Recipe for Irony: DIY High-Fructose Corn Syrup

The web is home to endless home-kitchen videos teaching viewers to make everything from caramels to casseroles — and at first glance, Maya Weinstein’s looks like all the rest. With slightly echoey audio and a host in pigtails, the low-budget home video demonstrates a recipe that involves cheesecloth, a wooden paddle, a slow cooker, a candy thermometer and a glass jar. But this is no pot of chili.

Weinstein is cooking up DIY high-fructose corn syrup.

While in the School of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons the New School for Design, she took the Industrial Food System as her muse and, in this project, pulls back the curtain on an ingredient that is now far more American than apple pie. Sweetening everything from StoveTop to Oreos, HFCS is both invisible and everywhere.

If you actually want to make this stuff yourself, good luck finding the ingredients outside a chemical lab. Supermarkets don’t stock the GMO chemical compound called “glucose isomerase” or yellow dent corn #2, which is fed to factory-farmed livestock or transformed into ethanol.

But that was never the point — though the adorable wooden DIY HFCS kits she sells make a genius tongue-in-cheek gift. Deadpan, Weinstein sprinkles a teaspoon of xylose powder as if it were cinnamon, all while hoping to teach us not how to make HFCS, but why not to eat it. Weinstein reveals no emotion as she stirs the pot, and I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry.

Featured Photo Credit: Kate LeSueur

Betsy Bradley

Elizabeth L. Bradley writes about New York City history and culture. She hopes to find Tiffany blue dragees in her Christmas stocking this year.

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