Saturday, April 07, 2007

Black things

My family understands the term 'black things' very precisely. 'Black things' is liquorice. Any liquorice is not bad, but for me the ultimate are the products of Katjes, a company with a Dutch name based in Germany. My favourite ones are the ones in the red packet, called 'Kittens'. 'Cats' Ears' in the green packet are much the same, in a different shape - and somehow they feel quite sharp what with the points. They are the original ones which started off the company. They are shaped like a little cat, fairly hard, and that makes them last longer. Especially in the winter they go rock hard. I remember moments of my childhood, on holiday in Austria, aged 6, when I'd go to bed with one tucked in my cheek, melting away very slowly (and eroding my teeth, no doubt). Total bliss! Later on I discovered that these hard ones also attach themselves very effectively to teeth, and I've lost more than one filling through them....The next favourite ones are the ones in the yellow packet in front of it, called 'little cat's paws'; they are very soft, and it's very easy to chomp your way through a packet. I am so possessive of them, when I get them, that I hide them - just in case I meet another liquorice lover who I might have to share them with. There are not that many of us, even in my family - luckily. I know two liquorice lovers in Lithuania, who I don't see all that often - I usually try to bring them back a packet, but if I don't see them....

The thing about these products is, which I had already realised through extensive empirical research, that 80% of their market is in the three north western German states, as confirmed by a recent newspaper article. You can also get them in Denmark (Copenhagen airport), and Sweden and Finland are big on liquorice, too, as are the Netherlands. But trying to get them in southern Germany is quite a challenge; apparently the Bavarians like their sweets 'colourful, sweet and funny'. Simple people, eh? They call liquorice 'Baerendreck' (bears' droppings). Austria? Forget it. Luckily you can get them in Berlin where I am going next week; in fact Katjes have just opened a factory in Potsdam, a bit of an unemployment blackspot (and, most unfortunately, talking of things black, also a racism blackspot). Not sure if I am quite as committed (or should be committed?) to go and watch the production lines.

In the UK you can (could?) get Katjes products, but never the liquorice. When their products first arrived on British shelves, I wrote to the company, asking about the liquorice. They replied with a parcel of six packets of the stuff! Heaven! You could possibly get Haribo liquorice, but it was not so nice. Liquorice Allsorts - geeez, who would want to contaminate liquorice with all that pink sweet stuff? I'd peel off the pink or brown bits....You can see my situation, after growing up in the Vatican of liquorice - every time I'd go to Germany I would buy quite a few packets of the stuff. Any birthday or Christmas parcel minus 'black things' was just not right.

There are at least three problems with liquorice; it stains your mouth and teeth black; people can smell that you have just eaten them, and, when I gorge on them, scoffing half a dozen packets in as many days, they definitely clear me out (literally having a blow-out...). That's apart from the fact that it allegedly raises the blood pressure (yes, please, in my case) and if you eat many of them whilst pregnant it doubles your chances of giving birth early; there are also questions relating to its effect on male potency. None of which are my problem. They are advertised as 'fat-free', but oh dear, the calorie count....

I love the stuff!!


varske said...

I can remember always having to supply licorice for Danes, from Copenhagen airport, but they were satisfied with Haribo.