In the late ‘90s I had a fantasy of writing a photo-driven book about candy bars, obscure and beloved, maybe with behind the scenes factory shots. It would be called Wunderbar and it would be awesome. At least it was in my mind, but publishing was a mystery to me (it still is, frankly). I didn’t even know where to begin. Obviously, crowd-sourcing and provide-me-with-content tumblrs were an unheard of concept at the time. Even Food Network’s Unwrapped hadn’t yet aired.
My go-nowhere concept faded from memory until 2004 when Steve Almond’s Candyfreak: A Journey through the Chocolate Underbelly of America, a kind of memoir, kind of a love letter to the little guys, came out. Ah, so this is how it’s done. Or rather, one way to do it. The same year Nigel Slater’s Toast, a memoir with candy-centric leanings, was also published.
I read Candyfreak at the time (it just now occurred to me to read Toast—I’ll put a library hold on it shortly) but as with many things in life, half-a-decade later and I’d completely forgotten how it was written or any details beyond the overall topic. I’ve been giving another once over as a refresher.
All was good until I reached page 135. In describing the Goo Goo Cluster factory thusly, “Joanne led me through the warehouse, gingerly stepping over palettes on the ground.” I had two gut reactions. It was exciting to see my bugaboo word in this context because it’s the one usage you never see mangled because it’s rarely used at all. But I’m fairly certain he meant pallets not palettes.
I tried to put the homophonal transgression out of my mind and focus on the story, but on the very next page I was sucker punched again!
The same was true of ABC Fruit Chomps. They tasted funny. But they tasted funny because my palette has come to define Starbursts as the standard of normalcy when it comes to fruit chews.
Once you spy a palate abomination, there’s no way of unseeing it or forgetting it. Two in two pages? And then in the next-to-last chapter, the crime occurred again, as if to make sure I was really paying attention until the very end. Oh, I was.
The American palette is accustomed, by this time, to chocolate and peanut butter. We think nothing of the combination, in part because both substances melt at the same temperature.
No! This was particularly painful because the candy being discussed, Abba-Zabba, is easily one of my favorite candy bars (why did I never see the green apple limited edition!?). I remained defeated for the final 18 pages.
The only salvation was seeing that quaint last-decade oddity, an appendix of websites with unwieldy URLs like snickers99.tripod.com/candymainmain.html and www.smm.org/sln/tf/c/crosssection/namethatbar.html, attempting to capture the ephemeral in print.