I discovered a Minnesota-made brand of licorice during the pandemic and decided it was the best I'd ever had.
Soft, chewy, firm, with an emphasis on the licorice element instead of sugar. I know some people don't like licorice, and that's fine. Wrong, but fine. I don't like pineapple. Perhaps we can all meet in the middle someday and join forces to condemn kiwi fruit.
My previous experience with licorice had been unremarkable, and rather grim when I think about it. There were "licorice whips," which were a thin, pliable confection that not only resembled waxed dress-shoe laces, but could be used as such in an emergency. The only way to consume the stuff was to shove the entire string in your mouth and masticate the waxy nylon into an unsatisfying granular mass. Whips might have been the invention of the American Anti-Licorice Society, intent on turning away children from licorice forever.
There were Nibs, small licorice pillows. Exposed to air, they fossilized in minutes. The same company made Twizzlers, which somehow defined what licorice candy should look like: it should be tubular, about six inches long, with an array of ridges set in a spiral. I.e., twizzled.
Lackluster licorice did not dampen my ardor for the flavor, so when I discovered Wiley Wallaby, I thought: This is the licorice for which I have waited. The name suggested it was Australian-style, and that's awesome, and I have no idea what it means, and I'm wondering if there is a resident Aussie at the home office in Perham, Minn., sampling the batches to "maike sure they're prop'ly Aussie, mate."
The other day I ran out. Made a note to pick some up at Target, where there's always about 200 bags at self-checkout. But there wasn't any. There were other Wallaby flavors, like huckleberry. Off the top of my head I can't tell you what a huckleberry tastes like, possibly because the scalp has no taste receptors.
There was also "blueberry pomegranate licorice," which is like advanced calculus for the tongue. I bought them both, because there wasn't any black licorice.
Next week: no black licorice, but another new flavor in bright packaging: Sourrageous Drops. Well, OK, I figured, I'll try it.
The third week: The whole Wiley Wallaby section was everything but black licorice, and I wondered: Did they throttle back production of black licorice to get me to buy the new varieties? If so, that is genius, and it worked. But I'm not happy about it, because it reinforces a long-standing misconception that we must, as a society, correct.
There is no such thing as "Red Licorice." There is no such thing as "Green Apple Licorice." There is no such thing as "Marionberry-Banana Licorice." Licorice is a flavor, not a shape. Wiley Wallaby, you must adjust the nomenclature of your product line, now, for the sake of linguistic clarity, lest another generation grow up thinking all soft twizzled tubular confections are licorice.
I suggest "Flavored Wallaby Segments," if only to see the look on an Aussie's face when he visits the States and drops into Target. It would be like a Minnesotan seeing "Candied Loon Gland Whips" in a Melbourne store.
(If you're curious, they taste like huckleberries.)