One of the cool things about writing a book about a particular food item is that, whether you consider yourself to be or not, other people will look to you as an expert on that topic, and will heap free samples upon you in the hope that you will write about them. I met author Steve Almond as he was being gifted with container after container of free organic cotton candy. Despite his polite insistence that he couldn’t possibly carry six tubs of cotton candy home on a plane, the manufacturer wanted him to try every flavor.
Almond was in Toronto this past spring to give what he thought was a reading at the unfortunately named Canadian Sweets Expo (www.sweetsexpo.ca). Badly promoted and equally poorly organized, what was meant to be on par with the big candy shows in the US turned out to be a sad collection of local vendors of mostly waxy chocolate, oddly flavored jellybeans and some crazy chocolate-flavoured energy balls that made me extremely ill. Also present were a few Canadian Food Network celebrities, a face-painter (for the kids) and a circus troupe. Not exactly the type of forum where a well-known author and creative writing professor is going to be known for his non-fiction work on rare US candy bars.
Which is too bad, because CandyFreak is a sugar-laced tour of the rare, the wonderful and the delicious. It’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, minus Johnny Depp. A self-defined candy freak, Almond traveled far and wide to learn the story of some rare and wondrous local favorites. From the southern icon the GooGoo Cluster, to the darling of Boise, the Idaho Spud (which yours truly has never tried but desperately wants to – readers in Idaho, help a poor Canadian gal out, won’t you?), Almond tours factories, talks to chocolatiers, and waxes poetic about enrobers.