I read in the newspaper about how licorice improves memory. Licorice has this long history of being used medicinally, to sooth a sore throat, stop coughs, to aid digestion and treat ulcers and arthritis. I haven't had licorice (real licorice, not the Red Vines-type) in years and years, and don't remember what it's like.
Foodgoat said, "I don't care for black licorice. And I don't think you'll like it."
My brother said, "Black licorice is nasty. It's the most disgusting thing ever."
Hmm. And I don't even like fennel.
It wasn't looking good. Still, I went to the Mediterranean store ("Today's special! Dutch licorice $6/lb"), pointed to the big jars of black licorice and asked for half a pound.
"What kind?" Kind? They have kinds?
"Um, whatever kind you think I should try."
"Well, we got different kinds of licorice, some are sweet, some are salty."
Salty??? Salty licorice? "Uh, I'd like a sweet one." It's too early in the day to adventure that far from the main. In fact, salty licorice can be mild, medium and double-salted, but we'll save that for another time.
So he let me taste one of the sweet licorice candies. It was very black, round, like a gumdrop, not long and thin like a Twizzler. I chewed. And chewed. And chewed.
"It's sticky," I said.
"Licorice is sticky," the man said.
I didn't mind the chewing. But then I began to taste ... the licorice.
"I don't like it." I said.
"That's what licorice tastes like," the guy said.
"Give me half a pound of the chocolate-covered mocha beans then," I said firmly.
He gave me the mocha beans, but he also gave me another licorice candy to try. This one was square and covered with brown sugar and looked like this:
This one tasted much nicer. It was softer, sweeter, and the licorice flavor wasn't quite so ... emphatic. It was so much better that I bought some. It's called griotten.
Turns out, licorice is really a Dutch thing. Drop (rhymes with rope) is practically the national candy of the Netherlands. They eat it after every dinner, adding up to 68 million pounds a year. People think the popularity of this acquired taste there has to do with the fact that people are exposed to it as toddlers, when the poor kids don't know any better.