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Monday, January 7, 2013

Vanilla and a Sexy, Love-aholic Hewitt

Every now and then my wife and I argue about some piece of trivial information one of us has acquired from the “they says.” You know what I mean. We begin having a conversation about something, and then we feel obliged to inject some unfounded generalization into the discussion that seems to bolster one of our positions. Accurate sources be damned in such desperate times: we both tend to resort to the infamous “they say” for support.

For example, the other evening I was telling my dear wife how most of the potpourri and scented candles she uses to “enhance and bring to life our living space” smell like poop. She immediately countered my point with a currently derived “they say” that, to me, sounded preposterous. She said, “Well, 'they say' men love the scent of pumpkin pie the most.”

I laughed and said, “No way. Men can't stand most of those crazy“sweet-kitchen” scents you women use to fumigate the house. You have picked up some bad information written by conjecturing women.”

Now, don't get me wrong here. I love pumpkin pie and can quickly devour a humongous piece while relishing every bite. But, “pumpkin pie” is certainly not my choice for the favorite smelly concoction used to permeate a living area. Nor is the smell of a Cinnabon, sugar cookies, or gingerbread.

She replied with a “that's what I read,” so naturally, I had to do some research to prove my point. And, unfortunately after my quest (as in 95% of our little disagreements over nothing), I was forced to agree that “some fool scientists believe that the smell of pumpkin pie ranks very high on the list of preferred male scents.

My reading told me, to use a scientific-sounding euphemism, that the smell of pumpkin pie “increases penile blood-flow.” Pumpkin pie? A hard wiener is certainly something I never associated with Thanksgiving dinner, the Pilgrims, and the traditional holiday dessert. Let me show you what I learned.

According to the New York Times, the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago had a group of men in the18 to 60 age group smell 30 different scents while hooked up to a device that measured blood flow to their penis. (No, I'm not making this up.)

The results found that men are most turned on by lavender, pumpkin pie, donuts, and black licorice. In fact, fragrance manufacturer Harvey Prince is hoping to capitalize on these findings and has combined the scents of lavender and pumpkin pie to create Eau Flirt perfume. They've dubbed it "the world's first perfume clinically proven to make men flirt with women." The combined scents of lavender and pumpkin pie are said to “ignite the deep recesses”of the brains of 40 percent of the men tested.

(Stephanie Rosenbloom, “Pumpkin Pie: Provocative or Just Tasty?”
The New York Times, July 13 2011)

So, naturally, I had to look for some support for one of my favorite smells: vanilla. And, thank goodness, I found that neurologist Alan Hirsch of the same “renowned” group, the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation, discovered that inmature men, vanilla was the most sexually arousing scent.

Celebrity reporters claim Jennifer Love Hewitt is an advocate of this fragrance. She recently said she carries McCormick's Pure Vanilla in her purse—the baking kind—and dabs it on her neck. Why? Men are attracted to the scent! She went on to say, "One time, I put it on and four different guys were like, 'You smell amazing!'"

To celebrate my small victory for vanilla, I dedicate this blog entry to becoming a little more familiar with this little bean. I hope you learn something from this Vanilla Quiz. Answers are at the end of the entry.

The Vanilla Quiz

1. ___ The first cultivators and keepers of the secrets of vanilla, were the Totonac Indians of

a. Mexico,  
b. Brazil,
c. Peru,
d. Cleveland.

2. ___ The Totonac Indians used vanilla for medicine and perfume. Vanilla is derived from the seed pods of

a. a vanilla tree,
b. a tropical orchid, the only one in a family consisting of 90,000+ types that has any edible properties,
c. a native ground cover,
d. vanilla wafers.

3. ___ According to Totonaca mythology, when Princess Xanat was forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal, she fled to the forest with her lover, and

a. the two transformed into eternal intertwined vanilla vines as they made forbidden love,
b. vanilla grew where Xanat leaped to her death from a huge cliff while saving her true love,
c. the lovers were captured and beheaded. Where their blood touched the ground, vanilla grew,
d. led a drab, vanilla existence.

4. ___ In the fifteenth century Aztecs conquered the Totonac, and the conquerors soon developed a taste for the vanilla bean. After they gained control, they taxed the Mayans in vanilla beans, using the beans as currency. The Aztecs learned to mix vanilla with the seed of cacao, another plant, to make

 a. tequila,
 b. chocolatl,
 c. cornstarch,
 d. vanilla malted milkshakes.

5. ___ During the sixteenth century, the Aztecs introduced what Spanish explorer to vanilla who took it back to Europe with cacao where it was enjoyed exclusively by the nobility and the rich?

a. Hernando Cortez,
b. Ponce de Leon,
c. Hernando de Soto,
d. Rocky Balboa.

6. ___ Vanilla beans are also referred to as pods or "black flower,” after the mature bean, which shrivels and turns black shortly after it is picked. The name "vanilla" comes from the Spanish word "vainilla", meaning 

a. “sweet rain,”
b. “subtle music,”
c. “small pod,”
d. “conceited gorilla.”

