The Great Black Licorice Debate

Divine or Demonic? Vote Now

By Bre Payton and Hans Fiene

There are no moderates in the debate over black licorice. Confections forged from glycyrrhiza glabra extract divide more people than the prime meridian, inspiring either instant vitriol from the enemies of black licorice or a furious defense from its fans.

Recently, Federalist Staff Writer Bre Payton and Senior Contributor Hans Fiene assumed their battle stations and began lobbing licorice-related bombs at each other, a spat that spread to the rest of the Federalist team and quickly divided them into those who love black licorice and those who believe it to be the source of all societal ills.

Bre: Gummy bears are among my favorite treats. Whenever I see a Haribo display at a mini-mart, it takes every ounce of restraint to not buy one of every single bag. So imagine the shock and horror I experienced when I spotted these bad boys near the checkout counter of my local CVS.

Blech.

Apparently not everyone else can see the obvious — that black licorice candy shaped like gummy bears is a confectionary wolf in sheep’s clothing — because I got this response.

Hans, you are WRONG, my friend. Black licorice is gross. It smells like Satan’s breath and looks like it belongs inside the mouth of a rotting mummy.

Hans: “Gummy bears are among my favorite treats.” I believe I’ve found the source of the infection, folks. Your favorite treats, Bre? Treats? Are papercuts your least favorite kind of boo boo? Is your favorite relative Unkie Bwyan?

The problem is quite clear. While you may be a grown woman, you have the palate of a five year old. Like a child, your taste buds are unable to appreciate the glorious complexities of black licorice. When black licorice offers you richness and boldness with hints of bitterness and perfectly subtle sweetness, you demand chewy sugar molded in the image of Teddy Ruxpin. When black licorice invites you to savor its perfectly balanced symphony of flavors, you point to a box of Nerds, transfixed by their pink-and-purpliciousness, and demand crunchy diabetes.

Lest we waste our time comparing kiddie apples and adult oranges, let me make a clear distinction: Black licorice is not a treat. Nor is it a yummy or a nom-nom. Black licorice is a delicacy, a dessert for patriarchs and matriarchs, philosophers and generals — a dessert to be chewed, savored, swirled about on the tongue like a fine scotch. In fact, black licorice pairs perfectly with a twelve-year single malt, a pipe, and embracing adulthood.

Black licorice has filled the candy bowls of history’s most important grown-ups as they made history’s most important decisions. I have it on good authority that Ulysses S. Grant offered Robert E. Lee a handful to calm his nerves at Appomattox. Had Grant handed him a box of Jujyfruits, the Civil War would have raged for another decade, the Confederate general refusing to eternally destroy the South’s morale by surrendering to a bearded toddler.

Bre: I don’t need to eat jellied asphalt to be a grownup. Also, some of us can’t eat everything we want and still keep our girlish figures. We have to be strategic about the sweets we indulge in, and if I’m going to eat CANDY — which definitely gives me new dimples on my thighs every time I indulge — it better be worth it. There is no way I’m going to risk cellulite over a food that tastes like a combination of a leather sandal and a tire.

Black licorice is NEVER WORTH IT. It’s the tequila shots of candy. The aftertaste is unbearable and the self-loathing that soon follows is eerily similar to a night spent licking salt from one’s hands.

Hans: I’ve never dined on a feast of Tivas and Firestones, so I’m afraid I don’t have a point of comparison. Nor have I ever spent an evening seeking my daily dose of iodine from my own palms, but it seems clear that your hatred of black licorice is but one drop of water in your ocean of bad decision-making.

Bre: This is probably true. I sometimes make bad decisions — like trying black licorice a second time.

The first time I ever tried it was when my great-grandma Bernie offered me a piece of this sticky, black, gummy stick. Being a naturally curious child, I tried it and thought a bug soaked in arsenic had crawled into my mouth and died. My self-preservation instincts kicked in and I immediately spat it out. My dementia-addled grandma (God bless her) forgot the incident a few minutes later and again offered me a piece — which I politely declined. This happened several times over the course of our visit.

What I learned from that experience is that black licorice is for forgetful old people who won’t remember how bad it tastes.

Hans: You’ve clearly never had good black licorice. Saying “I know what black licorice tastes like because, once upon a time, I tried some imitation licorice-flavored abomination” is like saying “I know what a Steinway grand piano sounds like because my cousin used to play a Casiotone 405.”

Real black licorice is not waxy. It is not gummy. It does not come in bean form or find its truest expression in the consistency of jelly. Real black licorice is tender, like a prime cut of kobe beef. To savor it is to sink your teeth into an ebony cloud of instant sophistication. It’s molasses-infused ambrosia, a gift given to all mortals that, tragically, only few will embrace.

Bre: I think Hans is describing a food that doesn’t actually exist and mistaking it for black licorice To be clear, this is the food we are talking about right now:

It’s twisted black rope that makes your mouth feel like you’ve smoked an entire pack of Virginia Slims, Homer Simpson-style.

Black licorice can apparently be dangerous if consumed in large quantities. It can raise one’s blood pressure and put strain on the heart and lungs — especially for the over-40 crowd who Hans seems to think should be eating this stuff on the regular. It can also mess with your hormonal levels and make you retain sodium and fluid. In other words, black licorice might make you bloat! Gross!

Hans: You know what else raises your blood pressure and puts strain on your heart and lungs? Exercise, Bre. Exercise. All good things should be enjoyed in moderation, my friend — licorice, wine, and above all, jogging.

Bre: Hans, you literally tweeted at me that it’s a sin to not buy these and immediately “hork them all down” in the car. This does not sound like moderation to me. Also, much like black licorice, jogging is an activity that should be avoided at all costs.

Hans: You were foaming at the mouth with black licorice hatred. You needed the confectionary equivalent of an adrenaline shot in the heart.

Bre: Okay, fair.

Hans: Bre is intent on concluding our debate with a poll. Let me say, for the record, that I know my side will lose. Badly. But this will not cause me to reevaluate my position, in the same way that I wouldn’t consider burning my Bible after learning that 89 percent of Americans would rather have all-you-can-eat-ribs than divine wisdom. People are the worst. They’re wrong about everything. That’s the obvious lesson of 2016.

Bre: The most important lesson of 2016 is that the American people are sick of elites telling them what they should and shouldn’t like. Let your voice be heard! Let the hate flow through you! Vote, yo!