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Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America

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3.76  ·  Rating details ·  5,487 ratings  ·  824 reviews
A self-professed candyfreak, Steve Almond set out in search of a much-loved candy from his childhood and found himself on a tour of the small candy companies that are persevering in a marketplace where big corporations dominate.
From the Twin Bing to the Idaho Spud, the Valomilk to the Abba-Zaba, and discontinued bars such as the Caravelle, Marathon, and Choco-Lite, Almond
...more
Paperback, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by Harvest Books (first published 2004)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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 ·  5,487 ratings  ·  824 reviews


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Tom Quinn
Mar 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
My dad's favorite candy was Necco Wafers. An acquired taste for sure, but one that he developed because they were the only candy his older sisters wouldn't steal. Me, I like Milky Ways although I will eat almost anything chocolate-covered. My wife is much pickier but does have her own Achilles' heel: Reese's (the original cups, not any of the holiday shapes which mess with the peanut butter to chocolate ratio. And don't even mention the Pieces that E.T. so adored—they're not even the same specie ...more
RandomAnthony
Apr 04, 2009 rated it liked it
From the book, page sixteen:

Every now and then, I’ll run into someone who claims not to like chocolate or other sweets, and while we live in a country where everyone has the right to eat what they want, I want to say for the record that I don’t trust these people, that I think something is wrong with them, and that they’re probably-this must be said-total duds in bed.

Candyfreak provides way too much candy-metaphor fodder for the weak-hearted reviewer. I don’t know I can resist saying things like
...more
Michael
Aug 29, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: humans
My review, 3.0:

First I would like to quote MC Pee Pants.

"I want candy, bubblegum and taffy.
Skip to the sweet shop with my girlfriend, Sandy.
Got my pennies saved. so I'm a sugar daddy.
I'm her Hume Cronyn, she my Jessica Tandy.
I want candy!

I need candy, any kind will do
Don't care if it's nutritious or FDA approved.
It's gonna make me spaz like bobcats on booze..."

etc, as the song stops being about candy.

The cover blurb calls the author "the Dave Eggers of food writing" ... which seems not only
...more
Tama
May 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I laughed SO HARD during the first half of this book. Super interesting story of the small guys in the candy biz and where they've (mostly) all gone, gobbled up by the big guys. I wanted to search out some of the old school candy bars, and did find some, though it wasn't easy. Made me think back to my tiny hometown and the local chocolate shop that was on Main Street, at the base of West Hill. Where did they go? I have a vague memory of going there on a class field trip at some point in elementa ...more
Jill
Sep 23, 2013 rated it really liked it
Candyfreak is the most delightful book about candy that also happens to record the author’s deteriorating mental health. What a combination: Goo-Goo Clusters, Snickers, Valomilks, and Big Hunk bars all alongside ample doses of liberal guilt, childhood neglect, failure to commit emotionally in relationships, and a dooming fear of failure! Steve Almond is a clever writer who decides to explore America’s dying Mom and Pop candy industry in order to distract himself from his own depressing life.

So b
...more
Malbadeen
May 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Steve Almond is deep passion veiled as giddy enthusiasm. So much of his writing just makes you want to high five the world and sceam "F**** yeah!"

If you're not careful you might lose your self in the enjoyment of it all and begin to take for granted his amazing ability to lift up the ordinary and point it out in a way that has you remembering your own forgotten sensations/images/relationships.

As an educator I am always begging/pleading/admonishing my collegues to please give our students opport
...more
Gina
I finished this one a few days ago, and after serious contemplation, I'm still not sure what I just read. I thought I was getting a micro-history on regional candy companies. There are elements of that as the author, Steve Almond, travels to some small companies and tours their factories. Yet, that is just a small part of it. It leans more toward creative non-fiction/creative memoir as the author dissects his life-long love of candy, attaching feelings of love, commitment, and self-worth to the ...more
Vonia
Mar 27, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Being a Candy Connoisseur myself, I had high expectations for this. Did it live up to my expectations? Not quite. I suppose I was wanting something less personal-diary-coming-of-age-story, more candy-chocolate-informational-enlightenment. Almond was extremely honest, writing this as an essential documentation of a personal cross-country road trip, inserting personal stories, anecdotes, and/or tangents that were sometimes funny, sometimes interesting, but always distracting.

At the same time, he d
...more
GoldGato
Before reading this book, I had never heard of Valomilk candy bars. Now I must have one, thanks to the description by author Steve Almond.