7. ___ In 1602, Hugh Morgan suggested that vanilla could be used as a flavoring all by itself, and the versatility of the exotic bean was finally fully uncovered. Morgan was the chief apothecary to

a. Queen Elizabeth I,
b. Queen Isabella,
c. King Fernando,
d. Queen Latifah.

8. ___ Vanilla is the world's most labor-intensive agricultural crop, which is why it's so expensive. How long can it take after the vines are planted before the first flowers appear.
a. up to one year,
b. up to two years,
c. up to three years,
d. up to one Mayan calendar apocalypse.

9. ___ The vanilla plant produces a flower which lasts for only one day. It will be another year before it flowers again if

a. it is not picked immediately,
b. it is not pollinated within 12 hours of opening,
c. it is not pruned within a week,
d. it is not serenaded when opening by a recording of Slim Whitman's “Indian Love Call.”

10. ___ When the vanilla beans are hand harvested, they are still partially green and therefore have neither flavor nor fragrance. The pods are dipped immediately into boiling water to stop growth. They develop their distinctive properties of flavor and fragrance during
a. the curing and drying process,
b. the watering process,
c. the salting process,
d. the seedy experiences of puberty.

11. ___ Today, three regions of the world produce vanilla beans. The third largest (10% production) region is the answer to question one and Tahiti. The second largest producer is Indonesia. The vanilla from this area is not as sweet as the Madagascar vanilla and not as desirable. But, the number one region for vanilla production grows Bourbon vanilla, which refers to the Burbon islands where they are grown. That region is

a. Columbia,
b. Southern Italy,
c. Madagascar,
d. Kentucky.

12. ___ Because vanilla is so much in demand, and because it's so expensive, synthetics are often used instead of natural vanilla. A new generation of imitation vanillas threaten the vanilla industry's existence. Artificial vanilla flavoring can be produced from the sapwood of fir trees; and vanilla flavoring, synthesized from chemicals, is becoming increasingly popular as the cost of the raw vanilla bean rises. Many corporations substitute imitation vanilla and then call it "natural flavors" on the label. What percentage of vanilla used as a flavor and fragrance is synthetic?

a. 98%
b. 70%
c. 55%
d. 1,000

Why do guys like me prefer the scent of vanilla? I don't know. Maybe it's because my general being has settled into being relatively“vanilla” and conventional. “Kinky” and “fetish” are not big turn-ons for an old guy like me. My character these days is certainly nowhere near Fifty Shades of Gray, so my vanilla olfactory preferences might just be native to my vanilla outlook.

OK, so I'm bland and increasingly becoming more “middle of the road.” I mean now I think even Barry Manilow and Neil Diamond have made a few contributions to popular music. (I have even been known to catch a few reruns of the Lawrence Welk Show on EdTV – please, don't rat me out.)

Yet, psychologists and medical researchers were also aware of mature men's positive reactions to the scent of vanilla long before perfume makers recognized its potential. In experiments where an odor universally regarded as ‘pleasant’ is required, vanilla has been a standard choice for decades.

And check out this research.

* Medical experiments have shown that vanilla fragrance reduces stress and anxiety. Cancer patients undergoing Magnetic Resonance Imaging – a diagnostic procedure known to be stressful – reported a massive 63% less anxiety when heliotropin (a vanilla fragrance) was administered during the procedure.

* Vanilla fragrance makes you calmer. A study at Tubingen University in Germany showed that vanilla fragrance reduced the startle-reflex in both humans and animals. The animal results indicate that the calming effects of vanilla may be due to some more essential property of the fragrance than the ‘positive childhood associations’ usually invoked to explain its universal popularity with humans.

("The Smell Report: Vanilla," The Social Issues Resource Centre)

And, although it is important to remember that these effects have only been documented for pure vanilla fragrance -- not perfumes containing a blend of vanilla and other ingredients -- an orchid, must follow the Shakespearean “flowery” logic of a rose. "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a classic line fromRomeo and Juliet. So why wouldn't Vanilla planifolia by any other name have a similar calming effect?

As far as smells that science believes may stimulate sexual arousal, be they fragrances of pumpkin pie or of vanilla or of some crazy mixture like “cookie dough,”may I suggest another olfactory stimulant that might work bestto awaken the sexual longings of a drowsy male lover. If your partner is actually asleep or unconscious, another old-fashioned remedy may be more effective in capturing his attention – smelling-salts can revive someone from a dead faint.

And, my dear Jennifer Love Hewitt, I would love to be close enough to get a whiff of your McCormick's, but I seriously doubt that my sense of sight would play“second fiddle” to my nose if I were ever able to get that near you. Still, I can love you from a distance and dream, my vanilla girl. No wonder your middle name is L-O-V-E.

“I'm a hopeless romantic, and very much the person in a relationship to go:
If things are going well, I'll buy the flowers, remember the dates of things, plan fun nights out.”
-Jennider Love Hewitt

Answers to Vanilla Quiz:

1.  A     2.  B     3.  C     4.  B     5.  A    6.  C   7.  A    8.  C    9.  B    10.  A    11.  C   12.  A  
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