My mom and I both finished reading Steve Almond’s book, Candyfreak. I really enjoy reading these hobby-phile books (like the Scrabble book “Word Freak”, or the other book “Ultra-Marathon Man” about long-distance running) that explore subcultures lurking in our collective societal subconscious. Candyfreak is written by a creative writing professor who grew up with a psychotic love for candy. He decides to travel to some of the smaller candy and chocolate makers in the US after lamenting the consolidation and homogenization of the industry by Mars, Hershey, and Cadbury.

Here’s one version of the book’s cover. Can you figure out which candies’ wrappers these letters come from? Answers at the end of the post. (yes, this is the best image I could find)


Back when all the doughboys came back from WW2, they had a taste for candy and spurred massive growth with tens of thousands of different products. Now we essentially have what you see at the checkout line, except for a few companies very carefully maintaining their small product lines and minute distribution channels.

This book is one of the funniest books I’ve ever read. I want to send it to Monkey Pope because I think if he wrote a book, it would inspire approximately the same amount of hilarity out of me.

My mom found a couple of the pieces described in the book. One was the Valomilk, available at our local Central Market, an upscale grocery store. I liked it but she thought it was too sweet. It’s like a Reese’s peanut butter cup except with this messy marshmallow ooze juice instead of peanut butter. Also the chocolate is smoother and richer.

The other was the Abba Zaba which I guess is well-known to those who live near California but completely unknown to everyone else (like me). It is taffy with peanut butter inside. It’s not bad but would never be something I’d decide to buy for a sugar fix.

My family talked about how they preferred Smarties (the non-US kind) to M&Ms. I grew up with M&Ms so Smarties always taste weirder to me. The book brings up how vividly our mouthes can remember the taste, texture, and details of a piece of candy. People freak out if even the slightest things in a recipe change.

Here’s a site that specializes in selling hard-to-find candy: Candy Direct.

[Follow-up: I forgot to mention my favorite candies: Cadbury Fruit & Nut, Cadbury Creme Eggs, Cadbury Flake, Smarties (US). I sense a theme. What are your favorites?]

[Crunch, Starburst, Butterfinger, Mr. Goodbar, Almond Joy, Butterfinger, Snickers, 5th Avenue, Abba Zaba, Kit Kat]