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CANDYFREAK by Steve Almond

CANDYFREAK

A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America

By Steve Almond

Pub Date: April 9th, 2004
ISBN: 1-56512-421-9
Publisher: Algonquin

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 to keep 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.