August 29, 2013

WILLIAMS: Feeling a little vanilla


---- — In my day, I was known as a primo baker and I still do bake quite a bit. One of the most indispen-sable ingredients any baker can have in her pantry is vanilla. I’ve always used lots of vanilla and it has to be pure, not the imitation kind.

Like everything else, vanilla has skyrocketed in price. I don’t know why. Maybe there is a world vanilla bean shortage. I used to buy a bottle of pure vanilla for a couple of bucks. Now 2 ounces costs about $8, so if you were one of those survivalist types who are preparing for, well, whatever it is they are preparing for, and decided you couldn’t face the end of the world without vanilla, you’d have to pony up about $500 to buy a gallon of the stuff.

I gripe a lot about the vanilla situation. My friends give me looks like – “seriously? With the major problems you have, you’re obsessing about vanilla?”

Well, yes, because obsessing about Mom’s mental state is much sadder and you can’t do anything about it. Better to fuss about vanilla.

As we’ve gotten older, my friends and I don’t make as much of birthdays as we used to. The trips fell away, then the gifts fell away, then the cards fell away. These days, we usually make a phone call. If we’re lucky, it might even be on time.

So I wasn’t expecting much for my birthday this year except good wishes. Then Jan brought me eight (count’em eight!) bottles of vanilla, both large and small.

“I cleaned out my pantry,” she said, “and brought you all I had.”

“Why did you have eight bottles of vanilla, Jan, when you never, ever bake?”

But really, I knew why. Because Jan is a hoarder. She was a survivalist before anyone knew what a survivalist was — although not for any particular reason.

“When was the last time, you used vanilla, Jan?”

“Hmmm,” she said, “I don’t remember ever using vanilla.”

I was thrilled. I gloated every time I looked at my shelf and saw eight bottles of vanilla sitting there.

Then Brenda came over to wish me a happy birthday – and handed me a large bottle.

“Surprise,” she said, “I know we don’t exchange gifts anymore but you’re always going on about vanilla so I thought I’d get you some.”

“Wow,” I said, “what a considerate thing to do – thanks a lot!”

Then Glenda came over to wish me a Happy Birthday and with a big smile on her face, she gave me a small little pink sack with a bow.

“See,” she said happily, “I remembered how you are about vanilla.”

LeAnn’s birthday package was a little late but, yeah, when I opened it, there were two bottles of vanilla with a card that said – “Happy Birthday and Happy Baking!”

So, there you go. I now have 11 bottles of vanilla in my cupboard.

You probably figure I’m pretty happy, huh? And, really, I am, except now I fret about having too much vanilla. I look at those 11 bottles and feel pressed to bake, bake, bake!

After all, at my age, I don’t want to run out of birthdays before I run out of vanilla.

Vicki Williams is a columnist for the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached through the newspaper at