The author of a new book’s touring the region’s libraries and bookstores, reading from his book and signing copies of “CandyFreak” — but author Steve Almond already did a very special tour to research his book.Almond says he took a “journey through the chocolate underbelly of America.” He describes his four-state, four-thousand mile tour as intense. One of his stops was at the Palmer Candy Company in Sioux City, Iowa, which makes the “wonderful and legendary” Twin Bing. Almond is an English professor and his new book “CandyFreak” describes in hilarious terms his adventures tasting candy, his lifelong love of sweets, and a tour he took of candy factories including the Palmer company in Sioux City. Almond says he has to admit the Twin Bing is “not a good-looking candy bar,” and he describes it as a “cherry-cream with what’s called a hash — a combination of chocolate compound and crushed.” Almond says his editor was concerned because in the book he says the Twin Bing comes out “to put it politely, in two brown lumps.” Almond says he wanted to celebrate the confection, as it’s part of a dying tradition. Almond says he went looking for regional candy bars because the “Big Three” — Mars, Hersheys and Nestle — dominate about 95 percent of the industry and control what’s on the racks at most big chain stores. By contrast, Almond says 50 years ago there were six-thousand confectionery companies. Now there are only a few hundred. He says there was a famous confectioner in Council Bluffs, and Sioux City’s Palmer has been around since the late 19th century, and he says it’s a hometown link like having your own bakery and brewery. The author says people knew their local brands and people who ran the candy-making stores catered to regional tastes. Almond says it’s “a beautiful thing to know who’s making the things you put in your mouth.” Almond, whose insists his name is only coincidence, worked as a journalist and then wrote a book. Almond’s glad he’d done journalism because he was so drawn to “the world of candy” he wanted to investigate its world, not just as a personal obsession but because he thinks candy bars tell the whole story of 20th-century America. Almond says he has no plans to continue his tour of America’s confectioneries and write a sequel to CandyFreak, even though he eats at least one piece of candy every day of his life and never gets tired of it.
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