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By William Shaw
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Caramella, 29a Kensington Gardens
I can’t believe you’ve not had Dutch liquorice before," said Marieke. "You’ve got to try it."
Knowing how much Marieke loved it, a friend from work had brought her back a bag from a trip to Holland. Marieke offered one of the small black drops to Ellen.
Ellen chewed. The reaction was instantaneous. They’re not sweet at all. Ellen pulled a face, looked for a second like she was going to be sick, and spat it out. She spluttered, "I’m never going to trust you again."
Marieke loves Dutch liquorice; her partner Ellen hates it. For Marieke the bitter mix of liquorice, aniseed and salt is a journey straight back to childhood. She remembers how, growing up in South Africa, every time she used to go and visit her aunt she’d get handfuls of the stuff. Grown up now, a mother herself, she still craves the taste of it, but it’s not easy to find here.
When they finally find the time for a weekend away from their busy London lives they book into a hotel in Hove and Marieke remembers how once, searching for salt liquorice on the internet, she found a shop in Brighton selling it.
Something about Brighton reminds her of Durban. Maybe it’s the sea. It’s good to slow down, to wake up late here on a Saturday morning without a nagging eight-year-old child. All they have to worry about is themselves. They’ve only been going out for a year; they’re still finding out about each other. Tonight they can maybe go to a club, stay up late, sleep in again. But for now they wander through the Lanes, nosing around shops.
They puzzle over a map, trying to find Kensington Gardens. When they do Marieke is delighted at the liquorice – great piles of it – at the back of the shop. There it is, D/Z, Dubbel Zout, double salt, the extra strong one in the neat round shapes. She fills a bag.
Ellen refuses to try it. She sticks to kola cubes and lemon bon bons.