Vanilla by Patricia Rain – All you ever wanted to know about the history and production of vanilla. While I typically like “food” books, this one was a little boring to me, honestly. I found it hard to follow the strange-sounding names and locations (a map of Mexico for context would have been nice in the early chapters). The chapters were often sectioned off by location (Indonesia, India, Mexico, etc.) with a thorough history of vanilla within each location and many details about how vanilla is produced; I found this hard to follow as well.
What I did find fascinating were some of the tidbits and stories about American brands (McCormick, Coca-Cola, etc.) and vanilla’s involvement, as well as the biology bits about vanilla and what makes it so challenging to produce:
- It takes approximately 3-4 years for a vanilla plant to start flowering.
- Then, you have a very short period to hand-pollinate the flowers.
- Then, it takes approximately 8-9 months for the bean to develop and ripen.
- Then, it takes another 3 months to cure the bean.
- It’s a dangerous job to be in the vanilla business, as thieves are willing to rob and even kill to get their hands on your vanilla beans.
Also interesting were random vanilla facts that I picked up along the way:
- The plant and flowers and beans have no ‘vanilla’ scent! The beans only develop the complex vanilla flavors after the curing process.
- Most of the world’s vanilla is produced in Madagascar.
- Scientists still don’t have a full understanding of the organic chemicals that make up vanilla’s flavor.
If you’re more into history and culture than I am, you might find this book interesting; if you’re more into food like I am, just skim the book or read the back cover, which lists the most interesting vanilla facts!
Death of a Gossip, Death of a Cad and Death of an Outsider by M.C. Beaton – New-to-me mystery series to read, hooray! Recommended on Orson Scott Card’s blog. Follows Hamish Macbeth, a gentle Scotsman who is a small-town police detective and tries very hard not to be promoted. (See full list of novels at wikipedia.)
To Buy or Not to Buy Organic? by Cindy Burke – Excellent book. Longer review coming.
The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith – Fourth book in the “Sunday Philosophy Club” series. Isabel Dalhousie faces various challenges including raising her son Charlie, trying to love her difficult niece, Cat, being ousted in an underhanded fashion from her position as editor of the Review of Applied Ethics, and solving the mystery of possibly forged paintings. Smith’s books are always a delight to read; I think part of the charm is how much he shares of the inner thoughts of his characters. Isabel especially seems to overthink situations and is all the more “real” for it.
With a bookmark: (Books I just started reading, or books I’ve been “reading” for ages. Most recent first.)
- Love Over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith
- Sacred Attitudes by Erica Ross-Krieger
- Body, Soul, and Baby by Tracy Gaudet
- What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff, Arlene Eisenberg, and Sandee Hathaway
- The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
- A Long Obedience in the Same Direction by Eugene Peterson
In the library book box:
- Liquid Jade by Beatrice Hohenegger
- Harriet Bean and the League of Cheats by Alexander McCall Smith
- The Five Lost Aunts of Harriet Bean by Alexander McCall Smith
- The Perfect Hamburger and Other Delicious Stories by Alexander McCall Smith
- Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
- Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star by Brandon Mull
- How to Pick a Peach by RussParsons
- The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp, M.D.
- So That’s What They’re For! by Janet Tamero