But here, inside my mouth, it was finally dawning on me: the way in which the airy tones of vanilla infused the chocolate and lent the heavy tang of cocoa a sense of buoyancy. The chocolate in the Valomilk was transcendent; I would go so far as to call it velvety.

LsrsLk.jpg

The process to make the Valomilk is itself, antiquated. In a day and age when candy is mass pr
...more
Jon
Jul 16, 2008 rated it liked it
There are definite five-star sections within this book. The author travels around the U.S. to visit a number independent candy manufacturers and tell their stories. These are great parts. It is a real eye-opener to hear that in the early 20th century there were over 6000 American candy companies and now there are only 150 or so. The rise of the "Big Three" of Nestle, Hershey and Mars has made it nearly impossible for any other manufacturers to get their products into stores. Reading these parts ...more
Melissa
Nov 23, 2012 rated it liked it
If Steve Almond is a candyfreak, then I'm a candywhore. I'll take it where I can get it and I'm not half as discriminating about its origins.

That said, you can't help but laugh outright at the sugar-fanaticism of a man who gets faint with joy witnessing the birth of chocolate bunnies and is rendered speechless at the thoughtless waste of even one piece of chocolate, recalling, "I stood there in a cloud of disillusionment...I'm someone who has been known to eat the pieces of candy found underneat
...more
Elizabeth
Aug 12, 2010 rated it liked it
Recommended to Elizabeth by: Jenny benevento
The back jacket describes Candyfreak as 'hilarious' - I think that's a bit of a stretch. Like Not That You Asked, I found Candyfreak a quick and enjoyable read - but not one that I expect to reread.

Personally, I wish this book was more about the candy industry and the small producers Almond visited. The highlights for me were his descriptions of the candy-making processes and of the candymakers themselves - interesting, fanatical characters who were often involved in every detail of the process.
...more
Jeff Grosser
Feb 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A funny & informative look into the history & workings of the candy business. Very enjoyable, like a piece of candy.
Grace
Apr 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I applaud myself on having consumed only two candy bars during the process of reading this book. However, seeing as I read this book mostly over the course of a single day, that may not be something to brag about. I advise you to read this book while at a very safe distance from any candy sources, because I was sitting next to an enormous candy display in a bookstore and could not resist the purchase of a pack of turtles, which I had just read about, the 5th Avenue, which Almond mentions in pass ...more
Sue
Quote from the book: "Every now and then, I’ll run into someone who claims not to like chocolate or other sweets, and while we live in a country where everyone has the right to eat what they want, I want to say for the record that I don’t trust these people, that I think something is wrong with them, and that they’re probably--this must be said--total duds in bed."

My father had it. My mom has it. And I have it. What is it? A sweet tooth. This book is really a glimpse into the life of anyone who
...more
Luann
Mar 23, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes chocolate
I had to read this one quickly because it was bad for me. Very bad. Is there anyone who has read this and didn't feel the overpowering NEED to eat chocolate while reading this book? If so, please post in the comments to this review because I want to know where you get your incredible willpower! And the problem was that if I wasn't eating chocolate, I just had to be eating something, anything, while reading this book! I defy anyone not to salivate at his descriptions of chocolate. Here's just one ...more
Kaethe
Jul 08, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm not actually that big a candy fan, I prefer cake. But it's always interesting to read about someone's obsessions, and Almond is just a little obsessed. Good, sticky fun, and a lot of info about candybars you've never heard of before. ...more
Amber Scaife
Almond reports on his quest to tour small business candy factories and interview their owners while at the same time chronicling his own life-long obsession with candy. So it's part microhistory and part autobiography, as he narrates his childhood love of chocolate bars, his struggles with depression, and his reactions to the political happenings concurrent with his candy-tour travels.
I have mixed feelings about this one. I loved the history of candy in America and the descriptions of the factor
...more
Audrey H.
Dec 30, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: youtube, subject-food
2.5 stars, rounded up. I don't think this would get published today due to Almond's sense of humor, rambling narration and the (lack of) actual content here. By his own accord, Almond is too small of a fish to get interviews with any of the big candy industry titans, so instead he visited a whole bunch of obscure candy companies. I would honestly be shocked if any are still in business today, based on the struggles described in 2002. Most of this book involves Almond marveling at some machines, ...more
Kelsey Goldwein
Oct 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Candyfreaks
Recommended to Kelsey by: Librarian
Candyfreak by Steve Almond is all about Almond reliving his past through candy. He writes about candy like someone who truly knows what they're talking about, which I would say he does, considering the number of candy bars he eats and factories he visits throughout the book. Almond vividly describes the ingredients, texture, and flavor of candy bars vividly. Even if I had never seen or heard of the bar, I could picture the confectionery and imagine crunch of biting into the chocolate he describe ...more
Leigh
Oct 08, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men, nonfiction lovers
Recommended to Leigh by: Beth
Candy Freak is the story of Steve Almond's obsession with candy, particularly candy that no longer exists. Almond begins the story lamenting the disappearance of the candy bars of his youth, and wonders why such perfect candies aren't being made anymore. He sets out to explore the "chocolate underbelly of America", touring several small candy factories and getting the viewpoints of small, independently-owned candy companies. Almond discovers that there are indeed many candies being made by these ...more
Laura
Aug 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
This book is about...well, a Candyfreak. Almond is obsessed with candy -- eating it, talking about it, thinking about it, keeping it around the house, finding new types. So he undertakes a trip cross-country to the few candy factories that will let him watch the process of making the stuff (the processes are highly proprietary, it seems).

