Thursday, November 25, 2021

On the Coffee Table: Steve Almond

Title: Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America
Author: Steve Almond

via Amazon

In his bio on the back cover, Steve Almond states that he's "eaten at least one piece of candy every single day of his entire life."  In other words, he takes this stuff seriously.

Almond took a self-designed tour of independent candy companies across the United States, among them Lake Champlain Chocolate in Vermont and Idaho Spud in Boise.  As in so many consumer product industries, the candy company is dominated by a small number of giant corporations we all know well: Hershey, Nestle and Mars.  But a few regionally-distributed gems have miraculously survived, even 20 years after Almond wrote his book.  Predictably, Almond's book reflects a nostalgia for a simpler time.

Delightfully, Almond also reveals an industry not entirely unrecognizable to a Wonka fan.  The corporate espionage in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was true to life.  Since a candy bar can't be patented, the production processes are closely guarded secrets.   All of these companies maintain their own ancient equipment as replacing it would run the risk of drastic changes to the products their small but loyal consumer bases have grown to love.

I enjoyed the book thoroughly.  The one drawback for me was Almond's tendency to dwell on his own personal narrative within this adventure.  Frankly, I found it difficult to care - didn't find him particularly likable.  But the candy material is fun.


  1. This actually sounds like a book with a lot of possibilities. Sorry the narrator wasn't likable. I have often thought that way about Paul Theroux travel books. I enjoy reading them, but don't think I would care to travel with him.

    1. Perhaps I'm being too hard on him. But he is a bit of a downer.