Photo: Alexander Ipfelkofer (Getty Images)

While in Vermont recently, I fell ill. Something was going around, and I got it. There was, as a local had said driving us into town a week earlier, one of everything where I would be staying, and I walked to the only grocery store to get drugs, feverish and wondering if someone had put a hex on me. Notoriously indecisive when it comes to such purchases, I lingered in the drug aisle for some time. I had nearly made a decision, when far from the endcap of hanging bags of cough drops, I spotted a box of Fisherman’s Friend Original Extra Strong lozenges. Drawn in by their relatively few ingredients and utilitarian packaging—the white box, its lettering and drawing of a boat in red and black ink—and the fact that they were completely foreign to me, I made my choice.

Ricola cough drops and their suggestion of herbs now seem merely like a way to eat candy without feeling bad about it. Fisherman’s Friend lozenges, on the other hand, are not too sweet. They aren’t too anything. Fisherman’s Friend lozenges are ugly oval discs the dusty color of decades-old chocolate. They have no gloss. They are not individually wrapped. Their menthol is potent; after having one, I felt a stinging, scrubbed-raw clean, as one might after shaving. Later that day, still delighted over the packaging, I asked a new friend, “May I show you my lozenges?” “It looks like a bar of soap,” he said of the box. He was right.