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Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  306 ratings  ·  61 reviews
For most Americans, candy is an uneasy pleasure, eaten with side helpings of guilt and worry. Yet candy accounts for only 6 percent of the added sugar in the American diet. And at least it's honest about what it is—a processed food, eaten for pleasure, with no particular nutritional benefit. So why is candy considered especially harmful, when it's not so different from the ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published October 15th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Elyse  Walters
Feb 14, 2017 rated it really liked it

Is candy evil or Just Misunderstood?

Author Samira Kawash begins this book by sharing a story: It all started with
"The Jelly Bean Incident".

"My daughter was three years old, and she loved jellybeans. A baby fistful of the brightly colored morsels was just about the brightest prize she could imagine, and at one tiny gram of sugar per bean, it seemed to me – – her caring, reasonably attentive mother – – to be a pretty harmless treat. So it was the best of intentions that
Steven Savage
Jul 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Samira Kawash's book "Candy" is a view, of, well, the History of Candy in the United States, going back to the late 19th/early 20th Century forward. That may sound simple, but Candy isn't simple.

The book isn't just about Candy per se - it focuses on sweet treats and the like - but is also a history of food and opinions about food and how they change (and don't change) through the ages. Though candy is center stage, around it swirls assorted stories and tales, joys and panics, and quite a few
Carye Bye
Last year I worked on a illustrated art show called "Favorite Candy" and I drew portraits of friends posing with their Favorite Candy. It was interesting to learn the psychology behind why certain candy is loved most. And that most people can pick a favorite -- it does come down to taste but more often Nostalgia. About the same time, I heard about this book, and was interested to learn the history of candy.

So I hate to give this book 3, but I really feel like like it needed more editing, more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Candy has got a bad name for itself as a harmful indulgence these days or the childhood equivalent of cocaine. It is derided as empty calories and only recently has any good news about it come out namely the benefits of dark chocolate. The sugars in it are considered empty calories. But with processed foods dominating the supermarkets it is hard sometimes to draw the line between food and candy. What makes candy, candy? It was once in the early twentieth century considered nutritious food. Candy ...more
Dec 06, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, food
I blame The Splendid Table for bring this title to my attention. I read the interview with the author and decided to give it a try.

Samira explains how she got hooked into research the topic of candy by an incident with her daughter wanting to share jelly beans with a friend. The reaction (really over-reaction) on the part of parents just highlight the conflicted feelings that she discovered when she dug into the history of candy. She covers the recent history, providing sources, along with the
Ms. Yingling
Dec 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Public library copy

Fascinating look at the role candy has played in the US diet over the last two centuries. More scholarly than for fun reading, but very well done and informative. I especially liked the fact that in the 1920s and 30s, people at chocolate candy bars for lunch; not too dissimilar from the protein bars we eat today! The end of the book, covering the 1970s and onward, had a lot about sugary cereals and meal bars, which was interesting. Interesting how feelings about candy and the
Nov 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Samira Kawash began thinking hard about candy after what she refers to as "the jelly-bean incident," in which the parent of her child's friend made it clear he thought giving the kids jelly beans was equivalent to purchasing them crack. Kawash then set out to understand more about candy - where it came from, what it is, and what it isn't.

There is quite a bit of interesting information in this book, including an extensive history of the US candy industry, which overlaps with the history of
That is one attractive cover. So swirly and pretty!

I've got a real sweet tooth. It's impossible for me to quit candy no matter how much I try, and that includes all kinds. There's no question that I do feel guilty about my candy intake when I go on a splurge. With all that in mind, this book seemed right up my alley. Samira Kawash goes on this historical journey with candy that dates back to the very first manufactured bonbons in the turn of the 20th century. That boom in production allowed for
Chris Aylott
Feb 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
Now this is the best kind of popular history: an interesting topic that turns into a tour of an era you may not be familiar with. Kawash puts most of her attention on the marketing for and crusades against early twentieth-century candy, and there are plenty of lurid claims on both sides. Depending on your viewpoint (and your self-interest), candy could be a poison, a superfood, or a disguise for demon rum. The amount of delusion, quack science, and bold-face lying is astounding -- and there are ...more
C.R. Elliott
Jul 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, food
*Read an advance proof*

