On the Virtues of Vanilla


One sexy bean pod

First of all, it's from an orchid.  An orchid!  It's medically considered mildly addictive (!) and historically was an aphrodisiac. 

Yes, indeed, and as it turns out, and I quote:

Vainilla is from the diminutive of vaina, from the Latin vagina (sheath) to describe the way the pod must be split open to expose the seeds.

Oh my.

I'm getting these facts from Wikipedia.  Notably, there is a separate entry for "vanilla sex", which we will get to shortly.  

In the meantime, let's get to know Princess Xanat of Totonac and the origin myth of vanilla.  As a princess, Xanat would have worn feathers in her hair, embroidered skirts, jewelry of shell and jade, and she would have had red tattoos on her face.

[F]orbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, [she] fled to the forest with her lover. The lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, the vine of the tropical orchid grew.

I'm fascinated.  I wanted to learn more about this myth, but could only find replicated material, however, I did finally find the book online that Wiki referenced, Vanilla by Janet Hazen, in case you get really enthused.

The blood and gore of the origin myth isn't the only sacrifice; the demand for vanilla and the monopoly Mexico had on it eventually led to thievery and slave plantations all over the globe, and it was a slave boy who figured out how to manually pollinate the plant.

As a hermaphrodite, it can only self-pollinate with a helpful hand ('ahem'?) or a bee.  The description reminds me of certain sex columns:

[A]n agricultural worker lifts the membrane separating the anther and the stigma, then, using the thumb, transfers the pollinia from the anther to the stigma.  [...] growers have to inspect their plantations every day for open flowers, a labor-intensive task.

I'll say.  This is awfully similar to textbook advice on how to masturbate a woman, coaxing her to 'flower' by opening up her legs, then with perhaps a finger inside, working her natural cervical fluid up from inside her labia to her clitoris with your thumb.

How did something so sexy, desirable and inflammatory come to represent boring and bland?  Something so derogatory?

You say that likes it's a bad thing

I didn't get any negative responses to the ProgressiveErotica project until I visited California.  Particularly San Francisco.  Suddenly I started hearing things like, "Oh, well that sounds a bit vanilla."

The most common flavor of ice cream is vanilla, and thus most people consider it to be the "default" flavor. By analogy, the term "vanilla" is sometimes used as a synonym for "plain".

Plain, conventional, dull.  Plain-old.

Maybe what we should be saying is "vanillin sex"

Now, vanillin, or artificial vanilla, is a byproduct of wood (hah again!), but it is only "one of 171 identified aromatic components of real vanilla beans."  

Synthetically, it's meant to go straight to your nose and tongue.  In taste tests, people can't tell the difference between the soloed vanillin and it's more complex partner, vanilla; but only when it comes to baked goods.  Use vanillin and vanilla in a blind test for ice cream, and people choose vanilla.

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