Plain Vanilla?


by Tim Ecott
Genres: Nonfiction
Published on 2005-03
Pages: 278
Format: Hardcover Source: Library
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From the islands of Tahiti to the botanical gardens of London and Paris, "Vanilla traces the story of the vanilla plant and its secretive trade, from the golden cups of Aztee emperors to the ice-cream dishes of U.S. presidents. Vanilla has mystified and tantalized man for centuries. The only orchid that porduces and agriculturally valuable crop. vanilla can mask unpleasant tastes and smells, but also makes pleasant tastes stronger, smoother, and longer lasting. Because of its over four hundred separate flavor components. choosing premium-quality vanilla beans is as complex as judging the aroma and taste of fine wine. Vanilla finds its way into over half of all dessert products sold worldwide, from ice cream to chocolate mousse, as well as the finest perfumes., well-known brands of rum and vodka, and even Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Americans consume more vanilla than anyone else on Earth--a fact that has helped drive the price of vanilla beans and flavor extracts to an all-time high, and forced growers and traders to mount armed guard over their plants in the tropical jungle. The traders who travel the world in search of America's favorite flavor are a small and secretive elite. From Papantla in Mexico--"the city that perfumed the world"--to the South Seas, Madagascar, and the Indian Ocean islands, "Vanilla is a globe-trotting adventure that follows buccancers, aristocrats, and gourmets. all in search of the ice cream orchid.

Vanilla is my favorite scent.  I choose it for candles and air fresheners and perfumes and body washes.  I love vanilla flavored food and drinks.  My mother used to laugh at me because I’d go to ice cream parlors and pick vanilla out of the all the flavors.

Did you know:

  • Vanilla was first used in Mexico to flavor chocolate drinks?
  • The vanilla orchid can only be fertilized by a specific bee species in central America which made growing it anywhere else impossible until a young slave boy in Reunion figured out how to fertilize it by hand?
  • Vanilla is hard to grow but the real art comes in slowly drying the pods after they are picked?
  • So much money can be made selling vanilla that warehouses where pods are kept have to be constantly guarded so people don’t steal it?
  • Buying vanilla is mostly a cash business so it is not unusual for buyers to be robbed or murdered sort of like drug dealers?

My vanilla is from Madagascar, where most of the commercial crops comes from now.  In honor of this book I made some vanilla chia seed pudding to enjoy and added some extra vanilla to really appreciate the flavor that is so difficult to make.