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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

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3.33  ·  Rating details ·  1,968 Ratings  ·  341 Reviews
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 phos
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ebook, 0 pages
Published March 1st 2007 by Plume Books (first published 2007)
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Community Reviews

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Petra Eggs
It strikes me that Twinkies are a bit like those oil-paintings that are really prints printed onto canvas and then framed. It might look like the Mona Lisa, but it is far, far from that, but it does look 'real'.

So I finished the book and I am left with the feeling of great awe of how much goes into a Twinkie, from minerals that have to be mined to mega-processed real eggs, but mostly non-food items or ones, like the eggs so mixed, mashed and adulterated they scarcely qualify for the word 'real'.
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thefourthvine
The idea here is fascinating - a close look at the way our highly-processed food is made. Unfortunately, the concept is way better than the execution.

Ettlinger isn't much of a writer; he doesn't manage a consistent or engaging narrative voice, he neglects to look at either the bigger picture or the human stories around him, and he doesn't organize or tie his information together very well. The result is like a very long research report written by a tenth grader.

Also, Ettlinger doesn't appear to
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Liza H
Apr 27, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in what goes into their food
Shelves: done, librarybooks
Consider the Twinkie...
A popular food item, first introduced to the public in the 1930's, which now represents a vast example of how ingredients have changed over the years to meet consumer demand. Honestly, I'd never really thought about it before... that long list of hard-to-pronounce chemicals on the packages of my snack cakes never bothered me. But reading this book not only opened my eyes to what, exactly goes into this innocent-seeming treat, but also how incredibly complex and vast and in
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John
Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone fascinated by what we eat
YUK!

Twinkie Deconstructed takes us on a journey through the ingredient label of the popular snack food to find out what "polysorbate 80" and "bleached flour" really are. Whether its manufactured, mined (yes mined), or put together in a laboratory, we discover what goes into the Twinkie, and a great many of the items on our store shelves.

Most interesting, and perhaps most frightening, was the process of bleaching flour.

Fascinating, yes. Inspiring, well, if heading off to Whole Foods to buy real
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David
May 31, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Do you know what's REALLY in YOUR snack foods? This book might lead you to expect a modern-day Fast Food Nation or the Jungle, but it's actually a lightweight tour of American food processing that at times almost crosses the line into free advertising. To its credit, you learn a great deal about the brain-busting scope of the food industry, how a single, simple product like a Twinkie depends upon everything from chemical plants in Minnesota to mineral mines in China, and the facts about baking w ...more
Wealhtheow
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, food
Ettlinger takes us through each of the ingredients that make up a Twinkie, most of which are found in other packaged food as well. It is stupefyingly boring and utterly bloodless. (Only Ettlinger could write a chapter about industrial eggs and never mention the conditions of factory farm chickens.) He also doesn't seem to have a very solid grasp on the science--his explanations are obtuse and often depend on forced metaphors. His explanation of trans-fat was sadly mistaken and managed to witter ...more
Jenny
Feb 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction-read
Ooh, wow! What an amazing read. This is not an expose of the food industry, but rather a curious exploration of what twinkies are made of. So each chapter tells the story of a different ingredient on the list. He'll visit the mine it comes from, or follow how a food product is converted from petroleum, or whatever. I was intrigued by the chapter on flavors, and colors. Absolutely fascinating, and makes me wanna eat nothing but veggies. Cuz as he points out, "Eat your own vegetables and fruits ra ...more
Sarenna
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, food
I wanted to like this because I find the subject matter fascinating. And appalling. When you think about what's in the food we eat, it's just gross beyond words. You know what they say, ignorance is bliss. And apparently it's also tasty.

