By Steve Almond
Published 2004, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Hardback, 266 pages
A self-professed candyfreak, Steve Almond set out in search of a much-loved candy from his childhood and found himself on a tour of the small candy companies that are persevering in a marketplace where big corporations dominate.I found this book fascinating from start to finish. While I have not eaten candy every single day of my life, it is not for a lack of trying. I am a true chocoholic, but I have my preferences and personal methods of taste-testing, just as Steve Almond does. He goes into great detail as to his personal candy-sampling habits, and his life-long history with candy all the while traveling the country and exploring some of the many small and struggling candy-making companies. It is easily any kid's dream to be able to walk into and eat so many of these delicious creations with the blessing of the company owners, but it was Steve Almond's genius that propelled him to turn it into a book almost good enough to eat.
From the Twin Bing to the Idaho Spud, the Valomilk to the Abba-Zaba, and discontinued bars such as the Caravelle, Marathon, and Choco-Lite, Almond uncovers a trove of singular candy bars made by unsung heroes working in old-fashioned factories to produce something they love. And in true candyfreak fashion, Almond lusciously describes the rich tastes that he has loved since childhood and continues to crave today. Steve Almond has written a comic but ultimately bittersweet story of how he grew up on candy-and how, for better and worse, the candy industry has grown up, too.
Candyfreak is the delicious story of one man's lifelong obsession with candy and his quest to discover its origins in America.
While the descriptions of the variety of concoctions was delectable enough to keep me enthralled, Almond's tours through the different kinds of factories were both educating and enlightening. Some companies went through great trouble to get every detail exactly right, while others used out-dated methods and equipment, depending on the whim of the people operating it. Some owners cared passionately about their products, while others were ready to give in to the big candy companies and sell out. Still others found a comfortable compromise in sharing their beloved factory with other companies for the sake of continued production.
In an economy that can not truly afford the luxury of a non-essential product like candy, Steve Almond shows how such confections still provide the creature comforts that the struggling masses look for to fill the void.
The Cover: The cover is perfect for what the book is about, with a candy bar bearing an old-fashioned wrapper. I love it, and it makes me want to take a bite.
First Line: "The author has eaten a piece of candy every single day of his entire life."
What a way to introduce the author to the reader, and since the book is autobiographical in nature, this one sentence gives a pretty clear idea of the focus of the book.
Favorite Quote: "If you ever want to know what America really looks like -- and I direct this chiefly toward the residents of the coastal cities who tend to write about America most frequently -- I would suggest you abandon the airports. The only people in airports are rich people. Take a bus from Sioux City to Kansas City, via Omaha and Maryville. Here is where America lives, more often than not overweight, beset by children, fast-food fed, television-dulled, strongly perfumed, running low on options and telling their stories to whomever will listen, hatching schemes, self-dramatizing, preaching doomed sermons, dreaming of being other people in other lives."
Read For: Alex Awards Challenge, Just for Fun Challenge