I've always been in love with Vanilla. Capital V. I thought it the loveliest of scents, and would sniff and sniff at the bottle cap when I was too young to be trusted with that big glass bottle of Watkins that my Mammaw or Mother was using to doctor up a pie or cake or homemade ice cream. It's a good thing it's not really tasty on its own; I remember sticking an adventurous tonguetip down into the lid and being shockingly disappointed at the bitter, mouthfilling taste. Had it been naturally sweet, I’d probably have gone off on a toot of great proportions, climbing a chair to the shelf for my fix, til they caught me nipping at the bottle.
I was forbidden the "grownup" scents: My Mom's, Mammaw's latest bargain from the Avon Lady, my city Aunts' sophisticated, musky-peppery Chanels and Joys---well, maybe a tee-ninecy nip of one of those, if I could insinuate my sneaky self into the guestroom while they were dressing for the day, and the bottle was right there. They were always ready to gladden my heart with a little spritz.
Otherwise, I would make some reason to detour into the kitchen before leaving the house, in order to dab a drop of the lovely vanilla-essence behind my ears and in the crooks of my elbows. I waltzed through the day, confident in my own enticing aroma, and AFTER I discovered cinnamon and oil of clove as a fragrant addition, I must have gone around town for more than a year, faint tan smears on my skin, my whole aura redolent of cookies and pie. Thank goodness dogs are carnivores; I'd have had whole hordes following me home.
And when I was in college (graduated from eau de Watkins and McCormick to Shalimar on my own), my roommate was a graduate student in Chemistry. She worked long hours in the lab after classes, and would come in very late, after I had gone to bed. One semester she was working on synthesizing Vanillin, and I would wake in the darkness, inhale that heavenly scent from her entrance, and smile. I STILL wish they'd bottle that stuff and sell it at Nordstrom. And once, when I had a special date, I got her to take my favorite angora sweater and hang it up near her work-station all day. When I went out that night, I smelled FABULOUS!!
My vanilla bottle (STILL Watkins; we found our own supplier in the Yellow Pages, but now, the proud gleaming glass has been exchanged for plastic) gets a workout nearly every day...we use it in iced tea, pies, cakes, puddings, party punch, as a richening note in several mixed drinks as well as cut and pureed fruit, in coffee, pie crusts, all sorts of breads and muffins and desserts. And I keep a vanilla bean faithfully tucked down into each sugar cannister. I've been known to dab a bit onto a lightbulb, and YES, behind my ears once in a while for old times' sake. Brings back some nice memories, and sometimes makes Chris waltz me across the kitchen to an oldies tune.
And today, just lookin' around for a picture of the familiar old Watkins bottle, at least one of which occupies its special little spot in the fridge door at ALL TIMES, ready for any need---cosmetic included---I came upon THIS:
So what if Vanilla is the quiet, unnoticed kid, the wallflower whose mere presence points up the special attributes of her peers? It adds a lovely undernote, a richness, a depth, an extra level to so many other flavors. Even CHOCOLATE is enhanced by its paler companion, borne up to new heights and enticements. And Vanilla ice cream alone is, if nothing else, quite a good reason for getting up in the morning. So Hooray and Huzzah for whoever found that wonderful plant with its glorious scent and possibilities.
Be still my heart, cause I can't wait to post this and