VANILLA: The Cultural History of the World’s Most Popular Flavor and Fragrance
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By Patricia Rain, Reviewed by Marty Martindale

In this book, Patricia Rain share not only her  enthusiasm for vanilla  but her expertise as an anthropologist a specialty which makes the researcher bring out the special, unusual  facts on her subject. In doing this, she has created the first chronological history of vanilla from prehistory paying attention to the growers who over time have patiently grown it.

Readers will learn vanilla is a member of the orchid family, evolving more than 90 million years ago. She begins with the earliest Mexicans and Central Americans long before the Spaniards came to the Americas in 1519. Scattered throughout the text are interesting prints from vanilla history and a few recipes, one of which is for an early Mesoamerican drink, Atole Dulce de Vainilla. The simple recipe consists of ground corn flour, water, vanilla beans and honey.

Later she tells a story of Creole ladies in Chiapas, southern Mexico who had their maids bring them steaming bowls of hot chocolate to help them endure the tedium of long masses and oratories. This enraged the clergy which led them to attend services in small chapels.

Once vanilla was introduced in Europe and the Jewish people, a recipe for Pomteroon Mousse Pie evolved. The crust contained flour, orange rind, ground almonds, oil and orange juice. The filling was made from bittersweet chocolate, eggs, vanilla extract, egg whites and heavy cream. The recipe was printed from the Jewish Cookery from Boston to Baghdad couresty of Malvina W. Kiebman. Geographically, Madagascar, Indonesia and Tahiti also figure prominently in any history of vanilla.

Rain dedicates interesting space to early U.S. vanilla brands with quaint prints of the early Watkins and Sauer’s vanillas. Her Out of the Cupboard and onto the Table chapter gives much helpful information on the types of vanilla and the proper care of good vanilla.

Her most cross-cultural recipe is Chipotle-Vanilla Salsa and Barbecue Sauce. It is a blend of chipotle chilles in adobo, garlic, cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, broth, vanilla extract and lime juice. She adds, “It’s a marinade or glaze for slow-cooked pork, ribs, beef or grilled chicken … also enlivens a pot of beans or gives a kick to   tofu!”

Ms. Rain’s website is a synopsis of her book at http://www.Vanilla.com. Find vanilla products to shop for, learn how she became Vanilla Queen, interesting topics under “Amazing Vanilla” and her “Culinary” section. It’s a rich site.

Website:  VANILLA

About Marty Martindale

Foodsite Magazine and Marty aim to help the cooking-challenged avoid dependence on others due to lack of cooking knowhow. We concentrate on quick breakfasts, portable lunches and “good-4-u” night meals. With readily available web translation, the magazine explains separate foods, a little of their history, their nutrition, suggested “go-withs,” serving ideas and links to foodsites with recipes.

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