Better Than Chocolate

Better Than Chocolate

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by Susan Waggoner

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Be careful what you wish for. . .

Food writer Annie Wilkins is on an express elevator to fame and fortune, thanks to research scientist/husband Tom's remarkable invention: fat-free, carb-free, calorie-free chocolate that tastes better than the real thing! Once reduced to writing walleye-on-a-stick articles for Minnesota Menus, now she's living large


Be careful what you wish for. . .

Food writer Annie Wilkins is on an express elevator to fame and fortune, thanks to research scientist/husband Tom's remarkable invention: fat-free, carb-free, calorie-free chocolate that tastes better than the real thing! Once reduced to writing walleye-on-a-stick articles for Minnesota Menus, now she's living large in showcase houses and hobnobbing with the hoi polloi. Annie and "America's Sexiest Scientist" Tom happily accept their new status as the nation's most happening Fabulous Couple.But as a high-profile spokesperson, Annie's got a corporate responsibility to change her hair, her style, and lose twenty-five pounds. Her kids are becoming too worldly too fast and Tom's in demand for a lot more than just his candy. If this is the American Dream, Annie needs to wake up because all of a sudden her marriage and her sanity are in jeopardy. . . and she's about to bottom out on top!

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Nonfiction writer Waggoner (I Do! I Do!: The Origins of 100 Classic Wedding Traditions) tries her hand at social satire with the story of Annie and Tom Wilkins, professors at a Minnesota university who abandon academe to try their luck in the real world. While Annie toils at freelance food writing, Tom embarks on a research career in the synthetic foods industry. His work pays off when he develops a fat-, carb-, and calorie-free artificial chocolate that is amazingly tasty. In a heartbeat, this unworldly couple becomes rich beyond their wildest dreams, but the company's marketing strategy calls for Annie and Tom to become the chief spokespeople, which entails a hectic schedule of makeovers, TV appearances, cable cooking shows, and shopping mall presentations. Soon the realization hits that although they may have everything money can buy, they are no longer in charge of their own lives. Highly amusing and finely written, this work is better than most light novels. Recommended for all fiction collections.-Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

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Better Than Chocolate

By Susan Waggoner

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Susan Waggoner
All right reserved.

ISBN: 006053978X

Chapter One

Toujours Walleye

Anyone who still has the October 2002, issue of Martha Stewart Living can see, on pages 27 through 31, the story that has made the "Pumpkins!" issue something of a collector's item. Twenty dollars on eBay, although for this you will also get articles on Bedlington terriers, maple syrup, player pianos, acorn crafts, and macaroni and chevre, the new comfort food.

The magazine didn't usually do personalities, and this made the spread all the more eye-catching. Here's someone I should know about, readers must have thought, gazing at the woman wearing a garnet chenille sweater over black silk trousers. The best of the pictures shows the woman at a pickled-oak worktable, one foot twined pensively around a chair leg. The table is fifteen feet long and bare except for a computer, a bowl of green and golden pears, and a ream of blank paper that is supposed to be mistaken for a finished manuscript. Beyond the table is a row of windows, beyond the windows a sweep of green lawn, beyond the lawn a dock dipping down to a blue expanse of lake. The woman at the table gazes across this vista thoughtfully, as if inspiration will rise from the thin mist hugging the water.

The lake is Minnetonka.

The woman in the garnet chenille is me. And the entire spread -- "Annie Wilkins at Home" -- glows with what can only be described as, well, star power.

It wasn't planned that way. Initially, Martha was going to fly out to interview me herself. I'd been thrilled by the news, heady at the prospect of rubbing elbows with the woman whose tips for embedding violets in ice cubes and basil leaves between sheets of ravioli represented an altogether different world from the peanut-butter-and-jelly-encrusted planet I lived on. But when that day in midsummer actually came, Martha was ensnared in her own problems. Like a saucepan full of homemade caramel, the ImClone stock scandal had reached a surprisingly swift boil, and Martha had stayed home to preserve an appearance of unruffled normality. She might as well have made the trip, because being grilled on The Early Show as she tried to shred cabbage did her no good at all. In fact, so reversed were our respective poles that week that someone actually thanked me for "saving" the October issue.

