To anyone as long in the tooth as the more unfortunate among us may be, "vanilla" as a metaphor for wussiness ("a vanilla personality") is incomprehensible. Even in its present synthetically debased state, vanilla is perennially by far the most popular ice cream flavor, outselling the place and show finishers, chocolate and strawberry, combined. For those of us who predate the baby boom generation, genuine vanilla is a sensory tattoo that will accompany us to our graves; it's unexpungeably a memory of our skins and taste buds and nasal passages: a flavor and scent poignantly evocative of small-town, slow-paced America, which Norman Rockwell strove to capture. To enter an ice cream parlor or soda fountain before the late 1950s was to immerse oneself in a sweet cleanliness, a wicked innocence, the most antiseptically seductive sensory experience that life had to offer. The heady bouquet of real vanilla was an amalgam of innocence and experience that left prepubescent kids yearning for nothing they could put a label to; it broke your heart before you knew you had one. It was the diametrical opposite of the blandness with which it's associated today.
Jay Jacobs, from The Eaten Word: The Language of Food, the Food in Our Language
Woman Pouring Hot...
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