An ambitious chronicle of America's love affair with sweets.
A Century of Panic and Pleasure
by Samira Kawash
Faber & Faber
$27.00 List Price
Some years ago, I heard a fantastic story about Andy Warhol attending a banquet for wealthy Manhattan art patrons sometime in the 1960s. The tables were laden with all manner of delicacies—caviar, pâtés, the works. As Warhol stood near one of them and surveyed the spread, the hostess approached him and gaily suggested he help himself. There was a pause before he turned to her—not a hair of his silver wig out of place—and said, in a droll monotone, “I only eat candy.” Then he drifted off into the crowd, leaving her in stunned silence. Forget about his prints of car crashes or the electric chair—he’d really done it this time. With a single, well-placed sentence, Warhol laid bare yet another aspect of American culture we prefer to gloss over: our dysfunctional relationship with sweet stuff.
I love this story for so very many reasons, but perhaps most of all because I love candy. I’ve had a lifelong and totally unrepentant affair with it, which I fully expect to continue until the day I die of some non-candy-related ailment. Long after my contemporaries have graduated to buying an espresso at the movies, I still chomp happily on Twizzlers as the lights go down (sorry, artisanal-chocolate makers!). In some ways, this makes me utterly typical; as we all know from scolding news reports, Americans love sweets and we pay the price for it health-wise. But as Samira Kawash makes clear in her wonderful Candy: A Century of Panic and Pleasure (Faber & Faber, $27), my unabated passion for sugar isn’t representative of the whole story when it comes to these United States. We are not,