Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Steve Almond
Nonfiction, Food

Candyfreak is the story of one man's obsession with the goodness that is known as candy, ruminations on the exact palate keys that make a candy a favorite, and an ode to those candies that no longer exist or are being driven into the underground because they are unable to pay the slotting fees that would bring the candy to your local supermarket. (These are often upwards of $20,000 - pennies for Mars or Hershey but death to candymakers who average in the hundreds of pieces a day rather than thousands or millions.) Almond speaks of the specific nature of taste that allows a person to tell the difference between their favorite brand and a knock-off, the joy of discovering a new, perfect, confection, and of the hoarding that takes place when a favorite goes off the market.

I didn't know that Mars bars were gone. Instead, we have "Snickers Almond", an attempt to play off the recognition of the nation's most popular candy bar.

In the book, Almond gets to visit the factories of small producers of iconic candies such as Valomilk and Idaho Spud. This is partly because the big manufacturers do not allow tours - due to industry spying - but also gives Almond the chance to understand the candymaking process at a hands-on level, as well as getting fresh-off-the-line samples. Along the way he is both hopeful and pessimistic about small candymakers' futures... hopeful because they are so enthusiastic, and pessimistic because they seem doomed to inevitable squashing beneath the big players' heels.

Almond rhapsodizes about candy memories, inserts the odd bit of liberal guilt (I found the political ruminations odd, but they were obviously tied up with his candy interactions), and eventually shows us the truth that candy is the bit of home that is all that some of us allow ourselves.


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