Tag Archives: Halloween

‘We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.’ Jerry Garcia.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I blame Megan.  Seriously.  I hadn’t thought about licorice in years.  I don’t remember the last time I even ate a piece of licorice.  But just after Halloween, while we were discussing the perils and pitfalls of buying the right ‘type’ of Halloween sweeties for children, Megan (our newest staff member at the college) related a story about how some kiddies had come to her home trick-or-treating and all she had to left to offer them was licorice. The children were less than impressed ( . . . ran screaming from the building . . . )  That was it.  Just a short funny little story about licorice.  But the weird thing is,  since then it’s all I’ve been able to think about.   I have developed a real craving for licorice . . .

I know licorice is not for everyone.  There seems to be no grey areapeople either love it, or they hate it.  I love it.  All sorts (see what I did there?) but sadly, these days, when it comes to confectionery at least, it has become harder and harder to find real licorice that hasn’t been drastically tampered with.  Although I still love the idea of licorice straps, licorice jelly beans, chocolate covered licorice, and coloured licorice, many of these products don’t actually contain much (if any) real licorice.  Instead, they contain anise oil  which has the smell and taste of black licorice but it’s not actually the real deal.

Mmmmmblack licorice.  Makes my mouth water to think of it.   And, of course, once I had the notion in my head (definitely your fault, Megan!) I had to have some (and I had to have it NOW!) so I went in search of my very favourite licoricethe Pontefract cake.

Now if you are not a fan of licorice you may never have heard of Pontefract cakes (also called Pomfret cakes).  They are small roughly circular black sweets made of licorice, and were originally manufactured in England in the Yorkshire town of Pontefract (hence the name) although I am guessing they were not then in the same form they are now.  It has apparently only been since the 19th century that licorice was used extensively for confectionery, before that it was used for medicinal tonics for both humans and horses . . .

Well one man’s medicine is another girl’s candy.  I have very fond memories of receiving a little pack of Pontefract cakes tucked into the toe of my Christmas stocking every year ( . . .  and as neither of my sisters liked them I didn’t have to share . . . ) and that is the licorice I was craving now.  Soft and chewy.  Not too salty and not too sweet.  So I went searching . . .  and searching . . . and searching.  Could I find any of my most favourite licorice in the local area?   Of course not.  That would have been far too easy.  (When I asked at a couple of local stores and supermarkets if they carried Pontefract cakes, I was met with blank stares or sent to the the bakery section.  Sigh. )

Never mind.  If that is my biggest disappointment this week I have little to complain about.  I found I can still buy my favourite licorice on-line but until that arrives I did manage to find myself a very tasty alternative to subdue the immediate cravings and  ‘tide me over’ and, as an added bonus, the pretty black and gold packet it came in also gave me something fun to sketch.

Soa win-win all around really . . .

The ancient Egyptians believed licorice aided in vitality and longevity.
Large quantities of it were found with in King Tutankamun’s tomb — perhaps he was hoping to live longer in his
 next life?


Posted by on November 16, 2018 in Uncategorized


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‘When witches go riding, and black cats are seen, the moon laughs and whispers, ’tis near halloween.’ Author Unknown.

halloweenI have just come back from the supermarket and the place is positively heaving with Halloween—halloween sweets, halloween balloons, halloween decorations and halloween masks.  I don’t really know how to respond to it all except to note that at least Halloween seems to have pushed the Christmas stock back off the shelves for another week or so . . .

stranger-dangerIt’s not that I have anything against Halloween—it seems, for the most part, like harmless fun and if you want to spend your money on all that paraphernalia, go for it.  It’s just that I find it all a bit odd that we have suddenly started celebrating Halloween in Australia at all.  It’s not like we have ever had a tradition of celebrating it before.  Not until the last couple of years at least.  We certainly never went ‘trick or treating’ when I was a kid.  (Knocking on a complete stranger’s door and asking for lollies? Are you out of your mind?  My mother would have grounded us on the spot.  For.Ever.)

We always knew about Halloween of course, even if it was mostly from Hollywood movies.  I imagine many of us even believed that Halloween was purely an American invention, although that is not actually the case.   The real origins of Halloween date back some 2000 years to the ancient Celts and their festival of Samhain.

ghost1The Celts celebrated their new year on 1 November, and they believed that on the night before the new year the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was at it’s thinnest and the ghosts of the dead could pass through into the living world. The people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off these roaming ghosts.  Much later, in the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs—All Saints’ Day—and some of the earlier traditions of Samhain carried through. The evening before All Saint’s Day was called All Hallows’ Eve (later Halloween) and it is from these early beginnings that Halloween evolved into the more child-friendly (and commercial) celebrations of today.

So from it’s Celtic origins, why the tradition was then taken up and celebrated with such enthusiasm by the Americans and virtually ignored by Australians (until now) is anybody’s guess.  But although Halloween may well be growing in popularity here now, I am still not sure whether I should be expect an influx of trick-or-treaters to my door on Monday night.  It has not been so in the past.

frightened-trick-treaters-10781279In fact, I can only recall one time, a couple of years ago, when I had anyone come to the door at all.  It was a warm Spring evening and I had left the front door open, with just the screen door locked, and the girls were all dozing on the tiles in front of the door, where it was coolest.  The first I knew anyone had come to the door was when the dogs all leapt up as one and sent a deafening volley of warning barks out into the night.  By the time I got there all I saw was the back end of a several tiny ‘ghoulies’ fleeing for their lives . . .

But you never know.    Commercial enterprises have gone into overdrive promoting the festivities—and the lure of free ‘candy’ can be very strongso perhaps I will be inundated with witches, fairies and superheroes looking for the ultimate sugar high.

And there’s the rub.  Should I succumb to the pressure myself and stock up on Halloween goodies just on the off-chance that some revellers turn up?  (Because, sure as eggs, if I don’t buy anything I will be overrun, and will come across all ‘Mr Mean’ if I have nothing to give them.)bonbons3

Or, the other hand, if I buy all these treats in readiness for the screaming hordes and no-one turns up, what then?  I could find myself left with bags full of sweeties which I would then be obliged to eat myself, because . . . well . . . just because . . .

It’s all a bit of a dilemma really . . .




Posted by on October 28, 2016 in Uncategorized


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