Wednesday, December 13, 2006


The Vanilla Bean War

It was the most exotic of locations, especially at Christmas. Tana Toraja, in Sulawasi, Indonesia is hot, lush and stormy. Much like my temper regarding the loss of the most exquisite vanilla beans I have ever seen.
I get pissed just thinking about it, and it’s been eleven years since my man and I fought about the vanilla beans. Let me stress, we don’t fight much, and if we do it’s about housework, as I’m a bit of a slob.
It was a busy market day. The early morning sky was a freshly washed robin egg blue. The water buffalo, a prized animal of the region, had been scrubbed within an inch of their lives. With charcoal hides glinting in the sun, their boys walked proudly beside them, gently convincing the buffalo to display their fine physique by tugging the rings in their nostrils. Wire haired pigs, their feet tied to bamboo poles, swayed upside down, keeping time to the men bearing them. Piglets, also upside down, were strapped into open bamboo briefcase like contraptions, and swung as such with each stride of the owner. Stacks of bitter greens, jugs of palm wine, carved boxes, chairs, tables, toiletries….all were tottering in various stalls along the wide, well trampled path. A cacophony assaulted the senses; the chatter of people, the bellow of animals and the air thick and ticklish with smells both good and bad.
And then, the chocolate velvet scent of vanilla. Even now I can feel it on my tongue, my nose, my throat. A gentle memory I can’t quite sink my teeth into.
Following the vanilla path with the conviction of the blind, I walked into a dark, wood walled stall, filled with furniture. I thought ‘this can’t be the place’, but my nose told me otherwise. Sure enough, in a wooden bowl was a fistful of vanilla pods tied together with string. I had never seen or heard of vanilla looking like this. It was crusted with what looked like delicate sugar crystals. The beans were as soft lambskin leather and the aroma made my knees weak. I asked how much and the vendor said “ten dollars American”. In that part of the world it was an extravagant amount of money. I said I’d take them, and that’s when it started.
Being firmly escorted out of the stall, protesting, our argument ensued. He said; they were expensive, I hadn’t bartered, Christmas was coming. The list went on. I was not to buy them, period.
I am no shrinking violet, but for some reason I demurred. Maybe it was the Christmas thing. Perhaps I thought he would sneak back and get them. I gave him every chance to. He never did.
I don’t have many regrets in life; there was the time my gorgeous blond friend wanted me to go away with him for a weekend, there was the extra twenty grand I should held out for when I sold my business, and there was that beautiful, fragrant, twine bound bundle of vanilla beans.


Anonymous Silverfox said...

What an engaging story. I can smell the Vanilla!

I notice a direct link from "He never did." to "regrets in life" to "gorgeous blond friend"...

Can also smell trouble?

Just kidding...


5:23 PM  
Blogger Underground Baker said...

No trouble, just good clean fun!

But you should have seen the look on his face when you mentioned there was a story on the blog with him in it!

I just may have to post more to keep 'im on his toes.

12:19 AM  
Anonymous candyminx said...

Oh that is a rough one. Isn't it horrible feeling broke? I mean my god ten bucks.

This story reminds me of lost shoes I wished I had

11:16 AM  
Blogger Underground Baker said...

We weren't broke!

11:02 PM  

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