Dec 10, 2008

"Whet" Wednesday

I've been seeing the usual seasonal fruitcakes emerging. I enjoy seeing fruitcake used in traditional Christmas illustrations. Nonetheless, if I can be candid for a moment, I appreciate the eye appeal of fruitcake far more than it's flavor. I don't despise it. I just don't crave it or derive pleasure from eating it. It doesn't "whet" my appetite.

The word "whet" seemed like a flavorful way to launch this post...

Pronunciation: \ˈhwet, ˈwet\
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s):whet·ted; whet·ting
Etymology: Middle English whetten, from Old English hwettan; akin to Old High German wezzen to whet, waz sharp
Date: before 12th century
1 : to sharpen by rubbing on or with something (as a stone)
2 : to make keen or more acute : excite , stimulate — whet·ter noun

So, what is "whetting" my appetite today? With festive baking permeating our thoughts and kitchens, I find myself—as usual—focusing on authenticity. Pure vanilla extract came to mind. I grew up with imitation vanilla in our pantry and frankly didn't care. Then I discovered pure, premium vanilla extract. For me, it's akin to the difference between French Press coffee and percolated and/or drip preparations.
The people at Nielsen-Massey Vanilla's share this history of vanilla on their website.
Vanilla, the (really) early years... It is the ancient Totonaco Indians of Mexico who were the first keepers of the secrets of vanilla. When they were defeated by the Aztecs, they were demanded to relinquish their exotic fruit of the Tlilxochitl vine, vanilla pods. When, in turn, the Aztecs were defeated by the conquering Spaniard, Hernando Cortez, he returned to Spain with the precious plunder - vanilla beans - which were combined with cacao to make an unusual and pleasing drink. For eighty years, this special beverage was only enjoyed by the nobility and the very rich. Then, in 1602, Hugh Morgan, apothecary to Queen Elizabeth I, suggested that vanilla could be used as a flavoring all by itself, and the versatility of the exotic bean was finally uncovered.

The distinctive difference in Nielsen-Massey Vanilla's is that they take weeks to cold press their products as opposed to the 3-day mass produced vanilla that we are accustomed to. They understand that quality supersedes greed. Their product line includes extracts in these tantalizing bursts of flavor: Pure Coffee, Orange, Lemon, Peppermint, Chocolate, Orange Blossom, and Rose Water. For quick trips to the exotic, try Mexican Pure Vanilla, Tahitian Pure Vanilla, or Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla. If you are not already tempted, how about adding Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Sugar to select beverages?

These products are not available directly from this company's website; however, Trader Joes, Sur La Table, Williams-Sonoma, and The Baker's Catalogue all carry a variety of their products.

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  1. You are so right. I think this is the best vanilla I have ever used.

  2. I have a large bottle (already used up one) from someone's mission trip to Nicaragua. You have to go easy on the real stuff!

  3. I like adding just a splash of vanilla to my cocoa, made from scratch from an old Hershey's can recipe. Always used the imitation vanilla, as I can't afford the real stuff, so I have no idea how the taste would differ. I'd like to try and make my own sometime though. xxoo

  4. Wanted to wish you a happy weekend...hugs...m..


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♫ Karen