Twinkie, Twinkie, Snack Food Star: One Man Wonders What You Are

When Park Slope writer Steve Ettlinger’s young daughter asked, “Daddy, what’s polysorbate 60?” he set out to find the answer. His discoveries resulted in his recently published book, Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats.

A convenience store staple all too synonymous with our nation, the Twinkie contains many omnipresent—yet popularly unknown—industrial “ingredients,” and Ettlinger devotes a rivet- ing chapter to each. His investigation took him on a rollicking ride from phosphate mines in Idaho to cornfields in Iowa, from gypsum mines in Oklahoma to oil fields in China.

While Twinkie’s parent company, Interstate Bakeries Corporation, declined to participate in the research, Ettlinger bears them no ill will, even admitting he’s enjoyed plenty of the tubular cakes in his day. Still, what he learned doesn’t exactly have him reaching for the cellophane-wrapped snack. “Certainly since writing this book I’m much more in tune to the local foods that are abundant in the Slope and all around Brooklyn,” he says. Lately there’s one kind of food on his plate and another in his work: “I’ll continue to promote local and whole foods in my own life and investigate industrial food processing in print and perhaps on the small screen.” Yeah, it must be too hard to write a whole book about all the ingredients in, say, a cabbage.

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