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Talking to a friend recently, she commented “Oh, that’s so vanilla.”

I replied “I like vanilla.”

Her response “You would. You’re weird. Vanilla is boring and bland.”

I did not take her assessment of me as an insult. Yes, in fact I am weird. Happily so. I was more miffed about her insult of vanilla.

Vanilla is many things, but boring and bland. No.

Take vanilla ice cream. It has a subtle yet distinct flavor. Its smooth yet subtle taste makes it the perfect ice cream for hot fudge sundaes. Neither overpowering nor getting lost in the warm, chocolaty goodness of the hot fudge. Nor does it get outshined by the sweet, creamy flavor of the whipped cream. Vanilla ice cream is also perfect for adding chocolate jimmies to. (For those of you not from Massachusetts, more than likely you call them chocolate sprinkles.) Again the vanilla flavor neither overpowers nor is lost in the chocolate bits.

The scent of vanilla is comforting and soothing. As with the flavor it is neither overpowering nor weak. Unlike so many scents it is not sickeningly sweet or bitter and sharp. When baking with vanilla the scent lingers but not too long, nor is the lingering scent unpleasant as so many can be. Far too many food smells delightful when cooking, but the scent that lingers hours to a day afterward, not so much.

Nilla wafers the quintessential childhood favorite with its subtle vanilla flavor and crunchy, crumby, bite. Yum. They are not just for lunchtime snacks anymore. They are used as the base for cheesecakes, banana pudding, tiramisu and Key Lime pie just to name a few. All delicious desserts enhanced by vanilla.

Vanilla, bland, not a chance. It is strong without overpowering. Subtle without being lost. It is comforting and soothing when edges are frayed and frazzled. Boring, hardly. Vanilla is versatile while remaining wonderfully independent.

So for those who still mock vanilla as bland and boring. I have to laugh. They are so very wrong.

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