I sometimes get messages from people pointing me to bargain deals they find on vanilla beans online, but I’m happy to spend a bit more on the top-quality beans that my friend Patricia Rain sources, someone who’s dedicated herself to doing the right thing for the native farmers by working to ensure that the producers she works with get their fair-share of the profits. I suppose it would be different if I was going through a few kilos of vanilla beans a week, but for a couple of beans I split and use per month making Vanilla Ice Cream or adding to a batch of jam, paying an extra couple of dollars per year is money I consider very well-spent. Especially when I pull a slender bean from my stash, roll it around, and take a whiff of the tiny, fragrant seeds that cling to my fingers. The smell of pure vanilla is perhaps the most complex, captivating smell I can think of. We’re often faced with lots of choices in the marketplace.
And when we are, lots of reasons come into play; economics, quality, price, convenience and politics. For most of us, we’re fortunate that we have the freedom to decide for ourselves what each of us wants to do. But often the things we buy do have a direct effect on local economies, and vanilla, being the most labor-intensive and highly-prized crop in the world, has led to a great deal of violence in the regions where it’s cultivated between growers and rustlers. Many less-fortunate people depend on getting a fair-price for their beans, which directly affects their livelihoods.
I’m happy to have a supplier that I respect and trust, and who’s dedicated her life and business to working to ensure her products are both of the highest quality and benefit the growers and producers as well. So each time I take that little brown bottle of vanilla from my kitchen cabinet and take a sniff before adding a few drops to whatever I’m baking, I’m gratified for the wonderful scent she’s given me and happy that a very small amount of something can perhaps have a very positive impact.
Visit Patricia Rain and read more about her vanilla and her relationship with the growers at Vanillaqueen.com