Thursday, October 04, 2012


This is driving me up the freaking wall.

You all know that there are a bunch of random things you can't get in Italy. They're the odd little things that we take completely for granted in the 1st world, without which life is made, not necessarily less comfortable, but just a bit less convenient. Things we're just used to having around, without which we have to get all creative and innovative to think of other ways to solve the problems these things were invented to solve.

Did you know, for example, that you can't get zip-lock freezer bags? Yeah. Stuff like that.

Another one of the things is artificial vanilla extract. For two years, I've been trying to get someone coming over from the 1st World to bring me a large bottle of artificial vanilla flavouring. And EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. the person I've asked has thought, "But this is Hilary, she can't possibly want the artificial kind instead of the real thing..." Two of the five people I've asked have brought me tiny little bottles of insanely expensive vanilla extract, one of which was organic (for Pete sake!) all the way across the ocean.

Another one discovered that there was only the artificial kind in the shop, in giant bottles, and, thinking the same thing, and not finding any of the real kind, decided not to bring me any.

Now two more people, whom I have asked specifically for artificial vanilla, who are coming over from the non-crazy world, have both sent me messages asking, "But, you can't possibly want the artificial kind can you? I can easily get you the real thing..."


No, I was not in a fugue state or possessed when I asked, specifically, for the artificial kind.

Why can't I convince anyone I ask that when I ask for artificial vanilla flavouring, what I really, actually, really, really want, is a bottle of artificial vanilla flavouring?

People, there's nothing in vanilla flavouring except the vanilla flavour. You only need it to make things taste like vanilla. That's it. There's no secret vanilla vitamin that you can only get from the 50-dollar-per-ounce extract. Dow Chemical is good at this by now. The tiny drop of it you need to flavour ice cream or cake will not add ANYthing except vanilla flavour, which is exACtly the same in the artificial as the real. Trust me on this. I was a pastry chef.

I am asking people, with increasing frustration, to bring me some of the artificial kind because you can't buy it here. You can only buy vanilla extract in, literally, two-teaspoon glass vials. Not kidding. They're about an inch and a half long and come in little card packages. The Italians, probably the least practical people on earth, think this is the sensible way of selling it, and I'm sure they think that there is some magic, mystical quality to the real extract that is lost in the artificial kind.

There isn't. OK? Really. It's just flavour.

On the other hand, all I want it for is to make my ice cream taste like vanilla. It's all I want. And I want to be able to do this for next to no money and for ten years from one bottle. If I thought it was practical, I would ask for it in a fricking 5-gallon jug suitable for an industrial pastry factory, and have enough to last til retirement.

Can someone, please, PLEASE, bring me from the 1st world, a LARGE bottle of artificial. vanilla. flavouring?

It really is what I actually, really, want.