God bless Hilary Liftin. In a world where food has become an art form and casual snacking has been all but ditched in the face of the ever-growing dining-out culture, Liftin has the guts to confess a lust for that simplest of snack foods – candy. And not just high end chocolates, either. No, in her funny, warm, and compulsively readable memoir Candy and Me: A Love Story, Liftin bares her affection for all things sweet: ice cream, jelly beans, Necco wafers, conversation hearts, peanut butter cups, candy corn, candied fruit slices and bottle caps. Especially those bottle caps.
Liftin chronicles her lust for candy from her childhood, when she used to mix confectioner’s sugar with water, and eat the creamy little pellets that formed. Other passions included dried cocoa, which she ate right out of the packet in huge quantities. In fact, when it comes to candy, Liftin takes a long time understanding the concept of moderation.
One of the central themes of the book is her desire to find out why she’s so passionately, obsessively devoted to sweets. However, this is no serious meditation on overeating but, for the most part, a cheerful celebration of gluttony. Candy, Liftin tells us, helped soothe her through her awkward adolescence. It gave her college boyfriends an easy way to woo her. It was there through her whole life.
Some of the funniest stuff in the book involves Liftin’s rhapsodic musings on various candies. Almost all of the brief chapters are named for sweet things, and one of my favorites was a chapter on the breakfast cereal Trix, which begins with a quote from UselessKnowledge.com about how the cereal is 46.6 percent sugar. Underneath the statistic, Liftin writes but a single sentence: “I loved Trix.”
There are also many poignant moments in the book, concerning the loss of friends, the end of relationships and the general pain of growing up. But mostly this is an entertaining story of one woman’s joyful obsession, which I’m sure many women will relate to (I know I did). At time when many women are obsessing over buying the right brand of olive oil or forking over big bucks for a chunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano, Liftin is a breath of fresh, if sugar-coated, air.