How vanilla is like Chanel No. 5

The Food Programme, on BBC Radio 4, has been running a little miniseries on spices: cloves, vanilla and mustard. I haven’t yet heard mustard, but cloves and vanilla were interesting, not least because I had no idea vanilla was thriving in Uganda, thanks to Ndali farm and Lulu Sturdy. The programme even prompted Luigi to wonder whether his MiL might be able to grow vanilla in Kenya.

What really caught my attention, though, was when someone called Niki Segnit enthused that:

Vanilla is the Chanel No. 5 of the flavour business.

First of all, I have absolutely no idea what that means. Secondly, I wondered whether she actually knew how right she was, in at least one respect. Ylang-standing readers of this blog will remember that Chanel No 5 “is a blend of entirely synthetic aldehydes, and has been since its launch in 1921“. And vanillin? That was one of the first important flavours to be synthesised, in 1876.

Somehow, I doubt that that is what was meant.

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