Maybe because it tastes a bit like liniment, root beer isn’t easy to find in New Zealand. But to me, it tastes like old times and good memories, so once in a while I fancy a sip.
Could be I could have convinced a distributor to import the brand I longed for, but I reckon better yet, why not brew my own. The trouble is the main ingredient that gives root beer its traditional liniment taste — sassafras — doesn’t grow in New Zealand. So I had to improvise.
Crush up a kawakawa leaf, breathe into your hand, and you’ll activate the flavour and scent, of sassafras’s peppery alternative. I made up an extract and mixed it with other local flavours: manuka and makomako to name two. Long story short, all added up, New Zealand root beer is now a flavour all its own — and it goes as fine with vanilla ice cream as any root beer should.
The point is this: I put in the extra miles and adapted as necessary to get things right. And that’s how I work as a researcher, writer, and editor.
Writing is a taste-driven vocation. A writer sensitive to readers’ wants and needs can fashion prose with plenty of zing — the same way a careful brewer can cook up a good old fashioned root beer, distinct in its flavour, yet not tasting of liniment. This is the kind of sensitivity I bring to my writing — the kind of sensitivity I learned brewing Root Beer in New Zealand.