A Treatise on Vanilla.
Vanilla is often regarded as a flavor lacking in creativity and style. When I visit an ice cream shop or gelato vendor and decide upon vanilla, my present company always complains that vanilla is not a worthy flavor. They contend that I should select a more unique choice such as the blueberry-cheesecake ice cream or even lemon sorbet; both flavors more deserving of devouring. I understand that this is because vanilla is perceived to be plain, boring, and ordinary. To a degree, there is merit to this argument and vanilla can be considered common-place. However, it is my goal to demonstrate why this construction of vanilla ought to be reconstructed. Two primary arguments drive my reasoning.
First, not all vanillas are created equal. Although I can order vanilla ice cream anywhere, in some instances the quality is drab and in other cases exquisite. This is due to a variety of reasons: perhaps the inferior version was created with unnatural or chemical flavors and sold in bulk creating the dismal flavor of the common vanilla. Still, it can also be crafted with extraordinary fresh, organic, and exotic ingredients creating a masterpiece of vanilla-spiced, chilled, culinary-delight. As a result, it is necessary to sample vanilla ice cream at every opportunity to uncover the true gems.
Image and recipe from Gourmantine's Blog
Second, the unique flavor of the vanilla bean is a taste that can only be appreciated within very few edibles. I would challenge you to think of as many foods as possible that can be constructed to taste like vanilla. To be clear, I am not talking about the chemical or imitation alteration in which food is given a grotesque version of vanilla, nor am I referring to the perfunctory addition of vanilla essence to ordinary cookies, pancakes, and creams. Instead, I am asking you to recall what other foods exist as a legitimate vehicle to deliver the thoughtful vanilla bean flavor to your senses?
Have you thought of vanilla cake? Yogurt? Custard? Pudding? Scones? Maybe a few other desserts? Truthfully, the amount of foods one can use to savor vanilla as a leading ingredient is minimal; few foods adequately deliver vanilla. In fact, ice cream and gelato remain as the most powerful. Therefore, the opportunity to actually enjoy the flavor of vanilla exists only within the occasions in which an individual can consume ice cream.
To further elaborate, almost any other flavor type can be enjoyed without ice cream. For instance, if you want to taste chocolate, you can eat chocolate. If you want to taste raspberries, you can eat raspberries. If you want to taste coffee, you can drink coffee. Although you can order these flavors as ice cream as well, you do not need ice cream to experience them. Inversely, if you want to taste vanilla, can you just eat a vanilla bean? Can you drink a cup of vanilla? No, no you cannot. There is no other reasonable way to enjoy the flavor of vanilla without a suitable vehicle to deliver it. You need ice cream to enjoy vanilla. As such, you can only truly experience vanilla during the opportunities you are eating ice cream or gelato; those opportunities should not be squandered on other flavors.
In sum, vanilla has long been socially scorned as an average and unremarkable flavor with the merits often unsung. It is my hope that the shackles of this assumption may begin to shatter so that we can appreciate vanilla ice cream as a robust and extraordinary treat. Therefore, the next time the prospect arises to explore a rich array of ice cream or gelato; do not scoff at the idea of vanilla. Instead, consider the wisdom of pure vanilla as a flavor worthy of the truly enlightened : ).
Image and recipe from Will Cook for Friends