As a seven-year-old child, Hilary Liftin poured herself a glass (or two) of powdered sugar. Those forbidden cups soon escalated to pound bags of candy corn and multiple packets of dry cocoa mix, launching the epic love affair between Hilary and all things sweet. In Candy and Me: A Love Story, Liftin chronicles her life through candy memories and milestones. As a high school student, Hilary used candy to get through track meets, bad hair days, after-school jobs, and her first not-so-great love. Her sweet tooth followed her to college, where she tried to suppress the crackle of Smarties wrappers in morning classes. Through life's highs and lows, her devotion has never crashed -- candy has been a constant companion and a refuge that sustained her.
As Liftin recounts her record-setting candy consumption, loves and friendships unfold in a funny and heartbreaking series of bittersweet revelations and restorative meditations. Hilary survives a profound obsession with jelly beans and a camp counselor, a forgettable fling with Skittles at a dot-com, and a messy breakup healed by a friendship forged over Circus Peanuts. Through thick and thin, sweet and sour, Hilary confronts the challenges of conversation hearts and the vagaries of boyfriends, searching for that perfect balance of love and sugar.
Written with a fresh dry humor that will immediately absorb you into Liftin's sweet obsessions and remind you of your own, Candy and Me unwraps the meaning found in the universal desire for connection and confection. Treat yourself to Candy and Me -- being bad never read so good.
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December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Candy and Me by Hilary Liftin
Before there was candy, there was sugar. My brother and I started staying without a babysitter when I was seven and he was eight. We had a barter/bribe relationship: for every serving of sugar I ate, Eric could stay up an extra hour. We pledged not to tell on each other to our parents.
As soon as they walked out the door, I would pour several tablespoons of confectioner's powdered sugar into a Dixie cup. I eventually figured out that if I ran a few drops of water or milk into the cup and mixed it up, semi-soft pellets formed. The texture of these pellets was dreamy. Sometimes I would add a drop of vanilla extract and a bit of butter. Then, in front of the (also forbidden) TV, I would dip a spoon into the sugar and feed myself.
Our suburban Maryland family room had a pale brick fireplace, wall-to-wall shag carpeting, and psychedelic pillows. Eric reclined on the couch and I sat on the velour lounge chair. We watched the Osmonds, Rhoda, The Wonderful World of Disney. On any night that I started eating sugar, which was every night my parents didn't hire a babysitter, I would have refill after refill. I ate it furtively, afraid that my parents would walk in unexpectedly. I loved the way the sugar became sweeter just before it dissolved on my tongue. Watching illicit TV while eating sugar became a habit. The combined relaxation, indulgence, and jolt of forbidden sweetness that I found in my candy-leisure moments were forever established as sensations to pursue. If Charles Schulz had created a comic-strip version of me at seven, I would have been surrounded by a cloud, but unlike Pigpen's dirty cumulus, my cloud would have been a pure, refined puff of powdered sugar.
At some point Eric stopped calculating the late night hours he was accumulating and threw up his hands.
"I can't believe you're eating all that sugar," he said. "You'll be sick." But I didn't feel sick. Rather, I was astounded that Eric had no apparent interest in the bounty I had discovered. I don't remember ever getting caught or in trouble, although I know my mother must have had some idea that this was going on. I also never wondered why there was always powdered sugar in the house -- even though my mother never baked. It was only later that I discovered that she herself had a secret habit. But eventually she decided not to stock sugar in the pantry anymore, and I had to move on.