Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Treat That Is Licorice

When you talk about retro sweets, you’re not making sense unless you mention licorice. We’ve all had our time with this candy at some point in our lives. When we were kids, we probably thought that was all they were - candy. Little did we know that those sweet vines were actually medicine. Of course, they couldn’t have meant more to us than as sweets.

The mere mention of the vine is usually enough to overwhelm anybody with memories of their youth. But it actually has a lengthier and more meaningful history. Back when things were all natural and medicines were pulled from people’s backyards, this plant was already famous. Ancient Egyptians and warriors combined it in their drinks because they believed it made them strong. Count in the pharaohs and kings who mixed it in their tea, medicine and even in their alcoholic drinks. Best of all, they had it as candy and the retro generation probably have them to thank.

Many wise men of past centuries also relied on this vine for stamina while its healing properties became more and more evident. Today, tea makers use its root to provide relief to common conditions such as coughs, colds, hyperacidity and dyspepsia.

Of course, we wouldn’t be talking about licorice if not for its penchant for making us feel all sweet and nostalgic. Those retro candies that the baby boomers enjoyed and the younger generations are getting acquainted with were created by the Chicago-based American Licorice Company in 1914. That was the year Black Vines debuted before they evolved into those chewy favorites such as Licorice Snaps, Black Scotties, Good and Plenty and Allsorts.

Remember how we loved it when dad came home Friday evenings with a bagful of sweets for us? We loved him even more for that. Now that those old-fashioned sweets are making a comeback (although they were never really gone), why not have it the other way around? I’m sure it would be a perfect way to show our appreciation for that extra sweetness he reserved for us back when we were little.

While licorice has been around for centuries, whether as sweets or medicinal herb, we know we love it most for the wonderful things they remind us of. Grandma, who never failed to bring us a bagful she came over, hanging out in the park with equally licorice- addicted kids, even mom who tried so hard not to mind that it was still candy (even if it had medicinal properties) – these are memories we’ll always keep in our hearts.

The good news is, you can still get licorice at any retro sweetshop these days.


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