Tuesday, May 10, 2005

He's Super Freaky. In A Good Way.

Thanks to Steve Almond, I shrieked like a little girl when I saw a Valomilk for sale at Joan’s on Third. Joan’s is a beautiful gourmet shop full of glorious cheeses, homemade sandwiches, delectable salads, towers of mouth-watering cupcakes, imported chocolates, and other various and sundry treats. I hemorrhage money when I go to Joan’s. It is criminally good. On this particular day, I was enjoying lunch with my friends K and L, and K was the only one who witnessed my somewhat understated reaction to seeing a Valomilk in the chocolate vanilla flesh for the first time. It was like a little chocolate celebrity willing to go home with me. Mine, all mine.

You see, a few moons ago I was handed a book by my friend M and told that I must read it immediately if I knew what was good for me. The book was titled, Candy Freak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, by Steve Almond. Needless to say, I didn’t require one iota of convincing. I was in. From page one I was amused. He begins his book, “Some things you should know about the author. 1. The author has eaten a piece of candy every single day of his entire life. I want you to look at this sentence and think about it briefly and, if you’re so inclined, perhaps say a little prayer on behalf of my molars.” I love chocolate. I enjoy candy. But never in my life have I met (on the page) someone so completely obsessed with it. And I love obsessions about food. I welcome these people into the fold, because it is they, and only they, who will understand if I wax poetic about a particular dessert or chocolate bar or cheese, ad nauseum. Healthy obsessions are good. His is probably the only unhealthy obsession that isn’t illegal. I just said a little prayer for Steve’s molars.

Candy Freak is the real life story of a man who traveled far and wide to meet some of the classic candy makers in our great country. From Valomilks in Kansas (created by happy accident), to Idaho Spuds in, you guessed it, Idaho, where they make candy that looks suspiciously like the tuber that the state is famous for. I loved this book. Not just because Steve Almond grew up in Palo Alto, my hometown, and not just because it’s about candy, mostly of the chocolate variety. I loved this book because it’s hilarious, delightful, smart, and sassy, with more than a few well-placed rants. Any man who understands my deep hatred of white chocolate is good in my book. If he also makes me feel downright tame in my love for chocolate, he deserves a prize. Thanks to Steve I got a little trip down candy memory lane, with multiple detours into his twisted candy mind. Candy Freak is coming out in paperback soon. He also has a new collection of short stories entitled The Evil B.B. Chow and other stories. I think it’s semi-pornographic writing that may or may not include candy. Have you ever heard a better endorsement? Me thinks not. Buy Candy Freak, if you know what’s good for you.

Go to www.stevenalmond.com and be amused, be very amused.

Joan's on Third
8350 West Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048


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