I Like it Vanilla

Below is another reworked piece, originally titled Wake Up Blitzen.

First Published April 02, 2008

My favourite flavour of ice cream is vanilla. The typical responses by my peers to my simple assertion of preference span the chasm of shocked disbelief to bemusement. Those who delight in two scoops of Triple Chocolate Orgasm cannot fathom why someone might choose to forgo such an overwhelming sensory delight in favour of a bonne bouche that is entirely non-diverting.

The fear of condemnation for being boring and possessing the sexual charisma of a limp husk, led me to query the etymological connection between “vanilla” and “plain” or “ordinary.” It began in America in the 1970s, and most commonly meant “conventional, of ordinary sexual preferences.” Using “vanilla” today still describes the ever broadening list of common sexual practices, and the metaphor of an all white dessert of simple flavour standing in for three and a half minutes of missionary sex is a natural one.

However, if one mines the encyclopedias and dictionaries with perseverance, one finds an odd nugget – a most curious accident of history. The word “vanilla” derives from the Spanish word “vainilla” which finds its roots in the latin “vagina.” Named by 18th century conquistadors for the plant’s resemblance to our favourite part of the female anatomy.

Our unassuming dessert choice finds its origins marked by an overt sexual reference. Double Fudge Brownie Explosion may cause women to press their knees together while their eyes roll back in ecstasy, but cannot claim any definable connection to the world of sex, unlike trusty vanilla.

So I await my next dessert date down at the Malt Shoppe, where she will undoubtedly spoon mouthfuls of Rocky Road and I, meek and mild, will just as surely have a bowl of naturel. But with a raised eyebrow and a grin, I will draw her attention to a spoonful of my ice and ask “remind you of anything?”

Robin Lindsay



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