Candy and Me: A Love Story

Candy and Me: A Love Story

5.0 4
by Hilary Liftin
     
 

As a seven-year-old child, Hilary Liftin poured herself a glass (or two) of powdered sugar. Those forbidden cups soon escalated to pound bags of candy corn and multiple packets of dry cocoa mix, launching the epic love affair between Hilary and all things sweet. In Candy and Me: A Love Story, Liftin chronicles her life through candy memories and milestones. As a high…  See more details below

Overview

As a seven-year-old child, Hilary Liftin poured herself a glass (or two) of powdered sugar. Those forbidden cups soon escalated to pound bags of candy corn and multiple packets of dry cocoa mix, launching the epic love affair between Hilary and all things sweet. In Candy and Me: A Love Story, Liftin chronicles her life through candy memories and milestones. As a high school student, Hilary used candy to get through track meets, bad hair days, after-school jobs, and her first not-so-great love. Her sweet tooth followed her to college, where she tried to suppress the crackle of Smarties wrappers in morning classes. Through life's highs and lows, her devotion has never crashed -- candy has been a constant companion and a refuge that sustained her.

As Liftin recounts her record-setting candy consumption, loves and friendships unfold in a funny and heartbreaking series of bittersweet revelations and restorative meditations. Hilary survives a profound obsession with jelly beans and a camp counselor, a forgettable fling with Skittles at a dot-com, and a messy breakup healed by a friendship forged over Circus Peanuts. Through thick and thin, sweet and sour, Hilary confronts the challenges of conversation hearts and the vagaries of boyfriends, searching for that perfect balance of love and sugar.

Written with a fresh dry humor that will immediately absorb you into Liftin's sweet obsessions and remind you of your own, Candy and Me unwraps the meaning found in the universal desire for connection and confection. Treat yourself to Candy and Me -- being bad never read so good.

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
Candy and Me is delightful; a hilarious, counterintuitive romp through stacks of Necco Wafers, Smarties, Snickers and Jelly Bellies. Nutritionists might blanch at Liftin's celebratory narrative, but readers will agree that a life without sugar and love is a sour life indeed. — Stephen J. Lyons
Publisher's Weekly--4/21/03
In this charming book, Liftin, who co-authored the epistolary memoir Dear Exile, uses the intriguing conceit of telling her life story through candy. She begins with her childhood indulgence-Dixie cups of confectioner's sugar-and continues through serious connoisseurship of Smarties, Lemonheads, Fireballs, Marshmallow Eggs and dozens of other candies. Liftin is a cheerful addict, and like most addicts, she is very specific in her tastes. She loves chalky, cheap, artificially flavored dime store candies. Dark chocolate is too sophisticated for her: "If I were a dark chocolate eater, my whole life and personality would be different. I would know how to dress `office casual.' I would be better at wearing hats." Liftin describes her beloved treats so sumptuously that even those who don't relish Conversation Hearts or Candy Corn will grasp their appeal. In the chapter "I Know What You're Thinking," she blithely dismisses questions of tooth decay, diabetes and weight gain with, "I don't want to talk about any of those things." Under chapters named for candies, she details the joys of each particular sweet and what it represents about a specific time in her life. Lovers and friendships come and go, but candy never fails her. Indeed, when she meets the love of her life, the bag of hard-to-find Bottle Caps he presents her with is almost as pleasing as the engagement ring he's hidden in it. But candy finally takes its proper place-45 pounds of it, decorating tables for the couple's wedding. Liftin's writing is fluid and engaging, inviting consumption at one sitting-and, for some, instigating a mad rush to the closest candy counter.

Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc
Library Journal
This memoir is driven by candies-all kinds of childhood favorites-as Liftin (coauthor with Kate Montgomery of Dear Exile) chronicles her lifetime passion for sweets. Early school years, slumber parties, friendships, romances, losses, false career starts, and other rites of passage are described within the sugary context of Candy Corn, Snickers, marshmallow eggs, jellybeans, and Bottle Caps. A particularly embarrassing-and smelly-eighth-grade bus trip to a ski resort features Conversation Hearts. Her wedding guests are treated to goodie bags filled with Hershey's Kisses and Skittles and topped off with toothbrushes. Liftin's engaging, humorous, and well-paced writing smoothes over the occasional, self-conscious anecdote. She helpfully includes an annotated resource list of candy stores and web sites so you can indulge your own sweet-tooth fantasies. Recommended for larger public libraries whose readers enjoy light and entertaining coming-of-age stories.-Andrea Dietze, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A sweet but ultimately unsatisfying memoir celebrating candy corn, Tootsie Rolls . . . and life, of course. You'll come to realize soon enough that candy isn't a metaphor in the author's life (and prose)-it's her reason for being. As Liftin (co-author, Dear Exile, not reviewed) writes of a childhood slumber party, "It was the first time I had an inkling that others were easily distracted from sweets by more central events, where for me the distraction of sweets was the main event." She begins her affaire du sucre at age seven with sugar eaten straight from the bag and moves on to sweetened breakfast cereals (Trix was a favorite), bubble gum in the shape of a hamburger, and packets of powdered cocoa swiped from the school cafeteria. Valentine "conversation hearts" accompany her on an eighth-grade ski trip, Nonpareils offer solace during high-school track meets, Junior Mints assuage the loneliness of a summer filing job, fudge is her only companion while an expatriate student at Oxford. The trouble with these vignettes is that once the candy is consumed, the sketch melts away as well, whether or not the narrative has reached its natural conclusion. Liftin writes well enough, but her single-minded obsession with candy obliterates all other aspects of the story. Toward the end, she scales back on her candy consumption (we're not sure how or why), learns that her mother is a secret marshmallow-egg eater, and finds a mate. Her boyfriend hides an engagement ring in a package of Bottle Caps; their wedding reception features candy on the tables and a cupcake tree in lieu of a wedding cake. The author concludes that she'll "never be a celery-nibbling angel" and admits that "the idea of life withoutcandy is gray and incomplete." Like the treats themselves: ephemeral, a bit sickly, without a whole lot of staying power. (63 b&w illustrations) Agent: Lydia Wills/Artists Agency

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780743245739
Publisher:
Free Press
Publication date:
06/03/2003
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.88(h) x 0.82(d)

Read an Excerpt

Sugar
Before there was candy, there was sugar. My brother and I started staying without a babysitter when I was seven and he was eight. We had a barter/bribe relationship: for every serving of sugar I ate, Eric could stay up an extra hour. We pledged not to tell on each other to our parents.

As soon as they walked out the door, I would pour several tablespoons of confectioner's powdered sugar into a Dixie cup. I eventually figured out that if I ran a few drops of water or milk into the cup and mixed it up, semi-soft pellets formed. The texture of these pellets was dreamy. Sometimes I would add a drop of vanilla extract and a bit of butter. Then, in front of the (also forbidden) TV, I would dip a spoon into the sugar and feed myself.

Our suburban Maryland family room had a pale brick fireplace, wall-to-wall shag carpeting, and psychedelic pillows. Eric reclined on the couch and I sat on the velour lounge chair. We watched the Osmonds, Rhoda, The Wonderful World of Disney. On any night that I started eating sugar, which was every night my parents didn't hire a babysitter, I would have refill after refill. I ate it furtively, afraid that my parents would walk in unexpectedly. I loved the way the sugar became sweeter just before it dissolved on my tongue. Watching illicit TV while eating sugar became a habit. The combined relaxation, indulgence, and jolt of forbidden sweetness that I found in my candy-leisure moments were forever established as sensations to pursue. If Charles Schulz had created a comic-strip version of me at seven, I would have been surrounded by a cloud, but unlike Pigpen's dirty cumulus, my cloud would have been a pure, refined puff of powdered sugar.

At some point Eric stopped calculating the late night hours he was accumulating and threw up his hands.

"I can't believe you're eating all that sugar," he said. "You'll be sick." But I didn't feel sick. Rather, I was astounded that Eric had no apparent interest in the bounty I had discovered. I don't remember ever getting caught or in trouble, although I know my mother must have had some idea that this was going on. I also never wondered why there was always powdered sugar in the house -- even though my mother never baked. It was only later that I discovered that she herself had a secret habit. But eventually she decided not to stock sugar in the pantry anymore, and I had to move on.

Trix

In 1954, Trix breakfast cereal was introduced by General Mills. The new cereal, a huge hit with kids, was 46.6 percent sugar.
-- UselessKnowledge.com

I loved Trix.

Candy Corn

The earliest candy corn memory I have is of my mother carefully spreading several bags of the product across the kitchen table. She was teaching herself to be a painter and was arranging a candy corn still life. Eric and I were instructed not to touch or eat a single kernel. Our mother acted as if this were a perfectly reasonable request, as if she were painting a still life of spinach, or pork lard. One comes into the kitchen, one is young, one is hungry, and one sees a table covered with one's favorite candy. She couldn't have painted a fruit basket? It was a cruel world, mismanaged by adults who knew their own power too well.

Candy corn may seem timeless, but it was born at the Wunderle Candy company in the 1880s. That whole school of candy -- mellocremes -- was already in full swing, in various agriculturally inspired shapes and sizes. Then in 1898 Goelitz Confectionery Company took candy corn into the big leagues, associating the confection with Halloween. It was, needless to say, a big hit. And why shouldn't it have been? Candy corn was made for stardom. Those shiny, waxy yellow ends demand to be clutched by the handful and eaten, top, middle, bottom, top, middle, bottom, in a compulsive rhythm until they are gone. Chocolate gets all the fanzines, but it is the clay of candy. Matte, endlessly shapeable, chocolate is all about taste. Candy corn gets by on looks alone. Odes should be written to its waxy gleam, its whimsical design, its autumnal shades.

I fell for candy corn hard. It was the first candy for which I had a specific desire rather than a generic sugarlust. I loved how it returned, Halloween after Halloween. We trick-or-treated on the overly lit cul-de-sacs of suburban Maryland, compromising our store-bought costumes by donning coats. We ran from house to house, suffocating plastic masks pulled up onto the tops of our heads. One popular house distributed full-size Three Musketeers bars. Candy corn came in slender, oblong boxes or little plastic bags cherishing only four or five kernels. At the end of the night our brown paper bags were awkwardly heavy. It was never enough. I usually ate all of my candy by the next evening, and then started in on my brother's. When I got tired of the sugary candies in our bags, I switched to chocolate, then back again.

Candy corn marked the passage of time. Every year autumn brought a Pavlovian desire for it. I counted the years by Halloweens rather than birthdays, and the taste of candy corn meant a new costume, a new year of school. All summer I looked forward to October 31. I thought that it was my favorite day of the year. But, as is the way with candy, I was never satisfied. I was always waiting for more to happen, or for something to change, although I had no idea what. The day after Halloween I was inevitably sad and disappointed, and would begin planning how the next time my costume would be better, how I would stay out later and collect enough candy to last longer. That cyclic disappointment clawed at me. Every passing year, though I thought candy corn delighted me, it was the constant, stealthy reminder that satisfaction was out of reach. It would be a long while before I would see how alienated and uncomfortable I was in the world, and how young I was when I started hoping that sugar would sweeten the deal.

Copyright © 2003 by Hilary Liftin

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What People are saying about this

Haven Kimmel
This book is funny and captivating; a delight. And I feel much better about my little problem with popcorn.
Jenny McPhee
Elegantly written, poignant, funny, and oh-so-sweet, Hilary Liftin's memoir of love and longing for candy, among a cornucopia of other things, is sheer satisfaction.

Meet the Author


Hilary Liftin is the coauthor of Dear Exile. She grew up in Washington, D.C., and graduated from Yale University in 1991. She lives with her husband, Chris Harris, in Los Angeles and/or Brooklyn.

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Los Angeles, California
Date of Birth:
August 12, 1969
Place of Birth:
New York, New York
Education:
B.A., Yale University, 1991

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Candy and Me 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
WOW!! i just finished reading this b%k and i LOVED it!! it only t%k me a few hours to read because i just couldn't put it down!! it's funny and sweet and i really really enjoyed it!!! Hilary Liftin is a terrific writer and i can't wait to read more from her!! buy this b%k ~ you'll b SOO glad that you did!! =)
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved it. A quick, laugh-aloud read about the candy we all know and love and eat too much of. Reading it is like sitting down with a friend and hearing her reel off a series of massively entertaining confessions.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The descriptions are so accurate your teeth start to ache from the sugar.