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Panama
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Book 15 (2014)

  1. Berger, John — Ways of Seeing (149 pages)
  2. Vonnegut, Kurt — God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (72 pages)
  3. Roth, Joseph — The Legend of the Holy Drinker (100 pages)
  4. Hrabal, Bohumil — Closely Observed Trains (87 pages)
  5. Bloomfield, Barbara & Chris Radley — Couple Therapy: Dramas of Love and Sex (171 pages)
  6. Feist, Raymond E. — Magician (689 pages)
  7. Feist, Raymond E. — Silverthorn (424 pages)
  8. Faber, Michael — Under the Skin (296 pages)
  9. Gourevitch, Philip — We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda (351 pages)
  10. Feist, Raymond E. — A Darkness at Sethanon (518 pages)
  11. Remarque, Erich Maria — All Quiet on the Western Front (215 pages)
  12. Jones, Gwyneth — White Queen (318 pages)
  13. Strunk, William, Jr., and E. B. White — The Elements of Style (104 pages)
  14. Keating, Karl — Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians" (337 pages)
  15. Ettlinger, Steve — Twinkie, Deconstructed (274 pages)
Page count
4105
book cover: Twinkie, Deconstructed.

How could I resist a title like Twinkie, Deconstructed. I may not have had twinkies in at least a decade or three, folks here in England may not even have heard of them, and just about everything about them is antithetical to the lifestyle I choose, but they were a part of my culture growing up, and I may even have liked them at some point. They are such an iconic, um, "food" that I couldn't resist this bit of pop science.

The premise of the book is simple. Ettinger's son once asked him what a certain ingredient in Twinkies is, and he didn't know the answer. Finding the answer proved less straightforward than he'd imagined and led him on a few adventures that led, eventually, to this book.

Twinkies' ingredients are constantly changing slightly, based on cost and availability, so Ettinger chose an ingredients list from the time of his research. Each ingredient became the subject of a chapter in Twinkie, Deconstructed. Ettinger discusses where the ingredient comes from and the processes it undergoes in order to become part of a Twinkie.

It's fascinating to see how many different uses each ingredient has, how closely or remotely it resembles the original commodity when it finally ends up in the Twinkie. Is corn really corn, is an egg really an egg? And what exactly is FD&C Yellow No. 5 anyway? It's a bit disconcerting to learn how many of the ingredients are petroleum byproducts. Many of the ingredients go through phases where they become lethal before other chemical processes turn them back into safe foodstuff. Where possible, Ettinger visited the plants where the ingredients are processed. In some, the chemical processes are closely held trade secrets. Others are in China and inaccessible.

My only quibble with the book is that some of the chapters seemed a bit tedious and repetitive, but only because so many of the processes used for one ingredient are similar to another. All in all, though, this is a fascinating examination of what goes into processed foods.

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