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DECONSTRUCTING TWINKIE

Cindy Maddera

Do we really want to know what’s in a Twinkie? Reading this article about Steve Ettlinger’s book Twinkie, Deconstructed made me never want to consume one ever again. So, if you’re totally in love with Twinkies, avoid this Friday Science entry. Let’s start with the creamy filling. The main ingredients are pretty standard. You've got your superfine sugars, shortening, corn syrup, and salt. There’s also some polysorbate 60 (have no idea what that is) and most importantly cellulose gum. Cellulose gum can absorb 15 to 20 times its own weight in water and can actually float on water. Cellulose gum is one of the main reasons why Twinkies will be the only edible food source after a nuclear holocaust. It holds the water in the filling and plumps it up with out using fat, like real cream. But don’t worry. Cellulose gum is not the bad part of a Twinkie. It has no caloric value because it’s indigestible. It’s what makes the cream filling look good.

Now we get to the buttery flavor of a Twinkie. There’s no way to use real butter in a Twinkie, not if you want to keep them around awhile. So they use an artificial butter and you’ll never guess what kind. They use the same artificial butter flavor as used on movie popcorn. No kiddin’ and when you break down artificial butter in its concentrated state its kind of disturbing. Artificial butter’s chemical name is diacetyl. The “di’ refers to its molecular structure and the “acetyl’ part is related to acetic acid and acetylene (a welding gas). Diacetyl is stinky. It smells so bad that its generally given its on storage building. Its also treated like dynamite. Diacetyl is a volatile liquid that is stored in drums sealed with a layer of nitrogen and a vapor mixture is so highly flammable that is can actually explode.

This book also tells us how to make iron-enriched flour and what making soap has to do with baking a cake. I may not want to eat Twinkies for a few hundred year, but I’m definitely putting this book on my reading list.