Vanilla Catastrophe

I like to think of myself not exactly as a foodie but as someone who is really interested in cooking. I enjoy cooking for people. I read cookbooks like novels. I’ve collected dozens of cookbooks. Some rarely get used, and that’s okay. Having them on my kitchen shelves comforts me—until it’s time to dust. Only during that annual event do I weakly contemplate donating a few of the less interesting ones.

So last year when I discovered homemade vanilla extract, I knew I wanted to bake with my own vanilla. In October, I ordered a kit that included everything but the vodka. When the clear bottle and five vanilla beans arrived in my mailbox, I was ready with the full bottle of vodka that had moved with us from Charlotte to Pittsburgh to Smithfield over a period of twenty-four years.

I split the beans, stuffed them into the bottle, and poured in about eight ounces of vodka. I closed the rubber stopper and pushed the wire holder in place to seal in the goodness. Every few days, I’d gaze at the brew, shake it a few times, and dream of the delicious cookies we’d make with this real vanilla created with my own hands.

Finally, in early December, we were ready to make our twelve different kinds of Christmas cookies, and the bottle of amber colored liquid stood ready in the pantry. I’d carefully measure the desired amount needed for a recipe, and at the end of the baking session, I’d pour in more vodka. I trusted that I’d never run out of vanilla again. Perpetual vanilla.

I’m sure I didn’t imagine that the cookies tasted better this year than ever before. I enjoyed the compliments. I enjoyed my mother’s appropriate surprise and pride as she examined the bottle, and I felt a little tingle when she exclaimed, “Our people used to make their own vanilla! Granny Lane’s sister used to.” She would be my great-great aunt. Cool.

And then—this morning.

I baked a strawberry cheesecake for my sons. I baked a Swedish Nut Cake for a Bible study. I’d just replenished the bottle with three teaspoons of vodka and was pushing the wire clamp back down to seal it, when the unthinkable happened.

The bottle slipped from my hands and shattered all over my granite counter top. I froze. Visions of all the goodies I’d thought about baking this year evaporated as the precious liquid dotted with tiny flakes of real vanilla beans spread over the counter’s edge and dripped onto my floor. Several minutes passed before I could move. In fact, my husband, recognizing my shock, started cleaning the mess first.

The upside to this fiasco is that I have some twenty-four-year-old vodka left and the beans, too. When Kevin returns with a new bottle, I can start all over again.

Oh, and my kitchen smells wonderful.

FYI-my homemade vanilla extract infusion kit came from


Posted on January 26, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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