By Dan Shapley
There's apple pie, sure, and hot dogs, but if you're looking for the best example of the quintessential suburban American food experience, maybe it is the Twinkie. So finding out just what it is that makes the Twinkie so delicious and, well, indestructible, ought to tell us something about ourselves, or at the very least our food system. That's what Steve Ettlinger sets out to do in his new book, "Twinkie, Deconstructed: My Journey to Discover How the Ingredients Found in Processed Foods Are Grown, Mined (Yes, Mined), and Manipulated into What America Eats." That's a whole-Twinkie-in-a-bite mouthful of a title, but the book's subject proves just as large. After all, who thinks about sodium carbonate mining when they think of cakes? But sodium carbonate goes into baking soda, which is used to make the yellow Twinkie. And that's a natural ingredient. The list of chemicals in the common Twinkie numbs the mind, if not the tongue. And the Twinkie, remember, is a stand in. For Ettlinger, the Twinkie is emblematic of processed foods everywhere: slick, tasty and made up of ingredients you've never heard of, and wouldn't otherwise regard as food, according to a story in the June 17 Times Union.