Showing posts with label Drop (Dutch Black Licorice). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Drop (Dutch Black Licorice). Show all posts

What's op with drop?

Oh, how we love our sweet treats in the Netherlands! Candy aisles are stocked with all kinds of colorful goodies, cookie aisles equally so, and the chocolate shelves are overrun with seasonal and regular offerings year round. Yet one of the favorite sweets, for lack of a better word, is an unassuming, rubbery black candy called drop, licorice.

Dutch licorice is a popular and traditional candy that comes in many shapes, sizes and ranging from sweet to various degrees of saltiness, the saltiest* being a small briquette-shaped licorice called DubbelZout (twice as salty). The licorice is made with an extract from the Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) plant and a generous amount of salmiak, or ammonium chloride, which provides a distinctive salty and slightly bitter taste that is also particularly popular in the Nordic countries.

Drop, in all shapes and sizes, is consumed in large quantities and it is rumored that the average Dutch person nibbles away approximately five pounds a year, sharing about 32,000 kilos (about 70 thousand pounds) between themselves. Dutch licorice is definitely an acquired taste and seldom liked by non-natives, as noted by an incident in my office not too long ago.

"What's this drop stuff?" my co-worker asked, pointing to a small bag on my desk.

"It's Dutch licorice," I said, squinting at my computer screen. "You won't like it."

"Oh, it's black licorice ! I love black licorice!". Her hand reached for the bag as I pushed it aside.

"It's not the same. Your black licorice is very different from our black licorice".

"No, it's not, it looks just the same. Why can't I try some?"


I handed over a piece of Dutch licorice. Triumphantly, she put it in her mouth and grinned at me. "See? I like it!" Not so fast, I thought, and reached for the waste basket under my desk. And not a second too late, either.

"EWWWWWWW!!!!" It never fails. About ten seconds after they try Dutch licorice, the ammonium taste will hit the buds, with a vengeance. People will pull an ugly face and start looking around desperately for a place to get rid of it. That's when I hold up the trash can, where they gratefully (albeit not gracefully) spit out the contents of their mouth.

"OHMAGAWD!! That is SOOOO gross!! How can you EAT that???" Her eyes open wide, her mouth still reeling from the palatal pummeling it just experienced, she suddenly stopped speaking and glared at me, her eyes narrowing slightly. Was this a prank? Surely, this was a prank!? I could see her thinking. It's hard for others to understand how we can love our drop so much, and I don't even try to explain it anymore. The Icelanders have their hákarl, the Chinese have their fermented or so-called stinky tofu, and the Dutch have their licorice. We all love something different!

For as much as we like our sweets, licorice is one of those oddities that makes the Dutch food culture so unique and interesting. Grocery stores, candy stores and even drugstores will have bulk-sized bins with a rich assortment of various licorices to scoop, weigh and take home. Cat shapes, coins, railroad ties, shoe laces, farm animals, buttons......drop comes in so many flavors, shapes and levels of sweet- or saltiness that there's something for everyone.Well......almost everyone.

* I distinctly remember one called Driedubbelzoute drop, although that one is harder to find.  

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