I suddenly, inexplicably, find myself attracted to Chicken McNuggets, although I don’t think I want to eat any.
When we look at the nutrition labels of processed or fast foods, there’s all of this…stuff. It’s a mystery. What the hell are carrageenan and caseinate and lycopene? Why are they there? What do they look like?
In Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products, photographer Dwight Eschliman and writer Steve Ettlinger (whose scores of books include Twinkie, Deconstructed) conspire to demystify common ingredients and products ranging from Kraft Singles to Red Bull. You might look at the deconstructed McNugget above and find yourself thinking, “How strangely beautiful. But do you really need 40 ingredients to batter and deep-fry a hunk of reconstituted chicken?”
Ettlinger helps us understand why: “When you bake a cake or make some commercial food product by the millions in a large factory with industrial machinery and ship it around the country, where it sits on store shelves for weeks, you might add something to a batter to make it easier to pump through hoses. You might add something to keep the bubbles in a batter from getting crushed at the bottom of an enormous kettle. You might add something to keep the final product from losing moisture or flavor in storage or so it doesn’t collapse during transit. You might add something or use special ingredients so it doesn’t spoil quickly. In short, you use food additives to achieve the scaled-up goals that the home cook addresses quite differently.”