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Who remembers their favorite candy from childhood? Does it still exist? Or do you glance down at the glistening wrappers in the candy aisle, wistful for a time -- and a bar -- gone by? Take comfort; you're not alone. For Steve Almond is obsessed with candy, too, allowing himself a daily ration to keep his consumption within bounds. During his "infamous campaign of 1973," he experienced a "run of seven cavities," which required the regular numbing of his jaw to fill. And he keeps an ever-ready stash of several pounds of the sweet stuff, stockpiling boxes of certain favorites against a feared drought.
Almond's obsession sends him on a cross-country quest to rediscover the candy bars of his youth, notably the vanished Caravelle (not to be confused with the 100 Grand (a bar of similar ingredients but wholly inferior quality), Almond's personal Holy Grail. But along the candy trail, our sleuth also discovered a number of quirky small-production bars, too. Almond extols the virtues of these small producers, companies that continue to roll out their treats despite pressure from the big candy conglomerates that gobbled up and discontinued many of the bars of our candy-filled childhood. Almond's unbridled enthusiasm for confectionery delights is both hilarious and infectious, a tribute to a substance that evokes fond memories for readers of every ilk.
(Summer 2004 Selection)
…p; for the most part, Almond goes at the subject as if he were a giddy 5-year-old, creating an entertaining book full of repeatable tidbits about the candy industry.
The New York Times
The appropriately named Almond goes beyond candy obsession to enter the realm of "freakdom." Right up front, he divulges that he has eaten a piece of candy "every single day of his entire life," "thinks about candy at least once an hour" and "has between three and seven pounds of candy in his house at all times." Indeed, Almond's fascination is no mere hobby-it's taken over his life. And what's a Boston College creative writing teacher to do when he can't get M&Ms, Clark Bars and Bottle Caps off his mind? Write a book on candy, of course. Almond's tribute falls somewhere between Hilary Liftin's decidedly personal Candy and Me and Tim Richardson's almost scholarly Sweets: A History of Candy. There are enough anecdotes from Almond's lifelong fixation that readers will feel as if they know him (about halfway through the book, when Almond is visiting a factory and a marketing director offers him a taste of a coconut treat, readers will know why he tells her, "I'm really kind of full"-he hates coconut). But there are also enough facts to draw readers' attention away from the unnaturally fanatical Almond and onto the subject at hand. Almond isn't interested in "The Big Three" (Nestle, Hershey's and Mars). Instead, he checks out "the little guys," visiting the roasters at Goldenberg's Peanut Chews headquarters and hanging out with a "chocolate engineer" at a gourmet chocolate lab in Vermont. Almond's awareness of how strange he is-the man actually buys "seconds" of certain candies and refers to the popular chocolate mint parfait as "the Andes oeuvre"-is strangely endearing. (Apr. 9) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Almond is obsessed with candy. He claims that not one day of his life has passed when he has not had a candy bar. He takes his obsession on the road and details for readers his travels to small candy factories around the country, encouraging others to engage in his candy feast. He visits the home of the Idaho Spud, the Goo Goo Cluster, Valomilk, and the five Star Bars. On his way, he entertains readers with candy trivia and his longing for Caravelle candy bars. Peeps, Chuckles, Jordan Almonds, and Circus Peanuts are included in his list of MWMs (mistakes were made), products that never should have been candies in the first place. Almond's sense of humor and his encyclopedic knowledge of candy makes this book an enjoyable trip across the chocolate-covered countryside. He is fanatical in his interest, and he quickly pulls readers into his obsession, making a trip to the candy counter a necessary result of reading. Young adults will feel his passion and most likely will begin searching for the elusive Violet Crumble and Twin Bings. Although not for everyone, this book will touch teens who appreciate the eccentric, and they will love Almond and his candy crusade. VOYA Codes 4Q 2P S A/YA (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; For the YA with a special interest in the subject; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2004, Algonquin, 280p., Ages 15 to Adult.
A former journalist, Almond (creative writing, Boston Coll.; My Life in Heavy Metal) is obsessed with candy; it shaped his childhood and continues to define his life in ways large and small. Fascinated by the emotional bonds that people develop with their childhood favorites, Almond began a journey into the history of candy in America and discovered a lot about himself in the process. Once hundreds of American confectioners delivered regional favorites to consumers, but now the big three of candy-Hershey, Mars, and Nestl -control the market. To find out what happened to those candies of yesteryear, Almond talks to candy collectors and historians and visits a few of the remaining independent candy companies, where he learns exactly what goes into creating lesser-known treats such as the Idaho Spud. Flavored with the author's amusingly tart sense of humor, Candyfreak is an intriguing chronicle of the passions that candy inspires and the pleasures it offers. Recommended for most public libraries as a nice counterpart to Tim Richardson's more internationally focused Sweets: A History of Candy.-John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Almond, a self-diagnosed "candyfreak," details with mouthwatering descriptions his visits to the minor league of candy makers who continue to churn out their distinctive products. Claiming to have eaten at least a piece of candy every day of his life, Almond first establishes his candy credentials. He always has at least three to seven pounds of candy in his home; he's stashed 14 boxes of Kit Kat Limited Edition Dark in a warehouse; he has further supplies in drawers in case of an emergency; and at Halloween his haul was between 10 and 15 pounds. But mourning the disappearance of so many independent candy makers-a street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was once known as Confectioner's Row-and his own favorite bar, the Caravelle, he decides to find out what happened, and what makers still remain. The search, serendipitously fueled by boxes of free samples, leads him to factories in such places as Dorchester, Massachusetts (Necco wafers and candy hearts); Burlington, Vermont (the Five Star Bar); and Sioux City, Iowa, where he watches The Bing, a regional favorite, being made. At each factory he witnesses every step of the process, and always gets to sample the product. He also meets Steve Traino, a fellow candyfreak who has tapped into the nostalgia candy market by buying and then selling discontinued items online, and Ray Broekel, the industry's historian, who has a vast collection of candy memorabilia, from wrappers to advertising. Almond is impressed with these independent manufacturers, always generous and dedicated, but also realistic about their limitations, both in distribution and longevity. All are up against the Big Three-Mars, Hershey, and Nestle-who have the money and the muscle tokeep the little guys out of the big stores, as well as to steal their ideas: facts that inevitably sour this otherwise delicious celebration of all things sweet. Sweet, never sickly-and quite informative.
PRAISE FOR CANDYFREAK
"Hysterically funny . . . A delicious read."-PEOPLE
"Combines the patter of a stand-up comic with the soul of a 10-year-old whose allowance is burning a hole in his pocket . . . A story as all-American as the aroma of peanut butter and milk chocolate wafting from its pages."-THE BOSTON GLOBE
"This is gonzo food writing at its best. Candyfreak is like a good candy bar: a piece of delicious, ephemeral fun." -SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE