This question was posed to me by some gringas that I’d met in Iquique, a city in the north of Chile known for its curvy beach lined with palm trees, swimmable water, its historical importance in salt mining, the ZoFri (duty free mall) and (by me), a plentiful supply of mango juice.
But back to the Halls. What’s up with the Halls? they asked. Halls are just what you’re thinking, foil wrapped squares (with a round indent), individually wrapped in wax paper and stacked into a little rectangle, this wrapped in shiny foil of approximately the same color as the candy inside.
But is it candy? In the United States I associate menthol with colds, coughs, congestion and my cuñado (brother-in-law) who has sinus issues. In Chile it’s considered a refreshing treat, akin to our mint. “Mints” that claim to be extra-strong or extra-refreshing are sure to be extramentholated. Nothing as strong as the pasty altoid-like Fisherman’s Friend, a pastille so strong that if you eat one, my sinuses clear. But still, menthol. Here in Chile here’s a gummy sweet sold on the street that’s in the shape of little leaves, and which tastes like you just got hopped up on eucalyptus leaves. People willingly buy it. And if not, they might settle for regular mints, called, appropriately enough, mentitas. Though these are sadly lacking in menthol.
Marketing what is essentially a cough drop as candy is an incredible ploy by Halls. Why limit your consumption of this medication to when you’re sick? You could eat one at any time, and just like that, reminisce about your days spent on the public bus, coughing up a lung. Maybe there could be cough-syrup flavored soda? Or eyedrops for when your eyes feel great? There are so many possibilities here.
I know that in the end this is a cultural difference. We have cinnamon but nobody uses it; vanilla is not an icecream flavor; people prefer fruit-flavored icecream over chocolate; the distinction between acidic and bitter is made by not a large number of people; and most tellingly, Nescafe is a national addiction, despite its tendency to produce a truly fearful case of halitosis.
Good thing we’ve got all those Halls around.