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Another Day in the Country

For love of licorice

© Another Day in the Country

Ever since the days when I was growing up in Ramona and Grandma Schubert would put anise flavoring in her cookies, licorice has always been a favorite flavor of mine.

I loved going down to the local grocery store that featured penny candy — I could buy a whole little package of licorice cigarettes (much to my mother’s dismay) for only a penny.

Sometimes, I get hungry for that particular flavor of licorice — not to sweet, not to soft, not too strong. They say that scent, and its close relative taste, are the greatest of memory joggers. I agree. To this very day, a piece of good licorice takes me back to my childhood.

Make no mistake; I’m not talking about red licorice, which isn’t licorice at all. I’m talking about seriously-black licorice. I am always on the hunt for what I call “good stuff,” and it’s hard to find.

My absolute favorite licorice from days gone by were licorice cigars made by The American Licorice Company.

These candy cigars were about four inches long, the size of your finger, with red sprinkles on the end, and sold for a dime apiece, as I recall. I loved the flavor, the texture, and the price.

Then they became hard to find.

In my twenties, we were living in Denver. Much to my delight I found a local dime store that carried my licorice cigars. I’d buy a whole box of a hundred cigars if I could get my hands on them.

Then suddenly, they were no longer available. Rumor had it that the State of California had sued the company for child endangerment for teaching kiddies about tobacco (which is reprehensible when you think about it now) and the company just stopped making them.

Reprehensible or not, I grieved the loss of that particular flavor of licorice and started the long, lifetime hunt to find a similar flavor — in vain, I might add.

When Australian licorice started appearing on shelves of American stores, I tried every brand I could find. It’s pretty close to my longed-for cigars, if you dry it out so it isn’t so soft and sticky.

Being the licorice aficionado that I am, you can understand why my sister included a trip to the International Licorice Company in Lincoln, Nebraska, when we went clear to that state to almost view the solar eclipse.

The eclipse, the licorice stop, the excursion, and a whole bunch of other occasions have been the on-going celebration of my big birthday! It’s almost made getting older worth it!

After the clouds engulfed the eclipse, we headed to Lincoln and a store with bin after bin of licorice from all over the world: Finland, Holland, Sweden, Germany, and Canada. Some had samples, some not.

I merrily filled my basket with all sorts of licorice delights: sweet, salty, crunchy, soft, drops, ropes, whips, pipes, and —cigars!

There was one box of licorice cigars in the bin.

“Do you have more of these?” I asked. They had three. I took them all. I’d found my licorice cigars at last!

My bill was awfully high, but it was my birthday, right? We went out to the car to head home.

“I’ve got to try these cigars immediately,” I told my sister. She grabbed the camera to record the event.

My first bite I was smiling, “Yes, this tasted right,” and I began to chew.

By the time the camera shutter clicked my face looked incredulous. The longer I chewed the stronger that licorice got.

“These are really intense!” I said, gasping. Too strong for me!, I gathered up the three remaining unopened boxes I’d bought and returned them.

“Sorry,” I said, “too strong.” It was then that I discovered that each of those boxes had cost $20. No wonder my bill was so high.

Yesterday some friends, also licorice lovers, came by. I got out my stash and we did a licorice tasting. Who would have thought that licorice could be so entertaining? Phyl loved the cigars so I sent some home with her; but I still have more, just in case you know someone whose taste buds are really geared toward strong, almost medicinal, licorice.

Sampling all sorts of flavors and textures of licorice from caramels to chips was a serendipitous way to spend another day in the country.

Last modified Sept. 14, 2017

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