Madagascar’s vanilla pods of desire

You want the world’s best vanilla. And you want it fresh. When it’s yours, you’ll make something to show it off. That’s how it usually works, even in history. Now there’s a way to get it, directly from Madagascar.
As a kid, the most boring, (the most “vanilla”), ice cream was that plain white one, used when an ice cream was required that wouldn’t fight with the preserved guavas that were for pudding. Maybe even with the custard your sister insisted on as well, thank heavens.
And remember carefully adding that half teaspoon, sometimes just a fewPreview (opens in a new tab) drops, of liquid from the little vanilla essence bottle into cake mix, scone mixture, fudge, pretty much anything you were making on the sweet scale? You wondered why but that’s what you did. It certainly had a smell, quite a nice one, but you wondered if it tasted of anything really in the things it went into.
Funny, now that you think of it and reach back for the memory tastes of that pudding bowl of guavas, the thing that tasted more of vanilla than the vanilla ice cream was the custard.
Then came the time of French vanilla. A lot of things were suddenly French, perhaps for improvement, at least in concept. But when it had to do with ice cream, it was really the ice cream that was supposed to be French, with egg yolks added to it in the French or custard style, at best turning it from fright white to pale cream.
When it was used to describe the vanilla itself, it was a con, since vanilla is fussy about the degrees latitude (usually between 10 and 20) where it grows and France cannot grow any. However, Madagascar, though no longer in the clutches of France, was often still regarded as being kind of French. The Madagascan vanilla beans are called Bourbon, not for the booze but for the island nearby, Reunion, once called Bourbon. That was where the originally Mexican vanilla beans were first hand-pollinated and established. Madagascar is on the ideal part of the vanilla-growing map and the Bourbon vanilla from there is grown the time-taken, hand-pollinated way, then slowly, coddlesomely cured by experienced hands and that makes an enormous difference to its own special taste. Madagascan vanilla is surely the ultimate Slow Food. Take note there in Bra, Italy.
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