Cherchez la vanille

Granted, we are of a paranoid disposition, though most of our expectations are realized. Our current dread runs along the plot line of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, a movie watched in our distant youth. Except, in our paranoid fantasy, it is not giant melons that are invading the Greater Parkdale Area, rather long thin wiry vanilla beans. We haven’t actually seen any of these lately, except the one we keep stuffed into a wee narrow bottle with rum, for culinary purposes. We checked our cupboard, & it appears to be still safely under cork.

But in the last week, three eerie things have happened. First, we were offered a blended Canadian rye, curiously branded “Spicebox,” whose maker claims to offer the palate “notes of pepper & fruit, complimented with hints of vanilla & dried spices.” In our humble but aggrieved opinion, the only flavour “hinted” was the rye. The rest of the suggestion list vanished behind an overwhelming vanilla flash, of the kind we associate with artificial extract. The colour was also suspiciously rich. Well, that wasn’t our first unpleasant experience while drinking whisky. And the label gave fair warning.

Next, we ordered a cup of coffee with a hot liver sandwich in a local greasy spoon. It was a day later, & we were still trying to efface our Spicebox memory. Now, this is a reliable Inner Parkdale establishment, whose cooks & waitresses change only with death. Neither liver nor white bread nor gravy, nor the tinned vegetables on the side, were unusual in any way; but the coffee seemed to be laced with vanilla. On enquiry, we found it was indeed some novel brand, & that the proprietor thought he had gone slightly upmarket. It wasn’t our imagination: everyone had complained.

Lightning may strike twice, but with tea this evening, up here in the High Doganate, we heated then buttered a scone. This was from a respectable bakery, in another part of the GPA, which could be forgiven for no longer understanding that scones are not meant to be cake-like in consistency. No one in the Province of Ontario seems to get that any more; our British heritage is leaching away. Ask for a “tea biscuit” & one will get something closer, but still not near. What can we do but offer it up? Yet again, we weren’t prepared for the shout of vanilla that came out of the innocent-looking thing.

As we used to say at the Idler magazine, “Once is misadventure; twice is coincidence; but three times is enemy action.” We wonder if gentle readers have had similar experiences. If so, & in light of recent electoral indications that zombieism may be on the march – to say nothing of what we’ve seen on the streets throughout Greater Parkdale – it may be time to sound the alarm.

The clincher is this report from National Public Radio on the latest Mars mission. It seems scientists are working to confirm a major discovery by the Curiosity Rover. They won’t say what it is until December. But if what they’ve found resembles stalks of vanilla, we’re done for.