Cracking the Twinkie Code

Newsweek is all over author Steve Ettlinger’s new book, Twinkie, Deconstructed. The title gets the point across—the author set out on a mission to decipher the 39 different ingredients that make up your average, garden-variety supermarket Twinkie snack cake.

The chilling nugget at the heart of the book is this fundamental question:

Why is it you can bake a cake at home with as few as six ingredients, but Twinkies require 39? And why do many of them seem to bear so little resemblance to actual food? The answer: To stay fresh on a grocery-store shelf, Twinkies can’t contain anything that might spoil, like milk, cream or butter.

In order to track down the answers, Ettlinger (with no help whatsoever from Hostess, which was understandably leery about someone exposing the chillingly non-homemade craft behind one of their most lucrative creations) engages in exhaustive research that includes penetrating the depths of a baking soda mine.

This might come as a surprise to those of us who didn’t realize you need to do mining in order to produce baking soda.

This is my kind of book—start with something incredibly concrete and specific (the list of ingredients in a Twinkie, in this case), and from there travel toward an interesting macro picture and opinion via hard research. Much that is awry within the industrial food-producing complex might be exposed by pulling apart the insidious golden deliciousness of one humble Hostess snack cake …

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