyrophosphate and monocalcium phosphate)

17
Salt

18
Mono and Diglycerides

19
Polysorbate 60

20
Natural and Artificial Flavors

21
Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate

22
Sodium and Calcium Caseinate

23
Calcium Sulfate

24
Sorbic Acid

25
Color (FD & C Yellow 5, Red 40)

26
Consider the Twinkie
(click here for excerpt)

Tags: Books | Local Food

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