Vanilla is reputed in aromatherapy circles to be an aphrodisiac. When I hear things like that I usually make a loud, rude, imaginary raspberry, then I quickly dismiss the idea. Superstitions of this kind lead to the extermination of species. So I had completely forgotten about this bean’s reputation when I was preparing my first batch of vanilla extract. I was tired and grumpy after an evening of nagging my kids to finish their homework, practice piano and brush their teeth, but as I sliced the oily beans and scraped out the caviar, I relaxed. The silence was blissful. The aromas inebriating. Scooping up gobs of caviar gave me a heady, giddy feeling. I did not, however, go disturb my husband who was minding his own business watching baseball, nor did I deviate in any other way from the immediate task at hand. So the bean failed the James Joyce test (when Ulysses was on trial for being obscene apparently a judge took the book home to read in bed. He reported back to the court that it did not cause any of the physiological reactions usually associated with pornography. This served as proof that the book was art, not obscenity). Although vanilla can’t be called art, there is something special about its aroma. Along with freshly cut grass, clean babies or dirt after a rain shower, some smells just make you happy.


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