A hilarious memoir of the author’s obsession with candy combined with his journalistic investigation of the American candymaking scene. I’m not that into candy (I prefer less sweet and more substantial sweets, like pastries) but I'm really into Almond's prose style and sensibility. If you like his style, you will like the entire book, and if you don’t, you won’t, so I copy a representative excerpt below:

You will have noticed by this time, that I have a distinctly candyfreakish name. This is not my fault. All credit or blame should be directed to my paternal great-grandfather, the Rabbi David Pruzhinski (blessed be his memory), who came from the region of Pruzhini to London around 1885 and changed his name to Almond. Why Almond? The official explanation is steeped in academic ambition. David took secular classes during the day then raced off to attend rabbinical classes at night. The professors at his college posted grades and assignments in alphabetical order. So he needed a new name that began with a letter at the beginning of the alphabet. No one knows why he settled on Almond over, say, Adams. There has been speculation that he was the victim of a prank. Or that he chose Almond because the almond tree is frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. Whatever the reason, I was saddled with this strange name, which meant that I was constantly, constantly, being serenaded with the sometimes you feel like a nut Almond Joy/Mounds jingle, which I would have liked to quote in full, except that Hershey's legal staff denied me permission. I can certainly understand why. God only knows what ruin might befall Hershey if this jingle-which hasn't been used in two decades-were suddenly brazenly resurrected by a young Jewish candyfreak. One shudders to consider the fallout for the entire fragile candy-jingle-trademark ecosystem. The company was, however, thoughtful enough to include in its letter of refusal a coupon for a dollar off any Hershey product-Twizzlers included!-which certainly went a long way toward restoring my faith in corporate America.

It turns out that small candy manufacturing is a dying art and business in the US. In brief, candymakers have to pay enormous sums to get their candy stocked by the mega-chain stores without which they can’t earn a living. But only gigantic mega-corporations like Hersheys can afford the stocking fees. Almond travels around the US checking out the few and struggling independent candy-makers, none of whose goods I’d ever heard of but all of which, I felt, deserved a chance to be eaten outside of South Dakota.

Though the overall tone is light, Almond is well aware of the national and global inequities which underlie the candy industry. And though most of the personal narrative is light as well, occasional poignant intimations of mortality and personal failure bleed through. For a hymn to flavored sugar, Candyfreak is surprisingly substantial: more cake than candy, really, sweet but not cloying. Maybe that’s why I liked it so much.

View on Amazon: Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America

From: [identity profile] spectralbovine.livejournal.com

I do like his prose style! That sounds like a good nonfiction book to read, thanks. I don't read enough nonfiction.

From: [identity profile] movingfinger.livejournal.com

Thanks for the review! This sounds like the sort of book I enjoy reading.

From: [identity profile] lady-ganesh.livejournal.com

It's awesome. Plus he has a serious love-on for my beloved Lake Champlain Chocolates.
octopedingenue: Dog!Shigure reads (yay! books!)

From: [personal profile] octopedingenue

Clearly indie candymakers and indie bookstores need to form a symbiotic relationship and thereby conquer the world!
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter

So looking this up now, thanks!

From: [identity profile] rilina.livejournal.com

I confess I found Almond so offputting at a bookstore event that I have actively avoided this and all his other writing ever since.

From: [identity profile] taliabriscoe.livejournal.com

Thanks for the review and the excerpt. I love his prose style and that bit made me smile before going to bed. I look forward to reading this.

From: [identity profile] slithytove.livejournal.com

Crunchy Frog

You know, I don't see why candy manufacturing needs to be a dying art. Sure, the small guys can't compete head-to-head with Hershey and Mars. But craft brewers don't try to compete with Budweiser, and many of them do okay, and are even well-known names outside their home towns.

You need a cult, a fanbase, sales by mail and internet. There are a ton of foodies out there whom I'm sure could take to crafted, niche candies like oenophiles take to wines. How many small vintners are there? A ton. Not all are wildly successful, but many are.

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Re: Crunchy Frog

I don't think it's impossible, but according to Almond, a lot of candy-making requires extremely expensive machinery - a much higher start-up and maintenance cost than craft brewing, at a guess.

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