Jessica Shaw
May 07, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

There are people who enjoy an occasional Milky Way and then there’s Steve Almond (yes, that’s his real name). He’s eaten candy every day of his 37-year life, keeps a secret stash of hard-to-find treats (like Kit Kat Dark), and spent a year visiting U.S. candy factories for Candyfreak (Algonquin, $21.95). We caught up with Almond between sugar rushes.

Why this freakish candy obsession? Candy is a legitimized form of masturbation. It’s a little burst of self-pleasure.

You found Goo Goo Supreme in Nashville and Twin Bings in Sioux City. Why can’t I get those at my local drugstore? We no longer live in the golden age when every town had a whole panoply of candy bars. Now if a candy bar isn’t in Wal-Mart, it’s f — -ed. I do feel a little like a lamebrain for making a moral issue out of the absence of Goldenberg’s Peanut Chews.

In the 1920s, some chocolate included dehydrated vegetables and bran. What were they smoking? Candy bars were the first fast food. There was the Chicken Dinner that even had a picture of chicken with heat waves coming off. The capacity for American self-delusion, especially when it comes to food, is bottomless.

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