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Betsy Block

Stories without recipes


I recently read a book called Candyfreak by Steve Almond (yes, that's his real name). It was a book tracing the author's love of candy from his childhood to now, and it included trips to candy factories, lots of funny characters, and personal musings to boot. It was quirky, funny and tempting; in other words, it had everything I like in a book (and an author). Although, as someone who sort of thinks of herself as above candy - you know, I'm always watching my weight and setting a good example for my kids - it was disturbing how much it made me think about the stuff.

But then I finished the book and forgot all about it.

A couple weeks later, BD bought tickets for the ballet. ("I bet you're the only woman who was dragged here by her husband," he noted proudly. He'd convinced me to go by parroting everything he'd heard in the ads: this production would be avant-garde, edgy, funny. That sounded pretty good, even to me.) We miraculously found parking on the street, then went off to have a sadly mediocre Indian meal. And then, just before heading over to the theater, I was struck by a totally unfamiliar yet overpowering urge for - candy.

This was Steve Almond's fault.

We went to the 7-Eleven on the corner, but the woman passing out in front of the store and the woman in the store who was actually a man both distracted me, so when I got to the candy aisle, I couldn't focus the way I wanted to. I thought about getting a hundred thousand dollar bar, because those used to be a favorite, but that was before Steve Almond said bad things about them. (I can't quote him because I can't find the passage in the book, but the effect lingers.) Milky Way? By now I was lost. I just grabbed a pack of Junior Mints and made a beeline for the register. Then we made our way to the theater.

(Meanwhile, ironically, BD had just bought $170 worth of candy for a Halloween business promotion he does every year and I hadn't asked him to bring even one lousy piece home. The thought of all those bags of candy sitting in his office unopened only made things worse.)

I was trying to be a good sport - after all, we were standing in the lobby of one of Boston's most historical theaters, the beautiful, elegant Wang, about to see the world-class Boston Ballet perform. But what was this? The program noted that the production would last for nearly three hours? And there were two intermissions? Things were going horribly awry and we hadn't even found our seats.

Right after learning all that, I wandered nervously up to and then away from the tiny candy counter in the theater lobby about a half a dozen times. "Why don't you just get something?" BD asked kindly. Well. obviously because I already had Junior Mints; besides, the candy in the lobby was terribly overpriced. But most of all? "There's nothing good," I hissed back. I wondered what kind of candy Steve Almond would have snuck into this event.

In the end, the ballet was all right - gorgeous and all that, although definitely not as outr as BD had promised (I guess ballet critics have a different notion of "funny" than I do) - but the candy was a near-total disappointment (it's true we polished off all the Junior Mints, but only because they were all we had). As I sat in the dark next to my beloved husband of 14 years, witness to some of Boston's finest artists in one of the city's most beautiful settings, I felt kind of empty. Bizarrely bereft. I'd been seized by a wholly unfamiliar feeling of - candylessness.

I realized there was something important I'd forgotten along the way: candy. By abstaining (or, at best, guiltily sneaking it) for as long as I have, I've been missing out on sharing some of life's sweetest moments with my kids. I knew it was time to replace my candysneak with my very own candyfreak. How freeing! How uplifting! If I follow these inner urges, the four of us are surely going to have a much richer, happier, more sugar-laden life.

But then another thought came to me: this newfound freedom is refreshing and all, but what if I start gaining weight?

I'll know just who to blame: Almond. Steve Almond.

Just One Tiny Taste
from Candyfreak

"[Candy maker] Dave was hunched over a counter, scrutinizing what looked like an overgrown Junior Mint. He looked up when we came in and, almost reflexively, held the piece out to me. The dark chocolate shell gave way to an intense burst of sweet, chewy fruit. The texture was soft enough to yield to the teeth, yet firm enough to absorb the musky undertones of the chocolate.

'What you're eating,' Dave said, 'is a dried cherry, infused with raspberry and covered in a Select Origin 75 percent dark chocolate.' He held out the bag. 'Have another.'

Here is what I wanted to say to Dave Bolton at that precise moment: Take me home and love me long time, GI."