They call this vanilla, I believe. Alarm, snooze, alarm again. A quiet walk along the same path with the dog. Shower. Coffee and breakfast at eight. Black for me, cream and sugar for you. Toast, yogurt, fruits. Frosted cereal soaked until soggy in milk, in the yellow and blue bowl.
© Mary Sauer
Headlines and the morning radio. Soft jazz, then the weekday unfolds. The evening is quiet; dinner and the dishes – I scrub and you rinse. Legs intertwined on the couch and the dog-eared pages of two books. A date on Friday night spills into a picnic or the movie theater on Saturday. Ice cream on Sunday afternoon, in the sun, to fight the dusk before it comes.
On the cone, chocolate strawberry for you. Vanilla for me. Our lips touch where the flavors meet; vanilla seeps into everything.
There is a joy in the actual taste of vanilla ice cream that does not come from knowing the chemical formula of vanilla.
Two hundred and fifty components at least for that soft, sweet, slightly creamy feel. The most common, recognizable, beloved flavor in the world is one of its rarest and most complex; it must contain at least 1.6% vanillin, which costs 2 to 3,000 dollars a kilogram.
Vanillin is found in vanilla seeds made from a rare species of climbing orchid, the only one of the thousands in the world to bear an edible fruit. The plant must be at least three years old to flower. When it does, it is only for a day. It must be pollinated by hand, the beans picked, dried, nurtured for months.
Vanilla was considered so valuable that the Aztecs reserved it for nobility. Emperor Montezuma put it in his hot chocolate. Cortés took it from Mexico to Spain. Vanilla was wild till a twelve-year-old slave domesticated it, in 1841. Then vanilla became boring and no one paid attention to it anymore.
There is a joy, an inherent aliveness in the body that you can experience if you pay attention to your body,
Less than 1% of the world’s vanilla flavor comes from the actual bean. Madagascar Bourbon, smoky Indonesian, fruitier Mexican, Tahitian. And yet 18,000 metric tons a year are needed for food and drink, tobacco, confections, and liquors.
Vanilla rounds out bitter notes, enhances fruit flavors, adds creaminess, balances sweetness. There is vanilla in chocolate, strawberry, caramel, coconut, lemon ice cream, fragrances, scented candles, medication, steak rubs, insect repellants, rubber tires, plastic.
but if you live up in your head, in your words all the time, you don't notice it.
- Charles Tart
Or that you are happy, and just how good and rich this vanilla life tastes.
Evening on a weekday. A quiet walk along the same path with the dog, again. Not too much conversation, no need; our hands do most of the talking. The ice cream parlour is still open. Shall we? Ice cream in November, why not. On a cone please, chocolate strawberry for you. Vanilla for me.
Some have crossed oceans, conquered land, waged wars, paid $600 a kilogram for this taste. I lick it off as it dribbles down the cone. I am just lucky, I suppose.
Pour toi mon chéri.