Almond comes across a scarily neurotic and utterly likable, and who can't be happy reading about someone who loves candy? Sometimes he was trying a bit too har
...more
Heather
Feb 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
This is a really easy, enjoyable read. I guess I'm not quite on the freak level of Almond because he is a real sensualist when it comes to candy, coming up with eating strategies that I never would have considered. It makes for some interesting, funny reading. On the downside, it's a little depressing to think that even the world of candy is super capitalistic and cut-throat.

I found a lot of the candies that he talks about in the book for my book club tomorrow. I have a huge sweet tooth, so I h
...more
Thom
Mar 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
Read this shortly after it showed up on the library "new books" shelf. Agree completely with another reviewer - there are some definite five star sections in here. One stellar example is the history: what used to be thousands of candy companies are now, a century later, down to just over 100. The games the major companies play (and get away with) for shelf space is tragic.

Other parts of the book were autobiographical and not as well written. Seeing similar things in his newest book. Steve Almond
...more
Raina
Jan 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wish that this wasn't read by an actor - I can hear the acting a bit. But maybe Steve Almond isn't like David Sedaris. And that's ok.

I really enjoyed this story of candy. He traces the descent of small businesses in amerika and the evil big three takeover of amerikan candy. Also imparts lots of anecdotes and issues lots of chocolate porn descriptions of the candy he consumes as he travels across amerika touring various candy factories. So fun. Funny too, though probably too sophisticated for
...more
Livia
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Mr. Almond does a great job of interviewing and touring various real candy factories in the US. He made me WANT to try the Idaho Spud. His description of a food trade show was accurate, if a little depressing. The trade show featured cheesecake, chicken wings, pizza, french fries, etc., with NOT A VEGETABLE IN SIGHT. Oh sorry, there were some fake veggies. The story of candy comes through and carries readers along.
Anthony
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
This book is funny. Seriously, laugh-out-loud funny. The book itself is a serious retrospective of the candy industry and reviews dozens of bars. Almond also takes us on several behind the scenes tours of candy companies around North America.

However, Almond also weaves a person biography throughout the tome. In a different book, this diversion would seem self-indulgent. However, in Candyfreak the autobiography provides comedy and connection with the reader.
Julie
Jun 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dave P.
Recommended to Julie by: Byron Borger
Shelves: food-and-drink
This hilarious and rather touching book could definitely inspire a nostalgic road trip particularly near the San Francisco Bay Area; Boise, Idaho; Kansas City, Kansas; and Sioux City, Iowa. I was surprised how many childhood candy memories this book dredged up even though the author and I are not exactly the same age. Be sure to read with some favorite candy nearby.
Koren
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A memoir of the author's love for candy. He eats candy every day. He is obsessed with candy. He describes candy in loving terms. He investigates the history of candy. This is a humerous memoir and laugh out loud funny at times. Worth the read. ...more
Jenny
Aug 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
This book wasn’t really so much about chocolate bars as it was about a self-centered man just wanting to write about himself. Definitely doesn’t age well-if you’ve stumbled across this book in 2020, don’t bother.
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Steve Almond is the author of two story collections, My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow, the non-fiction book Candyfreak, and the novel Which Brings Me to You, co-written with Julianna Baggott. He lives outside Boston with his wife and baby daughter Josephine.

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“Every now and then, I'll run into someone who claims not to like chocolate, and while we live in a country where everyone has the right to eat what they want, I want to say for the record that I don't trust these people, that I think something is wrong with them, and that they're probably - and this must be said - total duds in bed.” 123 likes
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