But in this case, it wasn't very readable. I struggled to read this book. I thought maybe it was just me. Maybe it was too technical for me. I consider myself above average as far as intelligence. Somewhat science-y (obviously language isn't my thing since I like
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Christine Henry
Though this book has an intriguing premise, to trace the progress of each and every ingredient in a common processed food, the twinkie, I found that the story lacked cohesion. The author goes on a number of spectacular journeys to find how ingredients are created from raw materials, and then how those are combined to make the familar snack, but there is little besides the ingredients list tying the story line together. The book however was packed with factoids like how artificial dyes are create ...more
Ross
Yes, Twinkies are uber-iconic. Still, the idea of a chapter for each ingredient in the Twinkie just doesn't sustain a book. There is no narrative arc, and the ingredients just aren't all equally interesting. Michael Pollan does a much better job of explaining the worrisome rise of high-fructose corn syrup. Finally, Ettlinger's writing is just too cutesy and filled with parenthetics for my taste. I am tempted to say that the book is as substantive as a Twinkie. But I didn't finish it, so I can't ...more
Russell Holbrook
I was hoping this book would be kind of an expose' about how terrible Twinkies are and how jacked up industrially produced processed food is but instead it turned out to be a "Wow, look at what a marvel of modern food science industrially produced processed food is! It's a miracle!" I did find it startling, though, to realize by reading this, how much time, effort, and money goes into making a product which is detrimental to our health and which indirectly causes animal suffering and environment ...more
Jeremy
Aug 07, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now I know what's in a twinkie. And you know what? It made me really want a twinkie.

Now I know what FD&C Yellow No. 5 is and what it does, and what emulsifyers and shortening and leavening agents are and do. Basically what it comes down to: Twinkies don't have eggs or milk or cream in any of those conventional senses, so they need a bunch of stuff that does the things that those things do. These are the chemicals added in minute amounts that you see on the product label. Polysorbate 60? I kn
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Johanne
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Everyday we eat a gazillion processed food, and yet, who can pronounce all those fancy name on the ingredient list, let alone explain where they come from?

What's polysorbate 60, anyway?

In this book, Ettlinger took one of the most quintessential North American snacks, the Twinkie, and, well, deconstructed it. Ingredient by ingredient. Including water (yes, there's a chapter on water!)

By reading this book, you won't become completely grossed out by processed food, nor will you feel you need to sta
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Sara
Oct 13, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
Shelves: food, science
I liked the premise of the book: unpack the contents of a normal Twinkie to figure out how ingredients are processed into a substance we call "food." The author does include some interesting information about how red dye comes from the bodies of tiny crushed insects and the strange chemical processes that go into Twinkie manufacture. But his writing style is dull and I wasn't quite sure what his point was. He didn't seem to be encouraging a return to real, whole food, even though his research an ...more
Amanda J

The journey of processed food is equally amazing and frightening. The book examines not only how much we rely on these ingredients for convience, but also for safety. While we may be wary of these strange chemicals, they are often times what keeps the food shelf-stable.

If you are looking for a book that espouses all natural alternatives and healthy eating, this isn't for you. The author examines the food industry without discussing on whether ulitmately these ingredients have a positive or nega
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Jonathan
Jun 28, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, science-nature
An interesting overview of the chemical processes that are involved in the making of a twinkie. Ettinger kept the technical aspects of twinkie-making easy enough for the layman to understand, but his sporadic attempts at humor throughout the book were a little thin. Although Ettlinger's book makes it obvious that a twinkie doesn't qualify as food in the strictest sense, he never offers up any comments on the health/environmental concerns that come with the manufacture and consumption of products ...more
Michele Karmartsang
12/07 Very interesting, finding out where so many of our ingredients come from (mined, mostly!) but I found that all the chemicals and processes started to blend together after a while. If you asked me what/how polysorbate 60 comes from, I don't think I could tell you, despite having recently read about it. The author does do an excellent job of describing it all, and makes it very readable and entertaining...it was just a case of too much information going in on my part.
Ellis
I remember thinking that I would give this book 2 stars, but I don't really remember why. I don't like it when books (or other forms of media) sensationalize their subject matter to sell copies when the book doesn't actually support the exaggerated titles marketing tactics used. This book, like many others, is guilty of this. Still, this book gives an interesting look into the food chemistry of modern prepared foods.
Nora Alfaham
Jun 15, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I did not get to finish this book because it was due to the library however it is pretty amazing in that it tells you EXACTLY where every ingredient in the Twinkie comes from. It makes it hard to eat that stuff afterwards but if you do choose to eat a Twinkie or the like, I believe you are englightened enough to make that decision. It gets a little dry at times, as it explains every single step of the process for all the ingredients.
Delta
Feb 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z2016
Wow. Not that I was a fan of Twinkies before, but now I will never be able to look at them the same way again. If you are a fan, I wouldn't recommend reading. In fact, if you like any sort of processed sweet I wouldn't recommend reading. Knowing that half of the ingredients are derived from things you would never want to eat will definitely change your perspective.
Megan
Oct 27, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I can sum up every chapter I bothered to read: here's the ingredient. Here's what else it is used for. Aren't you horrified? Seems like the author learned just enough Chemistry to write the book. Yes chlorine gas will kill you. But you'd die if I removed all the NaCl from your body. Thus book would have been more interesting if he dropped the all chemicals are bad for you tone.
Owen
Jan 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Owen by: Nobody
Lots and lots and lots and lots of ( )s
Very good book.Tell a lot about ingredients.
J
Jul 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good for first chapters but then repertory tribe and boring. Writing is non creative so stopped audio at chapter 10-soy. Need to try again...
Kay
Disturbing, on multiple levels

