Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Vanilla and a painful past.

Reading a blog recently made me think about smells, it may have been The Curates Egg. How could my thoughts about the smell and taste of ice cream on holiday, lead me to Nantes?

The capital town of Brittany used to be Nantes, but these days it is Rennes, which is about a 40 minutes or so drive away from here, I would like to visit Nantes sometime because I believe that it has some interesting old buildings and architecture.

I was researching Vanilla, lovely stuff isn't it I love the smell, and the taste, especially the real thing not the manufactured type. The vanilla seeds come from orchids, and vanilla was used long ago by the Aztecs, they used it in drinks with that other gorgeous thing we love chocolate.

The use of vanilla in Europe takes us to the French Departément No 974 better known as La Reunion, or The Island of Reunion situated in the Indian Ocean.

The vanilla plant was introduced into Europe, around about 1500, but they were difficult to cultivate, however in 1819, small vanilla plants were brought to Cayenne, La Réunion island.
This is where Edmond Albius enters the story he was the son of a slave on the Island of Reunion. He becomes an important name in this story because at the age of 12, he invented a technique for pollinating vanilla orchids. So after this sucess the technique was introduced to the neighboring islands of Madagascar, Comoro and Santa Maria.

I stumbled upon some interesting information explaining lots about the orchids and the history about the lovely black seeds which give us the taste and smell of vanilla.
Link here about Vanilla.
Link here about Edmond.
And so of course I wondered about Edmond's mother who was a slave and that brings me back to Nantes, which sadly like some other ports, like Liverpool, became rich because of their involvement in the slave trade.

Link here about Nantes breaking the taboo.

Like I said I haven't been to Nantes but I have ventured to Rennes, so that will have to be todays picture!.

Old Timbered buildings in Rennes Colombarge.

The French word for Pod is gousse.

The French word to be in chains or shackles is entrave.

Etymology for the word slave.

Etymology for the word vanilla.....well I never knew that!



Vanilla soap the best. I love my little French lesson :) TFx

claire p said...

I now know something I didn't this morning, thanks.

Vanilla is one of the smells that brings lots of lovely images. Really good vanilla ice cream ummmmm.

Diane said...

I'm allergic to perfume but there are certain scents I can wear without getting sick... vanilla is one... I love it :)

LadyFi said...

Wow - those buildings remind me of the Tudor/Elizabethan buildings in the UK... How old are they?

A lovely pic and lovely post - I do love vanilla - but not as ice cream!

Blu said...

soap, ice cream, scent, umm nice.

I do have some vanilla scent but it is very strong!

I dont know how old the buildings are, but very old haaa.

Henry the Dog's Mum said...

I adore vanilla and, like Diane, it is one of only two perfumes I can wear and even then only in oil form, so I guess I must smell like it all the time. Interesting post. I have been to Nantes - one of our friends works at the airport there. The old part is lovely, but now I want to see Rennes too, it looks a bit like Troyes.

French Fancy said...

We spent a fabulous weekend in Nantes a few years ago. It really is full of café culture - lots of al fresco dining in a covent garden quite chichi kind of way. Needless to say I loved it.

I also love vanilla flavoured things, especially my icecream that I stick into the little machine and try and stick my spoon in the gap, whilst everything is still churning round and round. I know I shouldn't but it is the illicit tastes that are the best.

bindu said...

How interesting! I didn't know vanilla is pollinated by hand. And how sad that Edmond died in poverty and obscurity after his contribution that made everyone rich.

The Accidental Fan said...

Have you noticed in French furniture shops the slightly non-pc statues dotted around holding trays and fans behind sofas and chairs?

Blu said...

I didn't know that vanilla is pollinated by hand either and yes I thought how sad that Edmond who I had never heard of died in poverty.

French fancy makes a weekend in Nantes sound lovley.

I have noticed the slightly non-pc statues. France is very non pc but I feel that the UK has gone too far the other way.

Lee said...

Mmmm....real vanilla is lovely. Stay away from the fake stuff - it is actually a by-product of paper manufacture.

Robyn said...

Lovely old buildings and cobbled streets. I also love the smell of vanilla.....and the taste of vanilla in hot chocolate sauce poured over icecream...yum