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CANDY not only tastes good, it sounds good too! In honor of the publication of CANDY, my Fearless Assistant (aka Jelly Bean Baby) has composed an original clarinet solo titled “Candy Books.”
Press play to hear it:
Today is the official publication date for Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure.
Four years in the making. Thank you to all the Candy Professor folks who encouraged me with along the way. I can’t wait to hear what you think.
Ask for CANDY at your local book shop!
Reviewers for both Booklist and Kirkus have awarded CANDY: A CENTURY OF PANIC AND PLEASURE the coveted star!
Kirkus (starred review):
“Though the subject matter may be fluffy, the treatment is substantive and significant, representing an important contribution to the literature about what, and how, we eat in 21st-century America.”
Read the full Kirkus review here
Booklist (starred review):
“…lively, engaging, and deliciously descriptive….With a helpful heaping of information in every verbal bite, this fascinating social and culinary history gives readers a deeper understanding of the powerful forces at work behind the brightly colored wrappers.”
Read the full Booklist review here
Perhaps you are aware of the tiny war being waged on the “ingredients” panel of your average processed food. The law requires that ingredients be listed. But every food processor knows that more and more consumers are wary of the multi-syllabic mystery chemicals that make possible the magic of modern food. So the food industry is very interested in what grad-student types call “semantics”: how things get named.
Controversies over naming go all the way back to the dawn of processed foods. One of the first had to do with a corn derivative that was having an image problem. The common name was “glucose,” but food reformers’ attacks had made consumers suspicious of an additive reputed to be concocted of arsenic, saw dust, and glue. So the corn industry came up with a much nicer sounding name: corn syrup.
I thought of this when I read about a new additive known to the trade as Verdad Power F80, a preparation developed by Dutch company Carbion Purac that is designed “preserve the freshness and flavor of a variety of fresh and ready-to-eat foods, including sauces, salads and bread.” No stranger to the label wars, Carbion Purac assures its customers that this additive can legally be named on ingredients lists by a much more benign title: fermented sugar.
Carbion Purac claims the additive is “natural” and the product of “minimal processing.” Something about “the latest in fermentation and spray-drying technology.” I don’t know what that means. But I do know what this means: “With Verdad Power F80 we …. can now offer food processors a greater choice of label-friendly ingredients.”
Maybe I’m being too curmudgeonly. Verdad Power F80 does seem to be less of a chemistry experiment than many other additives. So isn’t that a good thing? I’m not sure. Does a dose of “all-natural” preservatives really make it that much better to chow down on Twinkies and PopTarts?
Candy doesn’t grow on trees. You can make it with “natural” ingredients, but there’s nothing natural about it. It’s totally artificial, a product of human ingenuity, chemistry, food engineering, and a dash of whimsy. And since candy is completely artificial to begin with, it is free to be anything. Like, say, corn. Candy corn, I mean. No one thinks candy corn is actual corn, no matter the resemblance. And the flavor? How could we possibly say what candy corn should really taste like? Candy corn is about as unnatural as you can get.
Candy isn’t the only artificial food we eat, of course. But what I like about candy is how it is totally honest about its origins. You won’t find candy corn in the frozen food aisle.
So you’d think, given my enthusiasm for the fakeness of candy, that I’d be a huge fan of any sort of candy innovation. And I generally am. Then along comes something like M&Ms White Chocolate Candy Corn.
If candy is fake food, then M&Ms Candy Corn is fake squared: candy-flavored candy. It makes my mind spin a bit. Which would be a more pleasant sensation, I suppose, if I didn’t find M&Ms Candy Corn to be not only existentially troubling from a philosophical point of view, but also, from the point of view of candy eating, just plain nasty.
Look at the morsels: bigger than normal M&Ms, bulbous and swollen. The colors lack the shiny depths of the usual M&M glaze. Instead, we have a chalky white, a toxic yellow, and an orange that is trying too hard. I’ve got to conclude that the folks at Mars weren’t giving this candy their full attention; even the proud “m” that marks each bit is missing from many of these sad specimens.
As for the taste, let’s just admit that with the possible exception of Green&Black bars, plain white chocolate is not something anyone should have to eat, ever. Waxy, salty, and overwhelmingly vanilla, yes. Candy corn, no.
The bottom line is that these mutant M&Ms have nothing to do with candy corn at all. And the M&Ms know it. Just look at that poor Red M&M guy on the package, dressed up in an ill-fitting candy corn suit. He is obviously unhappy. He is thinking, “What the he88 am I doing in this candy corn outfit?” He knows it’s not right.
Candy corn may not be “natural,” but I will not shy from naming this awkward and bad-tasting M&M hybrid for what it is: a freak of nature.
Oreo cookies are going “Eco.” At least, that’s the way Mondelez is spinning their most recent patent application for a new process to give Oreos their dark chocolately color.
According to a report in Confectionery News,
“Mondelez has filed a patent for a method to give black cocoa powder its rich color using fewer environmentally damaging chemicals and no iron salts.”
Sounds pretty good, right? But here’s the kicker: this process also evidently results in an even more intensely colored black cocoa. In the patent application, Mondelez suggests the new process will mean Oreos can be made with “significantly less cocoa powder.” Sounds like the “Eco-Oreo” is really a “cheapo Oreo.”
Kind of reminds me of the last time I showered in a hotel. How much better it made me feel to re-use my towel, knowing it would help Marriott save the planet.
A very exciting early notice of Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure in the Sept/Oct/Nov issue of Bookforum: a full-page review in the “Food” column. Melanie Rehak, author of Eating for Beginners, calls the book “an ambitious chronicle of America’s love affair with sweets” and pronounces the effort “wonderful.”
Bookforum is a quarterly literary review, published by the folks that bring us the prestigious and hip Artforum. It is described as a sort of New York Review of Books for the under-40 hipster crowd. I’m so thrilled that the editors thought their readers might be interested in my project, and I’m very encouraged by this early enthusiastic response. Countdown to October 15!
Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure won’t be officially published for another six weeks. But already a bit of buzz is building! A couple of fantastic notices for Candy in the past week:
Candy was included in New York Magazine’s Fall book preview; see the full listing here.
And our friends up north are also smacking their lips in anticipation; see the preview in Vancouver Weekly here.
And coming soon, a very nice write up in a major literary review…I’ll post the link as soon as it hits the newsstands.
With the book in production for an October publication date, the next thing to do is to pick an author photo for the jacket.
This is my first choice–what do you think?
Credit: “Head of Candy Research,” Warner Jenkinson ad, 1974.