Of course, we remember the Big Things: the first kiss, the first real love, the first job, the first child. But we also measure our lives through our recollection of smaller pleasures: that sunrise service on the beach; the sleek dress that made you feel like a grown-up for the first time; that perfect meal in that perfect trattoria in Rome.
Author Hilary Liftin's smaller pleasures almost always involve refined sugar. She measures her young life in candy corn, peanut butter cups and conversation hearts. Candy and Me: A Love Story is her bon-bon of a book about growing up with a sweet tooth. Liftin has had an ordinary enough life suburban girlhood, good college, a series of slightly tiresome boyfriends and jobs before finding the right one of each. But her psychic world is truly Candyland. As a child, she bonds with her brother while she eats confectioners sugar from a Dixie cup. She has her first serious romance during a summer that she's fixated on Junior Mints. In the process of dumping her, a later boyfriend tries to placate her with Bottle Caps a particularly cruel gesture, because they're her favorite candy.
Along the way, she educates us about the great universe of candy production. Did you know that fudge was invented when someone made an error making another candy? That Necco manufactures more than 8 billion conversation hearts during the Valentine season? I didn't, but I do now. Liftin writes with the light charm and humor appropriate to her topic. Life may be difficult, but candy is always pretty dandy. And whatever your craving, growing up is about learning to balance the sweet and the sour.
Anne Bartlett is a journalist in South Florida.