Photo by Allie Bishop Pasquier
How many times has it happened before? A group of people go to get ice cream and everyone orders his or her favorite flavor. First there is mint chocolate chip, then strawberry followed by butter pecan and Rocky Road. Then, one lone man steps forward and in a bold unwavering voice states “One scoop of vanilla in a sugar cone!" Lips curl, eyes roll, some fool chortles and in a derogatory tone says, “Vanilla... it’s so bland.”
This has been my ice cream life. I am a vanilla man and have been since I was a child. I cannot tell you how many times I have taken abuse for the fact that I love vanilla ice cream. It is my belief that vanilla is the most misunderstood of all flavors. People spend a lot of time talking about how it is simple, how it lacks flavor and depth, but this is not so. To discount vanilla is to be a short-sighted. It is easy to make an ice cream packed with all manner of flavors: chocolate, nuts, fruits and herbs. However, to make truly good vanilla ice cream is to be a master of ice cream making.
Vanilla is the most unyielding of flavors; every error that can possibly be found in ice cream will present itself in a single scoop of vanilla. Whenever I buy ice cream from a new store or company my first pick is the most overlooked of flavors. A simple bite and I can tell the quality of the product. What is the butter fat content? How creamy is it? Do they use good quality product to flavor their ice cream? All of these questions and more can be answered with a taste.
Some flavors are over-wrought; they drown in their own selfish needs to be special, to stand out in the crowd. Not vanilla, vanilla knows exactly what it is. It is the ultimate base flavor. Perfect alone, it needs no alteration, but for those who cannot appreciate it for what it is, vanilla is also an excellent canvas. Any topping that can be placed on ice cream pairs perfectly with vanilla. Hot fudge, caramel, whipped cream, chocolate syrup or my personal favorite, butterscotch all are perfect companions to a bowl of the derided flavor. Almost all ice cream novelties at the store contain vanilla in some form or other. Where would Klondike be without vanilla? Drumsticks, Bon Bons, Ice Cream Sandwiches and Fifty-Fifty Bars all contain vanilla. To discount it is to discount all of these as well.
No longer should the vanilla lovers of the world be made to feel ashamed of their favorite flavor. I encourage you, my brethren and all ice cream lovers, to walk into your local ice cream parlor and say loud enough for everyone to hear, “My name is... and I would like a scoop of vanilla, please.”