Posts Tagged food folklore
We get the delicious organic vanilla for our cookies from Madagascar, by far the world’s largest producer of vanilla. But vanilla didn’t begin there. It didn’t even start on the tiny nearby island of Bourbon (named after the European royal house in 1649, renamed Réunion in 1793). The reason your little vanilla bottle is labeled Bourbon vanilla is because that is where European vanilla production began. However, the pretty Vanilla Orchid, flower of the Tlilxochitl vine, was actually born in Central America: its first known growers were the Totonac people, of what is now Veracruz.
A Totonac story tells us the tropical orchid was born when Princess Tzacopontziza was forbidden by her father from marrying a mortal. I think we know how that will go. That’s right: the young prince Zkatan-Oxga spotted her and it was love at first sight. The lovers tried to escape to the forest, but were captured and beheaded. Not long after their tragic death, Tlilxochitl—vine of the Vanilla Orchid—began growing where their blood touched the ground.
The Totonacs were conquered by the Aztecs (repeatedly, from what I can tell), and they in turn were conquered by the Spanish. Hernando Cortez returned to Spain with his loot, and by the early 1600s, vanilla became the popular flavoring we prize today.
Stories throughout the internet refer to our mythological princess as Princess Xanat, which means vanilla. There is a fantastic and detailed version of her story over at The Vanilla.COMpany. Take a look!
By the way, the beautiful Wikipedia drawing pictured above also includes a description of the bean’s properties and uses, written in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztec people.
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