Maol Mhuire O'Duinnin's Reviews > Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America

Candyfreak by Steve Almond
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Steve Almond is candid enough in this book to reveal what I think is true for a lot of adults these days, and maybe throughout history, at least since consumerist capitalism rose to such an exorbitant and disasterous level: we tend to make emotional connections to products where they are lacking with the people who surround us as children. For Steve, candy became a place of escape and self-love in a family who was adept at self-loathing. It also has continued to comfort him into adulthood, especially in terms of failed romances, a few of which he describes in the book. He also remembers in detail which candies he sought as a comfort after those break ups.

We join Steve as he begins a series of travels around the US to track down candies from his youth and even further back (Steve was in his late 30s at the time of publication, 2005). He ends up meeting a lot of people who are just obsessed with candy as he is, some of whom still produce these now obscure candies.

Throughout the book, Steve is very thorough in his descriptions of his own vice, through taste and smell, as well as visual sensations (packaging is very important to Steve). These descriptions are often extremely detailed and exaggerated to bring humor, although after a while, the descriptions start to become a bit hackneyed.

Also, it seemed like Steve did a good job mixing details of his excursions and personal history in the first half of the book. In the second half, his visits are written serially and it becomes hard to remember who was the president of what company. A lot of times, too, he seems to characterize most of the men (all the presidents are men) toward the end of the book as these rogue characters or cowboys, driving around in SUVs to save the world of independent candy-making...I don't know...I'm just sick of reading white men superheroes in the world. And yes, they were almost all white. I can tell because of Steve's rather ignorant use of "Indian," "Hispanic," and "black," to describe side people in airports, on the telephone, or packing the boxes of candy, and the lack of the word "white" to describe anyone else, mostly people in positions of relative power and privilege. However, Steve does a good job noticing when someone is Jewish, perhaps because he is Jewish himself.

Steve also does a good job describing the precarious position of being a consumer, loving the product personally and having the knowledge of candy's lack of usefulness in as far as everyday life for most people in the world. He analyzes capitalism and mass production and candy's place in that. He also does well in profiling "the big three": Mars, Hershey, and Nestle and how they, especially Hershey, created an American taste for chocolate to keep consumers coming back to the candy racks for generations.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it made me think about candy politics (who knew?) and it made me want to eat candy all the time.
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