The forthcoming book Ingredients—due out on September 29—attempts to demystify the ingredient lists of some the world’s most popular mass-produced foods. A collaboration between author Steve Ettlinger (who previously wrote Twinkie, Deconstructed) and renowned photographer Dwight Eschliman, Ingredients works as both an in-depth explanation and stunning visual representation of the things that we eat, broken down into two sections: one discussing 75 additives and another deconstructing 25 foods, including a wide mix of items from Hebrew National Beef Franks to Hidden Valley Ranch Light Dressing to Red Bull.
Since the project deals so much with additives, many of the photos are nothing but powders or liquids. But that doesn’t make the imagery any less impactful. “When you talk about industrial food production and, more specifically, about food additives used in industrial food production, you really enter a world of white powders and clear liquids,” Eschliman, who not only provided photographs, but also did much of the research, told FWx. “While it’s virtually impossible to distinguish one from the other, I do think it’s of value to understand what the additives are and why they’re being used. More importantly, I think it’s important to understand their potential benefits and dangers. One might be used to thicken or make something shelf stable for a year, while another enriches the product with vitamins that we lack.”
But while imagining the chips you just ate as an amalgam of powders and oils is not particularly appetizing, the duo behind the project emphasize that the book is not intended as a raging polemic against Big Food. “At any level of food production, things can get a bit abstract. Making pancakes from scratch at home involves somewhat nondescript white powders, as does an industrial batch of Twinkie dough. I find it highly interesting,” Eschilman said
So what do consumers say when they finally see all those powders and liquids? “The inevitable knee-jerk reaction has been ‘that’s food?’ but I didn’t do this for shock value,” Eschilman answers. “My goal has been to take an expository stance and simply say ‘here’s what’s on the label, and this is what it looks like.’”
And for the record, here’s what a few well-loved foods look like broken down:
Campbell's Soup never looked so...well so not like soup.
And this is Orowheat bread.