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Another Day in the Country

Sorting licorice

© Another Day in the Country

There are fifteen different kinds of licorice in little bags all over my dining room table.

I’ve been to a licorice store in Lincoln, Nebraska. If you are a licorice lover — and I’m talking black licorice — you are going to want to visit this place. You can do it in person or online. Wonders never cease.

You may be thinking, what’s the big deal? Licorice is just licorice. But, it isn’t. 

I remember shopping once with my friend MaryAlice when she was looking for a particular flavor of cookie that she was hungry for.

She was about the age I am now, and I thought she was being terribly picky. It couldn’t be just any old cookie. It had to be the right brand or not at all.

I’m that way with licorice. 

I am a licorice connoisseur who loves licorice, real licorice, and it doesn’t count as licorice unless it is black licorice. 

The red, multi-colored sticks of various flavors are pretend licorice. How could they be anything else?

Licorice is a flavor derived from licorice root extract, anise, and molasses. And, I think it’s an acquired taste. 

When I was a kid, they sold penny sticks of licorice at Betty’s in Ramona.

They had licorice cigarettes, cigars, and pipes, each with a different flavor.

I loved the cigars the most — much to my mother’s horror. She was sure that the tobacco industry was attempting to lead children astray.

Maybe it was, but I never smoked. I did learn to love licorice, and I ate a lot of those licorice cigars.

Then, you couldn’t get them any longer. There will always be this little hankering for those cigars and that unique flavor.

My next favorites were licorice pipes with red candy beads in the bowl of each pipe.

As I aged, they became more and more difficult to find, too. You rarely can find them now, and they don’t taste the same.

I’m always hunting for that particular flavor of licorice, especially when I’m in a place with an international assortment.

You’d think I could find it. There are licorice wheels, licorice buddies, licorice tire treads, licorice pastels, licorice chalk, licorice scotty dogs, licorice taffy, licorice caramels, licorice toffee, black crows (remember those?), licorice honey bee hives, licorice rolls, Zoete Sprookjes, Henry Goode’s, and Lea’s Black Liquorice (which contains no alcohol).

We were in a hurry to get somewhere else, so I started grabbing anything that looked good or had unique flavors I’d had experience with before and knew were good.

There are as many flavors as there are kinds of licorice, and some of it can be so strong that it borders on medicine rather than treats.

This unusual assortment of goodies came from all over the world — hence, international.

These candies were made in the United States, Finland, Sweden, Canada, Italy, England, Australia, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. And that’s just the ones I bought. Many more countries are represented in the store.

There was sweet licorice, strong licorice, salty licorice (which I love but don’t eat anymore), and even a minty licorice (those pieces of licorice chalk that I mentioned before.)

I was like a kid in a candy store. Within a few minutes, I had my limit — $100 worth of licorice. Whoever heard of such a silly thing? My friends! They know my weakness.

No, I don’t eat all of it. A couple of packages were for the father of the bride, who also loves licorice. After that, I parceled it out into little plastic bags with a piece or two inside each bag, and I sent these samples to my friends and relatives who also are licorice lovers. 

So I’m in licorice heaven, with my table covered in tasty treats.

Two in this bag, four in that one, because there’s two people tasting.

I’m not labeling the bags with the name of the item or where it is from. That’s going too far. What they’ll get is an experience.

Perhaps it will be a thrill, tasting a flavor they haven’t had in ages.

As for me? The toffees are delicious, the caramels addictive, and the licorice from Australia good if I “age” them by letting them dry out a bit. They’re close to those black cigars of old but still not quite right.

Meanwhile, I’ll forever be hunting for that particular, unique, childhood flavor, on another day in the country.

Last modified Oct. 27, 2022

 

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