Why this book?
What a thoughtful, mysterious, magical, dark, and satisfying book. A great mix of history and travel memoir. Ecott details the deep myths circulating around vanilla and orchids in general over the past few centuries. He performed amazing on-the-ground research on the island of Reunion (off the coast of Madagascar), piecing together the real history of the first person to hand-pollinate the vanilla orchid, an enslaved boy named Edmund Albius. I found his story both soul-wrenching and an index to the possible lives of enslaved people we have no record of.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
From Papantla in Mexico-"the city that perfumed the world"-to the Indian Ocean islands, Vanilla traces the story of the vanilla plant and its secretive trade. From the golden cups of Aztec emperors to the ice-cream dishes of U.S. presidents, Vanilla has mystified and tantalized man for centuries. The only orchid that produces an agriculturally valuable crop, vanilla can mask unpleasant tastes and smells, but also makes pleasant tastes stronger, smoother, and longer lasting. Because it has over four hundred separate flavor components, choosing premium vanilla beans is as complex as judging the aroma and taste of fine wine. Vanilla finds…