A Call to Vanilla
I remember sitting in my hospital room—tonsillectomies required a two night stay back then—and the nurse asking me whether I wanted chocolate or vanilla. I answered in a split second, “Vanilla!”
The nurse blinked at me in surprise and said, “No one's ever chosen vanilla before.”
Her reaction stuck with me. Was vanilla really that odd a choice? We have the saying, “plain old vanilla,” but I don’t find it boring at all.
Over the years, my food choices have reinforced my preference for vanilla. I love vanilla ice cream and milk shakes. I’ll eat, but not happily, a chocolate cake with chocolate icing, but I gravitate toward vanilla or yellow cake with vanilla icing. I like cookies that have chocolate chips or chunks in them, but I’d rather have a non-chocolate cookie. When Nabisco started making Golden Oreos®, I nearly danced in the grocery aisle. I can’t tolerate milk products anymore—I’m not lactose-intolerant, so don’t bother with suggestions there—but I still prefer the taste of vanilla. In fact, one advantage of my inability to digest dairy products is that I can choose vanilla-flavored milk substitutes. And yes, they have chocolate-flavored substitutes, too.
Now don’t get me wrong. I like chocolate, especially dark chocolate, but I love vanilla more. Even when I drink hot chocolate, I prefer the French Vanilla-flavored mixes. Vanilla adds a smooth, creamy texture that enhances all of the combined flavors in any food. Chocolate, in my estimation, overpowers all other ingredients.
This week I’m attending a seminar on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®). If you’re unfamiliar with the MBTI®, it’s a personality instrument that reports preferences in four areas of behavior. Your preference doesn’t mean that you never choose the other option, you just naturally lean toward one choice over the other. I prefer vanilla, but sometimes I choose chocolate. The seminar is not about food, but it got me thinking about this preference and how society implies that I’m unusual because of it.
Those of you who know me, know I don’t mind being different, but often we project our preferences on to other people. The message we send is: “If I do it this way, then it must be the right way.”
I don’t know whether the nurse made me feel wrong back then, but the memory has stuck with me. That tells me something. What do you prefer that makes you step out of the norms of other people? How do you feel about it? For my writing friends, have you given your characters any preferences that set them apart, that define them?
Does my ice cream story resonate with you or your characters? Vanilla lovers, I challenge you to step up and join me!