Thursday, October 07, 2004

I bought a vanilla bean.

That's right. I bought one whole vanilla bean; an organic Bourbon vanilla bean to be exact (incidentally, it has nothing to do with the liquor - it comes from the Bourbon Islands.) It came in your standard spice jar. You know, the kind that holds oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper and what not. The only difference is, this jar was conspicuously empty. The only other spice that comes in a jar this empty is saffron. And here's the kicker: I paid $6.99 for it!! That's right; you didn't misread. I am truly a moron. I admit that freely - so there's no need to point and laugh at me. I know that I'm not a smart man.

So, you might be wondering what would possess me to buy an organic Bourbon vanilla bean (and then again you may have already switched over to The Spice House to find out if I'm telling the truth about the Bourbon.) Well, I'll tell you. I'll tell you exactly why I decided to plop down seven of my hard-earned clams for one tiny vanilla bean. I am a cooking nut. I love to cook. I admit that freely. Given the choice between cleaning house and cooking, I will choose the blessed act of cooking every time. Heck, I'd even choose cooking over driving to work! That's right, you heard me! I like it. I like it a lot. Anyway, on this particular occasion I was following a recipe for fruit compote - a simple concoction made of fresh fruit, sugar, lemon juice and said vanilla bean. Having never used an actual vanilla bean before I was a little hesitant to part with so much moolah (pronounced moo-lah) for one little turd-looking item. But in addition to being a cooking nut I'm also OCD. So I had to follow the recipe to the letter. So buy it I did. I start sauteeing the apples (use apples, pears or peaches) in butter and began preparing the bean. So, I just spent 7 samolees (prounounced cash-ish) on this thing and I'm pretty much expecting it to sing to me or clean up after itself or something. At the very least I expected it to smell like paradise warmed over, but as I was scooping the goodness out of the bean it was suspiciously lacking in seven-dollar-smell'um. But I pressed on. I plopped it in the simmering apple pieces, added the lemon juice and sugar and pulled up a chair. I began expecting greatness. And you know what? That old saying, "Greatness comes to those who pull up a chair and drink wine while waiting for it" is actually true! The room started filling with the aroma of the Bourbon Islands. Sweet, nectary, naked Bourbonese vanilla. Okay, it was really more of a subtle smell, but very nice. So the concoction was finally ready and I dipped a spoon into the buttery sweetness. Again, I expected resounding trumpets and angels singing - but instead was greeted with a merely pleasant flavor/smell sensation. But you know what? I would do it again. I would and will. You see, its sort of like wine. Sure, you can spend $6 for a gallon of box wine, or you can spend $8 for a bottle of decent wine. You make the choice. Is it worth $2 to you to not rot your innards with chemically infused purple water? Then take it even further. You can spend $20 for a darn nice bottle of wine; but the differential is not as great as the difference between sludge and $8 wine. True connoisseurs, however, will gladly pay the $20 even for that subtle difference. Well, its the same with vanilla. Do you want the "homemade" vanilla that the weird Russian lady down the hall keeps trying to pawn off on you, or some decent vanilla extract from the store? Or, is what you really want the finest that Vanilla-dom has to offer - the Bourbon vanilla bean for $6?


Anonymous said...

I guess if I had to choose, I'd go for the $8 bottle of wine and the $6 vanilla, since there's no need to further skimp and get the extract since I already have a whole bottle of alcohol.

cindym said...

You can reuse that vanilla bean for quite awhile, making it a long-term investment rather than just a one-time splurge. At least, that's how I explain it to myself.