Hugs and Vanilla…

Notes from the journal… for Colleen
10 September 2017

I picked up one of my nieces a few nights ago at the airport. She had flown in from Ft. Lauderdale, escaping Hurricane Irma. I got my first real hug in a long time. It was one of those hugs that leaves you feeling loved and quietly energized instead of strangely bereft and alone. I pondered this as I sipped my coffee this morning.

Which leads me to vanilla…
Vanilla is derived from an orchid. It originated in Mexico, and was unknown in Europe until its introduction by Cortes in the 1520’s (the same as chocolate).

Due to the unique structure of the flower it is unable to self-pollinate, and for 300 years attempts to cultivate vanilla outside its native region proved futile. Apparently no one recognized the special role played by a small stingless bee of the genus Melipona, a bee indigenous only to Mesoamerica. The bee knew instinctively how to work its way to the inside of the flower, pollinating it in the process. Attempts at bee colonization elsewhere were unsuccessful. It was finally learned how to effectively pollinate by hand, and that is how almost all vanilla production is done today.

The main flavoring component in vanilla is the chemical compound vanillin. It is what gives vanilla its characteristic flavor and aroma. Most vanillin today is created synthetically however, as a byproduct of the papermaking industry, and this is what flavors most artificial vanilla products. Yet vanillin is only one of more than 170 aromatic components of real vanilla.

and so this brings us back to hugs…
Hugs should always be real. We should either ban artificial hugs forever to the land of nowhere, or agree on a sign, “Oops, [giggle] fake hug!” The older I get the more real hugs tend to come from old buddies who I haven’t seen in a long time, or an aunt or cousin with whom I had a special connection… and they continue to come from nieces who are still full of life and love.

Long live real love, real vanilla, and real hugs.

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