Answer: The dried vanilla pod, source of vanilla flavoring, comes from a member of the orchid family.
June 20th is National Vanilla Milkshake Day. Since I’m more inclined to order a chocolate-flavored shake, I was surprised to learn that vanilla ice cream is more popular with most other people.
According to Investor.com in 2012, an International Ice Cream Association survey revealed that vanilla ice cream is number one with 92% of its participants’ customers. (But a 2011 Rasmussen survey showed that women prefer chocolate!)
Vanilla is originally from a part of Mesoamerica in modern-day Mexico. The flavor was introduced to the European world through Spanish Explorer Hernán Cortés. Cultivation of the orchid that produces the pod depended upon pollination by the Melipona bee, so attempts to grow it in Europe and other places were initially unsuccessful. A method of hand-pollination was eventually invented in Madagascar, and that is now a major source of vanilla to the world.
Vanilla production requires significant resources, which makes real vanilla an expensive commodity. So a synthetic substitute called vanillin is often used by food manufacturers. And according to several taste tests most people cannot tell the difference between vanilla and vanillin. Except in vanilla ice cream where true vanilla tends to be preferred by tasters—which is good news for vanilla milkshake fans!
Today vanilla milkshakes are readily available throughout most of the United States in a myriad of fast food outlets, and many restaurants carry it on their menus, too. If you like to control the thickness of your shake, and its ingredients, use your blender or smoothie machine to whip one up at home. It’s easy! All you need is some vanilla ice cream, milk, and a little ice. If you want to intensify the taste, add a dash of vanilla extract too.
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