Step into any Icelandic gas station or grocer and you’ll find at least 75 percent of the candy contains black licorice. Licorice powders, chocolate-covered licorice gummies, licorice-coated raisins, and thick, lava-like licorice sauces lurk behind the glass at local ice cream shops. You can even order licorice soft-serve with licorice hard-shell dip, if that’s your thing.
While the divisive treat has a cult-like following in all of the Nordic countries (there are festivals), Iceland has made a name for itself for combining licorice with chocolate, and for consuming it in quantities that would keep a dentist awake at night. But how did this bizarre black stuff wind up in nearly every candy bar in the land of fire and ice? The roots of its predominance are at once political, epidemiological, horticultural, and economic—chief among them a climate more favorable to glaciers than humans, and decades of restrictions on candy imports.
What if you are a sensitive and offbeat soul, determined to be an artist, but suspect you have no talent? At what point does fortitude (all those chapters, drawings, songs) pass into life-destroying intransigence?
The Irish writer Sara Baume, in her second novel, “A Line Made by Walking,” picks up these sorts of eternal questions, packs them into her rucksack and carries them quite a long way.
On, on! The next time you encounter on beginning a title, ignore what follows. Recite the glorious syllable to yourself in stentorian tones, revel in its wondrous reverberations. Let your eyes linger on its elegant appearance, take in its curves, appreciate its eternal form and endless content. Soon your own love affair with the sublime word will commence, a romance that, unlike ephemeral passions, will go on and on, powering an inner light that will never turn off.
Baking is handwork, and for me, all that is joyful, comforting, gratifying and even magical about this work is packed into the simple act of making biscuits. I practice a kind of mediation while I make them. I concentrate on how each step feels — not so much because it makes a better biscuit (which it does) or because it’s more satisfying (which it is), but because I like having my senses on high alert, anticipating and responding to the dough’s changes.