I spied the following in last week's Newsweek, which confirms my practice of mostly cooking from scratch both at home and on the trail.
March 5, 2007 issue - Twinkies contain actual flour, sugar, salt, baking soda, water and a trace of egg. But the rest of the 39 ingredients are not generally what you find in your pantry. A sampling:
Shortening (in the form of partially hydrogenated vegetable oil and/or beef fat) is the main ingredient.
Polysorbate 60 is a gooey substance that helps replace cream and eggs at a fraction of the cost. It's derived from corn, palm oil and petroleum.
Cellulose gum gives the crème filling a smooth, slippery feel.
Artificial vanillin is synthesized in petrochemical plants. The real thing comes from finicky tropical orchids that are pollinated by hand on the one day they bloom.
Lecithin is an emulsifier made from soy. It's also used in paint to keep pigments evenly dispersed.
Diacetyl mimics the taste of butter, since the real stuff would go rancid on a store shelf.
Cornstarch is a common thickener. But it's more often used to make cardboard and packing peanuts.
Yellow No. 5, Red No. 40 give the cake the golden look of eggs.
Sorbic acid, the only actual preservative in Twinkies, comes from petroleum.
And of course, calcium sulfate, "a food grade plaster of paris."
Calories: 145 each
Shelf life: 25 days—not years, as urban legend would have it
History: In 1930, James Dewar found a way to use idle baking pans. He named the cakes after seeing an ad for "Twinkle-Toe" shoes. Shelf life was just two to three days.
Want to know more. Newsweek took it's facts from a new book "Twinkies Deconstructed," by Steve Ettlinger.