Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sweet, sweet research

Book: Candy Freak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America

Author: Steve Almond

Published: 2004 (Algonquin)

Pages: 261

This has the heft and layout of one of those novelty books stacked near Barnes and Noble cash registers, but it’s so much more in depth up front about that author’s obsession with candy.

He tours a lot of the smaller U.S. candy factories, as Mars and Hershey wouldn’t even pretend that they’d give him inside information, but he saw a lot of general processes. And got a lot of free samples. These parts were like watching those videos that the mailman brought on Mr. Rogers, only a little giddier and editorialized with heavier emphasis on chocolate bars simply because those are the author’s favorite.

He explores his own obsession, too, which is basically that his dad expressed fatherly love through candy. Although the author wonders about the true health of that, he backs off from a path of existentialism that is starts to lead him down a couple times (“Is this why I can’t keep a real relationship…? Ooh, a new flavor of Twix.”) Which I appreciated, because I read the whole thing over the course of a disconcerting Sunday that needed no more overthinking, especially about relationships.

But one thing I did enjoy was when he talked to fellow freaks, the ones that had written books and started empires. Although the guy who had a massive collection spanning decades and a couple hundred thousand dollars had nothing polysyllabic to say about it. The author kept in all the journalism awkwardness of trying to get a good answer, which was a funny look behind his curtain and a sort of terrifying look behind the old man’s because apparently he did all that for basically no reason. It could’ve been beer cans.

Tasty stuff, so it stays on the shiny new book cart.


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