Candy and Me: A Love Storyby 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
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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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc
- Free Press
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- 5.90(w) x 8.88(h) x 0.82(d)
Read an Excerpt
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.
In 1954, Trix breakfast cereal was introduced by General Mills. The new cereal, a huge hit with kids, was 46.6 percent sugar.
I loved Trix.
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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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.
- Los Angeles, California
- Date of Birth:
- August 12, 1969
- Place of Birth:
- New York, New York
- B.A., Yale University, 1991
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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!! =)
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.
The descriptions are so accurate your teeth start to ache from the sugar.