I have been avoiding reading Candy Freak for at least a year and a half out of fear that an entire book homage to chocolate and corn syrup might have calories embedded in the pages which would crawl into my body via the pores in my finger tips and cause me to gain roughly 250lbs by the time I reached page 73. Or (more likely) my will power would be no match for Steve Almond's passion and I'd have to set up a sleeping bag at the foot of the candy rack of my local 24 hour bodega. Either way the book seemed dangerous enough to put off digesting it until a recent trip had me stuck on an airplane and then locked away in the mountains at least 90 minutes from the nearest Hershey bar.
Unlike Almond, I have no right to blog about chocolate candy, we all know that were I to drown my sorrows in sugar and fat you'd find my bloated body bobbing in a lake of half melted Ben and Jerry's. As a kid I often claimed to hate chocolate -- unsurprisingly this was an exaggeration (something I've been prone to since well before the inception of this blog) as I was perfectly capable of wolfing down handful of See's caramels and thin mint cookies both of which were enrobed in my supposed arch nemesis. I do however, remember bemoaning the over abundance of chips in chocolate chip cookies and wondering why no one made a chipless version. Luckily, I've gotten over this ridiculousness and now keep an emergency supply of chocolate in my desk at work and the pantry cupboard at home. As is the case with most of my paranoid stock piles of emergency food much of the chocolate goes to waste waiting for a rainy day downpour that never comes but I'm comforted by its presence.
Almond would likely scoff at my candy bar snobbery -- virtually everything I buy is European and dark and occasionally (when my liberal guilt is boiling over) organic and fair trade. My go to candy is Ritter Sport bars in hazelnut, corn flake or biscuit (note to Ritter Sport president who totally reads my blog: make the biscuit and the corn flake versions in dark chocolate please) but if forced into a mass market candy bar decision I'll usually go Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Twix or KitKat. I eat all of these from top to bottom, first peeling away the chocolate top soil to reveal the candy strata beneath. KitKats are the most satisfying to eat, on a good day I can peel away each layers of waffer and scratch off the chocolate goo with my front teeth until I have just the final bottom coat of chocolate melting in my hand.
I love to taste new things so Almond's chapters devoted to small regional candy companies had me salivating and making plans for a gluttonous cross country candy feast. I must try the GooGoo Clusters (Steve didn't mention there was peanut butter version -- I may need to schedule a trip to the south for tomorrow afternoon) and the snob in me can't believe she's lived this long without experiencing Five Star Bars. In the spirit of this book I've decided to bestow upon you, dear readers, a couple of candy reviews of my own.
First up is the Yorkie which I bought mostly because it was taunting me with its tag line, "Not for Girls," what self respecting feminist could resist? I have to assume that the Yorkie has a secret ingredient that reacts with testosterone to create a taste that would not be described as "waxy," "kind of off" and "gross." which are the words this estrogen machine immediately turned to upon first bite. Upon further reflection on the plain gritty low quality milk chocolate I was forced to consider the possibility that the Yorkie contains actual Yorkies.
While the Yorkie called to me as a challenge the Reese's Peanut Butter and Banana Creme (aka the Elvis) spoke directly to my pallet. I have always loved Reese's Peanut Butter Cups with their shockingly sweet jolt of peanutty goodness and in many moments of midnight snacking I have been known to spread peanut butter directly onto a banana and moan orgasmically so the limited edition candy seemed like a brilliant and much overdue idea. The modified peanut butter cups tasted exactly as billed -- the banana flavoring was authentic enough to make it easy to pretend that an actual banana has been hurt in the making of this candy and the flavor melded nicely with the peanut and chocolate. But... I kind of wanted my regular Reese's back. This taste test made it clear that my love for peanut butter cups is more about nostalgia then taste. As much as I thrive on new taste sensations in my heart I am still American and like the majority of Hershey's customer base, and like Steve Almond, I crave the candy that comforted me as a child and my tongue is ready to rebel against any veering from the expected Reese's path.
So I cannot recommend either of the new candy bars I tried but I heartily recommend Candy Freak. In addition to being a fascinating walk through our collective candy history it's also a touching glimpse into Steve Almond's particular kind of freak. I suspect that many readers may be annoyed by his tangents into noncandy related personal antidote but I was charmed. Steve, when you read this please don't be overwhelmed by my fame, leave a comment, fly to New York, no need to bring clothing.