The other day I g-chatted my friend Melissa. (Have we all agreed that this is a verb now? I’m cool with it if you guys are.)
“I HAVE to try that salty licorice!” I said/typed. Actually, I think it was more along the lines of “omguhhhhhhh that salty licorice! hafta try it!!!” but we’ll pretend that someone on the cusp of thirty doesn’t communicate like a fifteen year old.
For some reason the sort of licorice that is popular in Scandinavia—strong and salty, one of those things that falls very far on the “acquired taste” end of the spectrum—had been on my mind. First a friend went to Denmark and tried it. Then it came up in conversation in a bar. And then I saw this. Whenever I start to hear a lot about something weird-tasting that I haven’t tried yet, I get jealous. How come everyone had tried this but me??
A few minutes later I got a message with a name and address: Sockerbit Sweet & Swedish, 89 Christopher Street.
Sockerbit is in the West Village, near the Christopher Street stop on the 1 and next to a skincare shop where a guy from Israel will try to rub you with dead sea salt. It is wall-to-wall gummies and licorice, sold by the pound, plus a few other Scandinavian food items. You will feel this excited when you enter:
My friend and I filled a bag with candies and walked down the street, tasting them one by one, trying to find a piece of licorice that approximated the one she had tried in Copenhagen. They were salty, and mouth-puckering, but in a good way. “No, this one isn’t as strong,” she kept saying, every time we reached in the bag. Finally we both pulled out a little black wheel and bit into it. It tasted of… blue cheese. “Yep, that’s it,” she said, and made an incomprehensible face. I turned it over in my mouth for a minute, willing myself to like it. Then I spit it out. Not there yet.
I mean, I see how you might acquire the taste for it. I’m sure it escalates, like alcohol tolerance or libertarianism. And then one day you’re drunk at 10am, eating “candy” that tastes like Gorgonzola and spitting on homeless people.
Sometimes I wonder how far one should really take this acquired taste thing. I’ve used the tactic of repeatedly eating a food until it goes from “HURGH” to “I suppose this is edible” to “Hey I actually like this” with a pretty good success rate. Fennel, blue cheese, cilantro, olives, and yes, licorice: these are all things I had to learn to like but that I legitimately enjoy now. But at what point do you begin to seem delusional when you’re standing around trying to convince your friends that no REALLY, this gross-tasting thing is actually GOOD, you just haven’t REALIZED it yet? (I’m looking at you, Malort. Which, as it happens, was created by a Swedish person! Swedes, why do you want everything you ingest to punch you in the mouth?)
One day, I fear, I will just down anything you put in front of me, with no regard to whether it actually tastes good or not (all those who I have tried to convince that a shot of Jagermeister mixed with Rumpleminze “tastes like Christmas” will undoubtedly argue that this day has come and gone).
Nevertheless, I found myself craving a piece of licorice as I wrote this post. Maybe just a slightly-salty piece, more of a light smack rather than a punch in the face. Time for another trip?