Publisher’s Weekly called this book a “Delightful romp though the food processing industry,” but I found Twinkie, Deconstucted a rather chilling appraisal of the state of modern food.

Ettlinger sets out on what seems a lighthearted quest to source all the ingredients in a Twinkie, on the face of it an interesting and possibly edifying task. Certainly, choosing a Twinkie as his subject is clue enough that this will be a purely wink-wink/nudge-nudge sort of examinati
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Adam
Steve Ettlinger is not a brilliant journalist or prose writer. The book lacks a narrative, a perspective, or any sense of character. In addition, Ettlinger applies troublingly little critical analysis to a subject that offers a lot to critique. Worst of all, he bumbles into some astonishing chemistry mistakes (no Steve: palladium is NOT a form of platinum, etc). He also falls for the myth of consumer sovereignty throughout - whatever bad things the companies do or however bad their products migh ...more
Emily
Aug 12, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, meridian
The Twinkie has been the butt of jokes, the drool-inducing heart's desire of children, and a sugary sweet bestselling snack for decades. This humble golden cake with creamy filling is Mr. Ettlinger's vehicle for exploring the modern food industry. “If you are what you eat,” he states, “it behooves you to know exactly what you are eating. Especially if you eat a lot of polysorbate 60, cellulose gum, and Red No. 40.”

Mr. Ettlinger orders the chapters of his book parallel to the ingredients label on
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Elizabeth
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: t
I don't eat Twinkies or anything like them, and haven't for years, and yet they fascinate me. This is an ingredient-by-ingredient breakdown of these iconic and highly artificial snacks. Somehow, the more the author walked me through the chemical processes by which Twinkie ingredients are created, the more benign these ingredients seemed, until I was lulled into a complacency about food I never feel when I'm actually choosing something to eat. And yet by the end, the author returned us to reality ...more
Melissa
May 02, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: food, non-fiction
I just could not get into this book. And it's even in the genre I like, food history and information. And the twinkie? It's an icon!

Ettlinger is surprised when his daughter asks where an unpronounceable ingredient on a package of food comes from. He can't answer it, and that bothers him. So he decides to research it and other food additives. And he settles on the twinkie because it is an icon and has so many unusual ingredients on it. Researching these ingredients, he visits mines, plants, and m
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Jane
In Twinkie, Deconstructed, author Steve Ettlinger walks through all of the ingredients that go into the making of a Hostess Twinkie (or any similar) snack cake. As these ingredients are used in many other things as well, there is a lot of interesting, sometimes scary information about what we eat. There are also some fairly technical and scientific passages that I found hard to follow.

Twinkie, Deconstructed, while well written, was not what I expected. I expected a little more in the way of expo
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Katie
Given the nature of what a twinkie actually is, this book is, Not surprisingly, more chemistry than biology. It's also history, geography, lore, and social commentary. If that sounds like a lot for a 250 page book to be, it is. I like the premise, but it suffers from too much breadth and not enough depth. There was just too much, poorly organizzed and cursory information.

Still, the biology I did learn was fascinating. Did you know that vanilla beans are not actually beans? They are the flowers
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Around the Year i...: Twinkie, Deconstructed, by Steve Ettlinger 1 9 Dec 04, 2016 03:21PM  
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