Not the book I expected. More than just a history of candy in America, it's the engrossing story of the recent history of how we eat to fuel lives lived at an ever increasing pace. What I expected was something akin to a history of candy makers particularly the big companies like Hershey. There was some of that to be certain but Samira Kawash approaches her topic with much more depth. She makes quite the compelling case for her thesis that candy became food and food began
Apr 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting and well written history of candy, and candy adjacent foods, full of insightful information about candy in relation to war, holidays and advertising. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am only knocking off one star for the author inserting herself into the narrative. It didn't happen very often, but it's a no no for me. That said, today is Easter Sunday, I had three cavities filled on Thursday, and I'm enjoying a Necco Peach Blossom Peanut Butter In A Crunchy Candy Shell right now. ...more
Nov 27, 2013 added it
Okay, it was more of a skim than a read, but it's full of trivia about candy, from back when sugarplums at Christmas was the only time kids got it all the way up to today's "candy as food" trend.
Nov 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Could not be happier that I stopped to pick this off the shelf at the library! Thoroughly researched and incredibly fascinating. Apparently candy has been at the center of multiple societal shifts over the past century and somehow managed to last through each new cycle of mis-information, new diet/health fad, and the general wave of ill-will from parents. Proud to say I made it through a whole 3/4 of this book before I finally caved and grabbed a bag of twizzlers to snack on. I feel like that's ...more
Nov 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Halloween math doesn’t add up. Children trick-or-treat at office parties, church events, and neighborhoods, celebrating Halloween by maximizing candy collection. But many parents don’t want their children actually eating that much candy. They buy it back, trade it for toys, throw it away, or turn it into dazzling science experiments. Some protect their children by baking the candy into holiday sweets, sending it to the office, donating it to the homeless, or mailing it to troops overseas, so ...more
Dave Courtney
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book begins with a question. Is candy evil or simply misunderstood? A question that presupposes the more complicated notion that we do in fact consider candy to be evil, a notion the book then looks to uncover and explore in detail by narrowing in on America as candy's most complicated and mired battleground.

To be upfront, there is a central flaw to this book. It is not entirely clear upfront where the author is headed. In this sense it has a "I am figuring this out on the go" sort of feel
The perfect topic for the Halloween season. Everything about the beginning of this book is appealing, from the cover to the first anecdotes in the introduction. Candy. Is it a food? Is it evil? Why do we love it so much and why is our culture ashamed of it? Why do I, a vegetarian gardener food co-op board member hiker all-around healthy person also eat so much candy? Kawash delves into the history of candy, candy making, eating, and advertising in America in an engaging and informative way. I'm ...more
Todd Stockslager
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pop-culture
Review title: Candyland

Candy might be empty calories but Kawash has written a satisfying study of the intersection of the history, nutrition, sociology, marketing, and even morality of candy. Yes, candy is bad for you, we can agree (although candy companies have tried to convince otherwise). but is it bad?

Kawash argues convincingly that candy isn't bad, evil, poison, a gateway drug-or good food, all accusations or accolades directed at the varied products labelled candy throughout the last
Oct 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's almost Halloween, so I'm confident in saying that our collective picture of candy is the thing we hand out to small humans and hoard for ourselves, albeit with guilt and a sense that we're doing something unhealthy. Candy comes packaged in bright wrappers designed to both appeal to kids and stand out from other food. It's got the nutritional value of a brick, and the flavor profile of ecstasy.

Kawash challenges this perspective by broadening candy's relationship to society through a
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
Oct 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Unlike actual candy, this book was unexpectedly substantial. I was expecting something like Steve Almond's Candyfreak from about ten years ago, in which he reminisced about his favorite candies from childhood and investigated their origins and and histories. It was a personal account, bolstered by some research and social history and was entertaining.

Samira Kawash doesn't indulge in her own memories of candies past. Instead she spends much of the book examining the history of candy in America,
Feb 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
I read this book over a period of many months so I don't have comprehensive thoughts on it. Kawash traces the history of candy in the US from the emergence of the first commercial candies through the present--not just the history of the content and popularity of the candies themselves, but of the moral overlay through which society has viewed candy.

