Saturday, June 21, 2008

Black Licorice, Sweet Licorice, Salty Licorice

So just how lucky can a guy get? A Southern Season was having its annual blowout sale, so the girlfriend and I went one day and stocked up on chocolate that was $.50 instead of $4.50. Sarah wanted to go so we took John with us and I stocked up on some imports and got licorice. Licorice is a very personal thing to me. Honestly, you can tell what kind of person you are by what type of candy you indulge in.
If you like tootsie rolls, you have a sticky-sweet personality and are easily molded by the people around you. If you like chocolate bon-bons, you lead an opulent lifestyle and enjoy gourmet. If you like dots, you probably ate paint chips and glue as a kid and look forward to chewing on fresh, new pencils. It's a fact.
But black licorice is the stuff that men are made of. Just the act of eating something black which nature has designated as a warning coloration for insects and reptiles is enough to make people pause a moment. It's strong taste lingers on, coating your mouth and throat until the point where you're no longer eating the candy. Every breath and exhale is tainted with the sharp, musky-sweet anise flavor. Every bite blackens your teeth and tongue.
"But wait a minute, that stuff is really sweet," you might cry. "How can you be extolling the masculinity of licorice when it's super sweet?"
Well, I bought three types of licorice: strong, salty, and strong&sweet. They're all Dutch made, and the Dutch's version of sweet is right up my alley. The sweet is about as sweet as a bowl of oatmeal without sugar or butter in it. You know that there's a little bit of sugar in it, but by golly, it sure as heck ain't sweet. The strong type has dustings of anise and licorice root all over it, and tastes vaguely like the scent of pine tar, which leaves a sweet aftertaste in the mouth. The salty type of licorice smells like used horse bedding and quite possibly tastes the same. Now, when the word salty is used to describe licorice, it's not one of those cutesy, deliberately misleading confectionery names like "chocolate frog," "haystacks," or "cowtail," with the "salt" on the licorice actually being sugar. They actually coat the damn thing completely in Ammonium Chloride so that it not only looks like you're eating asphalt, it tastes like it too!
So you essentially have three choices: eat licorice that tastes like pure anise root, or pine tar, OR used horse bedding/asphalt. But why would they create such seemingly (but oh so delicious) unpalatable candies?
The main reason modern society has created these is to reassure our masculinity or badass-ness. No more rites of manhood exist today: there aren't any more sundance lodges, and there aren't any sort of kingdoms you can inherit and rule. Salty, strong, and strong&sweet licorice were created to fill this power vacuum and adapted to modern culture cubicleism. In Holland, so I'm told, disputes are no longer settled by jousting or dueling. They're settled by seeing who can eat the most salty licorice washed down with coffee and those weird waffles. A typical altercation as follows:
"Oh yeah, Johnson? Oh yeah? You think I'm a whoopsy because I like cream in my coffee do you? Well, we'll just see about that! [Eats handful of salty licorice] And I didn't even make a face."
So me buying the licorice is sort of an assertion of just how masculine I really am. Because honestly, sometimes people just need to be reminded that it takes a man's man to wear a speedo at the pool. I think.
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