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Vanilla: Travels in Search of the Ice Cream Orchid
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Vanilla: Travels in Search of the Ice Cream Orchid

3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  105 ratings  ·  22 reviews
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 ma ...more
Published December 1st 2007 by Grove Press (first published 2004)
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Rebecca Huston
A very entertaining but slight exploration of the role that vanilla has played in modern day life. There are stories of how it's grown and processed, the rather cutthroat trade in vanilla today, and some serious questions. I could have wished that there had been some maps and illustrations included to help flesh out the story, but unfortunately, there wasn't any. Still, anyone interested in the culture of vanilla should find this one worth seeking out. Four stars overall and recommended.

For the
More reviews available at my blog, Beauty and the Bookworm.

So, I have a thing about food. It's no secret. I have a fabulous metabolism now, but let me tell you, when I get older, I am going to be so fat because I love to eat. A lot. Vanilla was just my latest foray into the world of books about food. And let me tell you, if you're looking for a book about food to read on vacation, this is a great one. I took it with me to Maine, which was lovely but was nonetheless a far cry from the tropical ar
Mar 28, 2015 Rebecca rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone with a passionate history in the spice trade
Recommended to Rebecca by: n/a
This book is everything you hope for on such a fantastic topic... it gives an edifying and educational view of the history, economics, horticulture, and industry of vanilla, good, bad, and unique. But what truly makes this book stand out from so many others like it is the author's writing style and shared experiences. This author did not just read as much as he could about vanilla, then write about his research. Tim Ecott clearly spent much of his time deeply ingrained and "on the ground" in the ...more
Perrin Pring
I had high hopes for this book, and I was a little let down. Orchids fascinate me and I was hoping for an in depth look at not only the human history behind the vanilla trade, but the science behind the vanilla orchid as well. What I got was more like a travel book with a political vanilla overtone. In the beginning of the book Ecott states that he loves islands and has spent his whole life trying to figure out how to work on and travel to islands. As a result, sometimes I felt like the book was ...more
Text Addict
Too much a travelogue - though of course the title says "travels" so I suppose it should get a pass on that. The problem is that when I read a single-subject history, I'm looking for something like Mark Kurlansky's Salt: A World History, and this isn't it. Still, it does seem to cover the basic history and biology of the vanilla plant, and a bunch of the economic and business aspects of it too.

When he was visiting Madagascar, he talked to some women who were sorting vanilla beans, and one of th
Linda C
Ecott covers the history and development of the vanilla industry in the leading producer countries: Mexico, Reunion (island in Indian Ocean), Tahiti, and Madagascar. He also goes to a processing plant in Illinois for a tour and visits a self-proclaimed Vanilla Queen in California. Each has their own legends and secrets; many secrets. The lack of maps was annoying. And I find that in the final assessment it was interesting but not riveting.

After having read and thoroughly enjoyed 'Banana', a colleague lent me 'Vanilla'. Unfortunately, the story of vanilla is not as gripping. The plant is not about to die out. It has not led to invasive government policy. And frankly, the book is not quite as engagingly written, but perhaps, that is just the subject matter. It was interesting to learn about the history of vanilla, but I'm not sure it was worth the time.
I love when a book teaches me something and this was just such a book! The author takes you on a trip around the world to find out the history of vanilla and economics that surround it and let me tell you, who never knew vanilla was such a cutthroat business! Easy to read and well written, this one gets a full 5 stars from me!
Christine Canaria
Even though there were no grounds for it, I thought this was going to be like a "Vanilla" version of Feather's by Thor Hanson. Sometimes there was too much imagery and not enough economics for me, I did like the dips into history though. It has it's ups and downs, but overall this book was more enjoyable than not.
Carson McFarlane
I love books like this...the history of this once exotic, now world reknowned bean of flavour. Fascinating information, yet another reason why I'd like to visit Madagascar. Amazing how complicated these little beans are to pollinate and to process!
Fascinating look inside the business of trading and cultivating of vanilla. Who knew that the spice trade was still so cutthroat? It has a brief history and then a more intensive overview of how it's all run today.
George Girton
This is one of the best business books I have ever read. I got it for everyone in my family last Christmas. This book has it all. Of course, if you already know everything about vanilla -- go ahead and skip it.
David R.
I had no idea what the background story for "plain old vanilla" would be like. Ecott paints a story of often desperate struggle as he depicts the economics of this exotic plant.
Ecott has written a solid food micro-history. For my complete review, please see
Becky Pliego
Apr 15, 2012 Becky Pliego rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Food lovers with a passion for traveling.
Great book for those who love history, food, and traveling. Tim Ecott is a journalist doing his job, and does it well.
Jul 06, 2011 Janice marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
I think the interesting information about vanilla was in the first couple of chapters. After that, it was snoozeville.
Rob Godfrey
Well written, fascinating stories, had to put down. I'm clearly building a collection of these 'history of..' books.
Made me really want to journey to see the vanilla orchid in bloom in the Mexican jungle. Fascinating story.
Julie Klett
An interesting exploration of vanilla - history, socio-economics, geography, botany, etc. Very well written.
An eye-opening account of the pre-plate world of vanilla.
At $500/Kg raw vanilla is my favorite drug.
Aaron Brown
This book is a fascinating good time!
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