In the early days, 1910s and 20s, candy was seen as for depraved, immoral children--as literal poison. As it turns out, there were some unscrupulous
Elli (The Bibliophile)
This was a very informative and enjoyable book to read! I found Kawash's writing was clear, and each chapter was pretty well structured.

I had one issue with this book, which is that towards the end it seemed like Kawash changed the tone quite a bit. For most of the book, it is quite a straightforward history of Candy in the USA. The last chapter, however, read less like a conclusion and more like a whole new discussion about food culture in general and the problems of processed food. I wish
Aug 28, 2014 added it
This isn't so much an anti-sugar book as a history of candy in the US. From people feeling it was poison (late 1800s early 1900s) to thinking it was actual food, and good for you (1910s/1920s: ad from Oct 27, 1928 in the Saturday Evening Post reads, “Do you eat enough candy? See what the modern authorities say about candy in the died—why and how you should eat it. How candy fills important bodily needs, A hint to women (and men, too) who want to be thinner, How to use candy as a food.” To the ...more
Mar 04, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: food
An interesting read about the history of candy, both in terms of manufacture and cultural response. It was fascinating to read about the public's perception of candy, and the seemingly never ending cycle of acceptance and rejection throughout the decades. The author did a good job of discussing the candy lobby and how much its influence has shaped the public's perception of candy over the years. She also focuses on the broader picture of how our culture's understanding of nutrition as well as ...more
Jen Mcgovern
Jul 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very enjoyable-though at times it seemed like it was more about sugar and/or processed food. At first, this annoyed me. i wanted to learn more about candy. however Kawash's history allows the reader to see that these things are inextricably linked- therefore the history of candy can't be separate from sugar or processed foods.i appreciated this more as the book professed and it all made more sense in the conclusion. One of my favorite part of the book was seeing how the ideology ...more
Dec 31, 2013 rated it liked it
Broad overview of the history of candy in the US since about the late 1800's. Many interesting tidbits about the evolution from home-made (lovingly made by mom), to mass produced ("modern") to too-mass produced (with "scary" impurities) to nutritious (candy was considered a good source of cheap calories in the early 1900's, especially if it contained nuts or some type of nougat (was implied that it contained "real" milk) to junk food, and now to "nutritious" (fortified gummy candies and "fruit" ...more
May 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
This was a fluffy read about the history of candy. While I usually love cultural history, this was a little too specific to get much out of. There were some interesting points about prohibition, industrialism, and especially advertising but not a whole lot I didn't already know. I liked the last page where the author basically said, stop freaking out, eat a piece of candy every so often it won't hurt you. I appreciated that.
Margaret Sankey
Dec 13, 2013 rated it liked it
This is a social and economic history of candy in the 20th century--beginning with the food science revolution that took candy from a labor-intensive, occasional home-made thing to a mass-produced cheap energy source. Kawash highlights the two world wars that masculinized candy eating as "energy and fuel!", the commercialization of Halloween, candy with vitamins, sugary cereal, artificial sweetener, fears of tainted candy and candy and dentists.
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Really enjoyable read on the history and composition of this non-food. The author's writing style is breezy, down-to-earth and extremely readable, even when she gets into the science of the chemicals used in candy. It doesn't pan candy, in fact the author is a fan who attempted to make some of the historic candy recipes. Overall, this book is fun and well done. 1 star deduction only for some detail I didn't think was necessary, but that could be my own impatience (and access to books).
Amy Raffensperger
Dec 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'll be honest, I was sold on this book the first time I'd seen the cover. This is a rather academic look at the subject the history of candy in our culture, but a very fascinating one. Candy has gone from being a luxury to a very common "junk" food. The author reminds us that much of our processed food is no more nutritious than a Snickers or Hershey bar, so "let candy be candy."
This book is extremely informative about the changing perceptions regarding candy in the last hundred or so years. My favorite parts of the book were the ones that talked about the history of actual candies and candy making. I wish there would have been more of that. The author's final position on candy in our everyday lives is worth reading, as it's very sensible and honest.
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Book Keeping: Candy by Samira Kawash 1 1 Jan 30, 2014 10:53AM  

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Brooklyn-based author Samira Kawash has a Ph.D. in literary studies from Duke University and is a professor emerita at Rutgers University. She is the founder of the website and has written about candy for The Atlantic, Gastronomica and Saveur.