I don't think it was quite that extreme -- the Bedlingtons article and a recipe for homemade marshmallows could easily have carried the day -- but I did add a certain pizzazz to the issue. Perhaps it was the slant of light. Or the Vivaldi the photo-shoot boys had brought on their boom boxes. Or the espresso we were swilling out of huge French coffee cups. For whatever reason, I looked as close to ravishing that morning as I ever would. My hair had the high-quality gloss of a good ganache. My sweater hung casually from my collarbone. My breasts were apples of garnet chenille.

I say all this without fear of boasting because, of course, it was all illusory, as handcrafted as the acorn Pueblo people on page 68. On the day I go back to now, the day on which this story begins, the MSL spread was months in the future. Ditto my collarbone. Martha Stewart had no idea who I was and wouldn't dream of sending Neil, her personal person, to Minnesota to do my hair and makeup, as he did that morning. Strangers were still inhabiting the house on the blue lake, scattering toast crumbs over countertops no longer to be theirs, desecrating my future pantry -- their mudroom -- with salt-and-snow-caked boots, curling ribbon and attaching bows in the gift-wrap room we would convert to an emergency office equipped with microwave and minibar, networked laptops, and a distressed leather chaise said to have belonged to Milton Hershey -- a fact mentioned, if you read them, in almost every one of the stories written about us that year.

On the day this story begins, my highest achievement in the world of glossy culinary/lifestyle magazines was an article in Gourmet entitled "Baby Goes Bistro: Provence with Your Toddler." It had been published at the height of the Peter Mayle frenzy, and despite numerous follow-up pitches, I'd failed to sell them anything since. I had, however, gotten other assignments because of it, mostly from regional magazines who considered a Gourmet writer living among them something of a catch. Which is why, on this day in question, I was sitting in half a bedroom in suburban Minneapolis -- half a bedroom made into an office by virtue of a rented wall -- contemplating a rather scattered array of notes. My article "The Walleye: A Fish for All Seasons" had yet to acquire the je ne sais quoi so highly prized by my editors at Minnesota Menus. It had yet, in fact, to acquire any words at all.

Beyond the rented wall, in the half of the room that remained her bedroom, my four-year-old daughter, Sophie, was amusing herself with a box of crayons and a roll of butcher paper. Like Picasso before her, Sophie was working through a blue period, her pockets filled with the periwinkle, cornflower, blizzard blue, and cerulean she had worn to nubs. The air was thick with creativity and the smell of Crayolas. Our Labrador retriever, Scout, hovered nearby, indifferent to art but always on watch for the stray graham cracker. I heard the crinkle and rasp of paper and Sophie's running narration. "I like this one best," Sophie informed Scout. "See? This one is no good. Now I'm going to make a new one. It's going to be the best one. See how I'm making this lady's hair? It goes up into the sky."


Excerpted from Better Than Chocolate by Susan Waggoner Copyright © 2006 by Susan Waggoner. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Susan Waggoner was born in Iowa, grew up in the Minneapolis suburbs, and received degrees from the University of Iowa. She now lives and writes in New York City. Although she often dreams of Minnesota, writing this book has cured her of longing for a large home on the edge of a lake. She would, however, enjoy an extra bedroom in Manhattan.

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Better than Chocolate 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a very cute book! I really enjoyed the descriptions of people going crazy over this product. Can't wait to pass it on to my friends. Hope she writes another!
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Better Than Chocolate' is a wickedly intelligent and funny tale. Annie's odyssey through the world of corporate image-making is wonderful satire, and though fiction, has the ring of truth. Ms. Waggoner has an incisive wit that keeps one turning the pages for more chocolate-bites! Look forward to her next book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book from start to finish! It is great to find a story that makes you laugh out loud while reading. The story line is a very clever idea. If only it could really happen!! I for one, hope to see this kind of product on the store shelves in the future.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! I laughed out loud. It was refreshing to read a clever, smart and funny novel. For all those chocoholics out's a delight. What could be better than carbo-free, fat-free, calorie free and tastes like chocolate treats in a story with a great plot!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Maybe the only thing better than reading this novel is eating chocolate while you do. The story tells of a freelance food writer and her partner, a synthetic food genius. Their romp through the presentations of their product is hilarious, certainly worthy of a big screen adaptation as well as a summer read on the beach. After the read I again realized it is dangerous to get what you wish for, but what fun getting there!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone who has ever dreamed of hitting the jackpot should read this book. Very amusing and finely written, this book is one of the best I've read in years. The characters are equally amusing - from the corporate executives to the zaney neighbors.