The Gallivanting Gourmand
Greg Duncan
Greg Duncan
is a freelance writer based in the Montreal region. He is particularly keen about good food. In his day job, Greg is the executive director of the Quebec Community Newspapers Association.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 12.10.07


Red licorice, Black Babies, and Zout

I haven't lost a tooth to licorice yet, unlike the editor of this site. I've suffered the root canal and been subject to annual warnings that an $1800 crown is absolutely necessary but I'm into at least my tenth year without this feature.

Call me lucky as I've devoured more licorice than a defiant Dutch schoolboy, too.

I like licorice like licorice likes me and my preferences have evolved with age. I was introduced to the joys of sweet red rope early on during summer visits to my Grandparents farm in Illinois City, Iowa.

I still remember long treks to a dusty rural store as locusts hummed in 90-degree heat to get two-foot lengths for five pennies just like it was yesterday. This experience prompted a life long journey in search of rural candy. I learned that country stores that have a porch and an old man sleeping outside in a rocker deliver the best candy and even better licorice.

Everyone should know that small villages are given licorice priority by distributors and if you see Dutch style windmills you are nearing treasure, whether you are in the Midwest or Up North.

The Dutch have a relationship with licorice that predates milk and honey and I should mention that they usually don't consider red versions to be worthy. However, these are the same folks who put sweet decorative cake sprinkles on toast for breakfast. No prejudice here, just providing facts in case you like red stuff, too.

In the 70s I graduated to black Twizzlers, dabbled with black licorice pipes, and experimented with natural hippy varieties -- among other things. Back then, if you had the munchies and cotton mouth you could find nothing better to alleviate the dreaded Mexican bong syndrome than licorice root. As a further confession, Dad's bottle of Pernod once provided hours of anise-infused fun...

By the 80s I had ventured back to red twisters for a while and moved on to black and cherry Nibs while traveling with Allsorts and Goodies. These not being true licorice at all, although the all- too- rare little blue- beaded jellies showed promise. Anise drops did not count but black babies did, especially of the dollar store kind.

Curiously, at the onset of adulthood (forty years of age for men and sixteen years for females), a tongue sensor becomes active suddenly and begins to relay messages to your brain to satisfy what I call the Zout (Dutch name for salt) receptor. This unique cerebral entity requires daily doses of salt and replaces some levels of craving for sweets.

If you don't believe me then just ask the little Dutch schoolboy who had his finger in the dyke, turned forty, and found this out the hard way when he pulled his finger out in a Zout-crazed state.

The second millennium has morphed my addiction to Dubbel Zout and Katjesdrops and, unless friends and family unite for an intervention, I'm sure to graduate to Fortisal, which are triple salted hard and chewy triangles that deliver a heart stopping, and kidney killing, tooth-pulling punch.

I'm not sure if the Betty Ford clinic has appropriate treatment or licorice addiction councilors on site but they should consider it for those similarly afflicted. Good luck finding my hidden stashes of black coins marked with DZ.

In the city, I have noticed that bulk candy stores are increasingly on the licorice bandwagon. This is a result of demographic studies by the Zout Institute revealing that more and more of us have had our Zout receptors turned on recently.

Your help with a new situation would be appreciated as the dentist told me I had gingivitis on my last visit. No mention of the perils of licorice. Is it possible that eating ginger is more dangerous than licorice? I've eaten a lot of that, too. Please let me know.