Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America by Steve Almond

candyfreak.jpgI’ve got a terrible sweet tooth, so how could I possibly not enjoy a book dedicated to candy — particularly when the candy in question is predominantly chocolate? Not only that, but to discover that the author, one of my favorite writing instructors, is a candy-lover too? And not just a candy-lover, but the big kahuna of candy-lovers? (What is a kahuna? Why do we use this phrase?)

Candyfreak was published in 2004, and I was so taken with its honesty and humor that I recommended it to everyone I knew. Afterward I put it on a bookshelf and kind of forgot about it. (Sorry, Steve.) Then, earlier this month, I read a food writing anthology that featured a passage from Candyfreak that not only had I always liked, but also highlighted one of my favorite chocolate companies of all time. Now, I was having some avoidance issues with a few other books at the time, so I rooted through my stacks in search of it and hunkered down.

I’m excited to report that Candyfreak is just as involving a read the second time around. Even though I knew it was coming, I still snickered gleefully at the following:

Here is a catalogue of all the candy in my apartment as of right now, 3:21 pm, October 6, 2003:

  • 2 lbs miniature Clark Bars
  • 1.5 lbs dark chocolate-covered mint patties
  • 24 bite-size peanut butter cups
  • 1 lb Tootsie Roll Midgets
  • Four ounces of Altoids-like cinnamon discs
  • Six ounces cherry-flavored jellies (think budget Jujy Fruits)
  • A single gold-foiled milk chocolate ball with mysterious butter truffle-type filling
  • Two squares of Valrhona semi-sweet chocolate (on my bedside table)
  • Three pieces Fleer bubblegum

I am not counting the fourteen boxes of Kit Kat Limited Edition Dark, which I have stored in an undisclosed warehouse location, nor whatever candy I might have stashed, squirrel-like, in obscure drawers.

I’ve got to say, Steve’s apartment at 3:21 pm, October 6, 2003 sounds incredibly like my own personal Barbie Dream House. Minus the Tootsie Rolls. I’ve never been fond of those.

Title notwithstanding, Candyfreak is about more than just confectionery items, chocolates and nonpareils. There’s also more to it than the history of Big Hunks, Peanut Chews and Twin Bings. It’s about Steve — his ties to the past and his hopes for the future. Candy just happens to be the thing that holds it all together.