Candy Freak, by Steve Almond

This is a great book! It’s a short book, written by a frequent contributor to NPR, all about candy. He talks about his own candy addiction for a bit (always has between 3 and 8 pounds of candy in his house — actually gives a rundown of the candy in his house when he was writing the book). Talks a lot about the candy that he remembers from his youth, how it all evokes such strong memories. Lots of interesting history and stories about the candy industry. Did you know that Snickers Almond is basically rebranded Mars bars? Or that while Americans love milk chocolate, most of the world loves dark chocolate? And that that was an effect of Mr. Hershey introducing and marketing milk chocolate starting at the Colombian Exposition in Chicago in the late 19th century? [Aside: another book that I’ve read this year that’s relevant here is called The Devil and the White City — all about the Colombian Exposition — great book. Shredded Wheat was introduced at that fair, as was Alternating Current. Momentous.]

Anyway, in the really magical part of the book, Almond writes about taking tours of a number of regional candy makers — companies that are still straining to stay alive. Consider the Twin Bing — a cherry candy made in Iowa. Or the Idaho Spud, produced in its eponymous state. [When Kathy and I were in Montana, I was **thrilled** to find Idaho Spuds at a convenience store in the middle of nowhere. Until I took the first bite. Ugh. Some sort of marshmallow/nougat/coconut concoction. But you’ve got to give them credit for trying.]

Like I said, it’s a short book, easy to read. And it really will bring back all sorts of memories. Big tip: he mentions that the absolute best candy bars that he found during his trip are the Five Star Bars, by Lake Champlain Chocolates. You can get them at Whole Foods, or by writing away for them. Absolutely delicious.

The book’s only real flaws, in my opinion are these: (1) he has a real bigotry against white chocolate, and (2) he never once mentions the Zero Bar — a staple of my youth.

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