Spit That Out This Minute!

nunzillaIn common with many people who once upon a time attended parochial school,  I have a very curious selection of memories. One regarded the (prohibited) candy we ingested then.  My school was very elegant and situated in a suburb of Rome, and we were all expected to behave like little ladies.

Oh well, it must have been a desperate repetition of hope over experience for the nuns.  We never really behaved like ladies.  Whether it was at Mass when Sister would lean across three girls’ laps to slap the fourth girl on the leg because she was sprawdling during Father’s sermon, or sending another girl home because she was wearing panty-hose under her knee socks, or whether Sister had detected licorice on someone’s breath during English Composition, we none of us ever behaved like ladies.  Hooligans, yes; shakedown artists, yes; squealers and grasses, absolutely. But ladies? Never.

As to the odd candy, we favored a truly horrific kind of licorice pellet that came in a Kelly green tin box called, I believe, Bongo Mints.  They were foul.  They tainted the breath, induced a Red Bull like hyperactivity, and turned the tongue and saliva black.  We were told in no uncertain terms never to ingest these frightful confections and naturally they became a food group for us.

I remember vividly that Sister once caught me by breaking her routine and moving diagonally across the classroom to make a casual inquiry about a compound-complex sentence while I had a mouthful of the things. When her queries about the main verb went unanswered she swiped me upside the head and I spewed black spit all over the desk top.  I don’t believe either of us ever really lived it down.

This makes the current crop of licorice perfumes difficult for me.  Is, say, Lolita Lempicka an interesting arresting scent?  Undoubtedly, but it is Eau de Bongo for me, and therefore unwearable.  Equally Guerlain Homme is a fine perfume, but impossible, for there is a distinct bongo drydown after the mojito cocktail evaporates.  Not for me. The relatively civilized Eau de Reglisse, has a bongoish note to it that puts it beyond the pale for one, although it’s probably the most refined of the perfumes listed here.

Even, dare I say it, the current formulation of Apres L’Ondee, has that note wafting along, and even though I know it’s aniseed and not the dreaded black licorice, I smell it, and a faint suspicion that I should call Poison Control passes through my head.

Association, it seems, is everything, in human relations, politics, and perfumery.

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12 thoughts on “Spit That Out This Minute!

  1. Well, I laughed all the way through this one.

    I have that freedom, it seems, having spent MY formative educational years in, first, an experimental-architecture 1970s elementary school with “open-air classrooms” and carpet on the floors, then an aging 1920s middle school with echoey stairwells and teachers which provided some of the best live entertainment I’ve ever seen, and finally another stupid 1970s blocky building with glassed windows like arrow slits, so that nobody could do anything dumb like, you know, OPEN THEM.

    No nuns. Instead, I had an algebra teacher who asked for “questions, comments, moans and groans” after each lecture. And a 7th-grade science teacher who got through the worry of rural-south parents over evolution by telling us that he didn’t believe evolution could have taken place without God (he was Catholic, Mr. Kelly was). And my fierce, terrifying chemistry/physics teacher, Mr. Sboray, educated at VMI and a Vietnam War vet, who would pound that enormous class ring on his desk while giving us the best piece of information I ever received in my public school education: “Let the units tell you how to work the problem.” There were more.

    No Bongo Mints. So I have an appreciation for licorice, myself. Lolita Lempicka is juuuust that bit too sweet for me; I liked Aimez-Moi very much; and I think Apres l’Ondee is just about perfect. :)

    • Your fearsome physics teacher must have been like my bro’s history teacher, another ‘Nam vet, who used to set everyone to digging up the girl’s hockey field in search of Indian arrow heads. This was private school, you understand. No one would have tolerated any of this on the state’s dime, which in those days was thin. (This was Maryland.) We would watch them all march down to the field with picks and shovels singing, “Digging up the Past” to the tune of ‘Ringing in the Sheaves”. Good times!

      Apres L’Ondee is indeed perfect, angelic licorice allsorts, that’s what it is.

  2. I went to Catholic school, also. But, Rome, wow. That must have been some heavy duty. I think you can tell which people went to Catholic school, particularly those taught by the nuns. My nieces go to a school that has only lay teachers. Not the same. My husband and I went with a couple of friends to see the play ‘Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All To You.’ Of the four of us, three had gone to Catholic school. A few minutes into the play the three of us and other audience members started to laugh nervously. The actor responded with something like ‘there you are. I knew you were there. I’ve got my eye on you. Now-BEHAVE!!’ Of course all of us who had gone to Catholic school had given ourselves away. The fourth member of party didn’t quite get the play. Couldn’t explain, you had to have been there.

    I do like licorice and it’s cousin absinthe. I enjoy Lolita in smallish doses. Another one I like is 1000 Flowers-Reglisse Noire. Have you tried anything that has absinthe as a note? Geisha Green has it and is lovely. Maybe an absinthe drink would be preferably after a stroll down the school memory lane.

    • You know you’re a Catholic school survivor when even an actor can open the guilt spigots full force in the middle of a performance. I suspect that as a group we are even more haunted by the Guilt Fairy than Jewish only children!

      Absinthe I like better than licorice on average. I sort of liked the L’Artisan Fou d’Absinthe, and yes, after a long time remembering growing up with the sisters, even a glass of absinth would be welcome. Mind you, I expect they feel the same way remembering us.

  3. What a great story! Not only I enjoyed reading it and comments afterwards, but I feel really lucky with my atheistical education.

    I don’t think I tried licorice before I was in my late twenties and I hate it passionately. I truly can’t imagine that somebody might like that. So it’s NO for most perfumes with that note.

    • You and my Mother, who was dosed with it whenever she was “irregular” as a child. Why my Grandmother thought licorice was a cure for constipation I will never know, but my Mom detested it!

      And I think a good old atheistic education is an advantage in the long run!

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  5. “We were told in no uncertain terms never to ingest these frightful confections and naturally they became a food group for us.”

    So funny, Blacknall! What a wonderful post.

    Black licorice makes me gag, usually, except for a treat that Sigrun once sent me. It wasn’t full-on salty Swedish licorice – it was more like a caramelized bit of licorice that, if I’m remembering correctly, is the kiddie-version of that treat.

    Similarly, I do quite often like an anise note in perfumes but not a full-on black licorice note. Although SL Borneo 1834 smells a bit like black licorice (to my nose) and I really like it – no doubt because it’s accompanied by the scent of other dark treats that I favor.

    • Licorice is one of those peculiar things that you either love or you hate, but it does tend to be an interesting thing to smell, and if I didn’t have this memory of Language Arts (and sentence parsing) I probably would like it much better.

      I too enjoy the chocolate/licorice connection. Haven’t found Borneo yet, but do like Coromandel which I suspect is similar.

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