My aunt Rita Mendes-Flohr captures the essence of ‘drop’ in Crossing Borders: Speaking Papiamentu en route to Curaçao during a layover in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport:
I search for a shop that sells every possible variety of drop – salted licorice – by weight, yet not daring to ask for it, perhaps so as not to expose my weakness, my secret addiction, or not quite admitting it to myself. The millions of foreigners who pass through this airport do not have the taste for the salty and pungent licorice, a taste that you only develop if you grow up in a salted-licorice-eating-culture.
Without quite making a conscious decision, I meander into the store where Dutch delicacies are sold – wheel cheeses, herring, fancy chocolates, spice biscuits. And there, among its shelves, I see a large box of salted licorice, which I buy immediately. I taste one, and as soon as it has melted in my mouth, I take another, and yet another. It is not that salted licorice reminds me, like the Proustian petite madeleine, of a lost childhood, rather, it reawakens my desire for more and more salted licorice. I am able to forget about licorice completely, go about my daily life in Israel without knowledge or reminiscence of it, without even longing for it, in fact, I do not care much for sweets, and then, suddenly, as soon as I taste it again, I turn into a licorice addict. It is a lot easier not to eat it at all, than to eat it in moderation. There is no such thing as moderation.
Drop comes in all shapes, sizes and degrees of sweet-salty, hard-soft and is available at most sneks, bodegas, drugstores and grocery stores in Curaçao. In fact, drop might very well be Curaçao’s favorite candy. (Go ahead, challenge me.)
A sweet-and-salty colonial import, The Netherlands has the highest per capita consumption of licorice in the world: 4 pounds (2,000 grams) per year. But much like another imported favorite, Salted Chinese Plum, Dutch Drop is an acquired taste — particularly when it comes to its saltier varieties. So unlike America’s ‘barely licorice’ Good and Plenty and Twizzlers, drop is decidedly niche and we prefer it that way:
The word ‘liquorice’/’licorice’ is derived from the Old French licoresse, from the Greek γλυκύρριζα (glukurrhiza), meaning ‘sweet root’ the name provided by Dioscorides. The licorice plant is a legume, native to southern Europe and parts of Asia. Contrary to popular belief it is not botanically related to anise, star anise, or fennel, which are sources of similar flavoring compounds. Some drop candy contains aniseed, mint, menthol, laurel, ammonium chloride (‘salmiak’) flavoring in addition to licorice extract.
But drop isn’t just a tasty treat for those who have acquired a taste for it, it is also believed to have anti-inflammatory medicinal properties, if taken in moderation. Excessive consumption is known to cause upset stomach (and Dutch Oven!), produce high blood pressure and lower testosterone levels in men long-term. So like all good things in life: drop is best in moderation.
Awesome Amsterdam (believe it or not, no affiliation) has compiled a list of interesting drop flavors:
- Salmiak-flavored drop contains ammonium chloride for a salty, tangy flavor
- Honingdrop (honey drop) is said to ease sore throat
- Scheepstouw (ship’s rope) is salty hard candy pieces that look like brown ropes
- Apekoppen (monkey heads) combine chewy sweet licorice and soft banana candy
- Griotten (pron. gree-otten) are light brown chewy squares that look like sugar cubes
- Munten (coin-shaped), Boerderij (farm animal-shaped), Katjes (cat-shaped) are very popular with kids
- Schoolkrijt (school chalk) look like their namesake with a minty shell on the outside and licorice on the inside
- Zakkenrollers (pickpockets) include tiny licorice keys, cell phones and watches
- Oceaandrop are herring, starfish, seahorse and sea shell-shaped candies covered in sea salt
- Paardenkoppen (horse heads) and Macho Maffioso have to be some of the weirdest varieties of drop, just for those Godfather fans…
Though I’m a big fan of all drop (so much so that I’m willing to splurge on the ‘good stuff’ living in NY) my all-time favorite is Haribo’s krakeling (pretzel-shaped) drop… light and salty, yet covered in sugar… my mouth waters just thinking about it. Sigh.
Sooo… which is your favorite drop?? And are you following us on Facebook yet? 🙂