How many times have you stared at the label on a packaged food item — Twinkies, Coke, or Oreos, for instance — only to feel your eyes glaze over while reading through the ingredients? What are mono and diglycerides; vanillin; riboflavin; and calcium phosphate? A Google search will produce results with varying degrees of helpfulness, but a new book now describes exactly what these complex but often essential ingredients are, how they affect the flavor and texture of common processed foods, and what they look like in their raw state. Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products was written by photographer Dwight Eschliman and science writer Steve Ettlinger, and is an entrancing look at natural and chemically derived ingredients as well as 25 popular American foods including Cool Ranch Doritos, Dr. Pepper, Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing, Hostess Twinkies, and Wheat Thins.
It takes 70,000 insects to create one pound of Carmine, also known as red no. 4
Eschliman tells Eater he was inspired to produce the book because he was curious about what these ingredients looked like. He says, "Most additives appear nearly identical, so I thought it was important to present them in a consistent enough way for the reader to start looking for the subtle differences in a bunch of white powders and goo that, on first glance, look the same." Therefore, dry ingredients were photographed as powders on a black background, while photographs of liquids show their colors and unique viscosities.
The book is very revealing: It takes 70,000 insects to create one pound of carmine, which is also known as red no. 4. and is commonly used in candy, yogurt, and some brands of juice. Though he says his research for the book didn't scared him off of processed foods, Eschliman does note that he watches how much food coloring his kids ingest and he's a bit more careful about his sugar and salt intake. "I certainly eat my fair share of processed food. I just remind myself to eat my broccoli first." Everything in moderation.
Ingredients: A Visual Exploration of 75 Additives & 25 Food Products will be released on September 29. Find a preview of the book — which is available for pre-order now — below: