Speaking Malagasy on the Isle of Vanilla
The economy of Madagascar collapsed overnight when Coca-cola changed its formula, switching from real vanilla to a synthetic and didn’t bounce back until New Coke failed and Classic Coke was reintroduced, with vanilla back in. Malagasies were relieved, but conspiracy theorists thrilled to the fact that sugar was gone, replaced by High Fructose Corn Syrup.
Vanilla comes mainly from Madagascar, and grows
on a vine, its flowers both male and female; from planting
to pod can take 5 years. The language of Malagasy has no
grammatical gender. It is not a Romantic language, but has
borrowed a little from the French who took so much.
It’s an island language, Austronesion, and plurals are managed
with a beautiful efficiency: more than one book: book-book;
more than one child: child-child. It’s hard for the Latinate
mind to imagine. They say men give love to get sex and
women give sex to get love, and today a man told me
he doesn’t trust a woman who gives blow jobs. It’s all
about power, he said, and her need to control the man.
I didn’t buy it; I have my own conspiracy theories, prefer
real vanilla to synthetic, sugar cane to HFS. I rarely give in
to a sweet tooth, but now and then, I do, and when I do,
I want it, not like jet fuel, but a slow, complex burn,
the line between control and surrender delicate and uncertain,
like dependent economies, and tenuous like the vanilla flower
blooming for only one day, both male and female, the thinnest
of membranes between them waiting to be stripped away.