AT A COMPANY BIRTHDAY FUNCTION last week, a co-worker pushed up on the table and asked, "What kind of ice cream is that - plain?"
"Plain!" I said. "What do you mean plain? It's vanilla! Vanilla is a flavor, too!"
When people want to describe the epitome of Plain Jane, vanilla's the flavor of choice. Vanilla sex... Vanilla Ice...
How has vanilla gotten such a bad rap?
Ooooh. That was bad.During summers, when I was much younger, I would wait until my Mother was safely distracted upstairs, doing something vanilla - like, say, cutting out McCormick sewing patterns. I'd wait until my infant brother was counting sheep. Pops on the factory line at the Lakewood plant, I'd descend downstairs into the kitchen for some 5-year-old freakin!
I'd pull myself up onto the formica countertop, peel open the cupboard like a white linen dress. I'd bypass the swarthy cinammon and persimmon, black pepper and salt, until... until...
Ahhhh.... Vanilla extract.
I'd unscrew the top and then: Wait.
I'd leave the bottle open. Ooh, was I open.
Let vanilla linger. Let the aroma waft through the room. Let me wear vanilla in my hair till I lather in its oils. Let me rub my tongue in it.
La-la-la-la-laaaaaaaa...Aren't those tomatoes still
blushing on the window sill?
Native to the Americas, there are about 150 types of vanilla, though only two types are used commercially. In the 1500's when the vanilla plant first left the Americas for Spain, the Spanish believed it only had value as a perfume. Vanilla grows in the tropics - within the 20-degree latitude band on either side of the equator. Vanilla is the only edible fruit of the orchid family.
Tropical? Edible? Orchid? What's plain about that?
Say it with me: Va. Nil. La.
To say it, you must first bite your lip.
Then, press your tongue to the roof of your mouth.
Now, flick your tongue at your partner and release.Va-nil-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la-la...
I think I hear her coming. Should I climb down?