If I may ask, are you from Madagascar or an expat? This is all quite new information to me so I am fascinated to learn more. Are there any sources you would recommend?
"For lexicographers, vanilla has more flavor than chocolate, because it adds a tasty synonym for plain to the English menu. The noun vanilla was first served up in 1662, but it took almost 200 years for its adjective use to become established for things, like ice and sugar, flavored with vanilla. By the 1970s vanilla was perceived as being the plain flavor of the ice-cream world, and people began using the word itself to describe anything plain, ordinary, or conventional."
A plain donut or plain bagel are the things without any extras.
A plain cake is rare but is a cake without extra flavors or frosting or whatever. When it just has chocolate even, people still call it a "chocolate cake" and maybe "plain chocolate cake" but rarely or never simply "plain cake". And because the default for cake is to be chocolate, nobody would be crazy enough to say "vanilla cake" to refer to unadorned chocolate cake. So the use of vanilla to mean regular/plain isn't a lost cause! It's worth criticizing to not lose its real meaning.
The pizza analogy really would work like this: say that pepperoni pizza was so common, everyone had that or more complex things and nobody ever had a simple cheese pizza. Then imagine people start using "pepperoni" to mean plain/regular. Metaphorically, they'd start saying "eh, that one night stand — the sex was just pepperoni".
Okay, so, upon reconsideration, it's not "plain" or "regular" or "popular" that vanilla refers to. It's original, as in the first thing that seems default and was around before other stuff. These metaphors are complex.
But I happen to think we should notice when we use metaphors and consider their meaning, question them, use them thoughtfully…
As someone who can't stand the use of "they" as a singular pronoun, I also understand fights against the evolution of language are battles that I won't win.
Please please don't say that. It is not being used to mean that. It is being used in a figurative way to mean "very". This is an ironic but relatively minor shift. It's in no danger of becoming its own opposite.
Vanilla = plain is a metaphor.
Singular they is a syntax issue.
These are processed totally differently in our minds/brains. Both we come to accept with enough usage and good attitude, but they have very different significance in language.
Most people who don't start knowing singular they find it a true syntax error, the sort like a P600 response in an EEG test. It's deeply irksome. But then with familiarity, it goes away.
Metaphors don't have such a deep language processing issue, they just have semantic meaning that we accept or not and our objections live at a far more intellectual level.
It might be an executive thing?
(This would include companies like Sony, Nomura, Toshiba, Honda, BMW or even Saudi Aramco - all having US subs)
When I was in China, the Indians working tech there were referred to as expats just like the Germans and British — because they didn’t have any intent to permantly relocate to China.
Not everything is a racist conspiracy. Intent of the foreigner is the key factor in their expat vs. immigrant status. Generally people immigrate from poor to rich countries, because they would prefer to live permenantly in a nicer place. Immigration the other way around is quite rare. Not a lot of British are clamoring to immigrate to Bangladesh: a Brit working there would rarely be called an immigrant because they aren’t. They’re an expat. They have no intent to make Bangladesh their home. A Bangladeshi on an H1 visa almost always has a green card and eventually citizenship as their goal: thus they would be immigrants.
Germans do something similar, a German who moves to another country, even if it's Thailand for retirement or because life in Germany supposedly doesn't work for them, is called an "Auswanderer" and usually has a rather positive connotation of being "worldly" and well traveled.
Guess how many people call immigrants "Einwanderer" with a positive connotation? Pretty much nobody.
Some might argue there's an economic dimension to this, like German pensioners bringing their money to the other country, but that also doesn't always apply: There are plenty of Germans who are migrating because they have economic troubles in Germany and think they could work it better elsewhere.
As unbelievable as that might sound to most people outside of Germany, there are so many of them that VOX Germany has a whole Docu-Soap about Germans migrating to other countries, and it's been running for nearly 12 years with great success .
For some nationalities, expat sounds more natural, for some immigrant.
The British and French get to be expats even if they live in the US, the Germans only if they live outside the US. Canadians don't get to be expats or immigrants, they're just Canadians.
I wonder how broad or narrow these biases are; are these something I picked up from widespread American culture, or just personal linguistic biases?
Language is a living thing.
If you reserve usage of certain terminology to specific people, then negative connotations can easily attach themselves to both of them in combination, thus fundamentally changing how positive/negative certain terminology is perceived by the general population.
We've been witnessing this live, in reality, for these past years: If you talk about "immigrant crime" often enough many people will see most, if not all, crime in the context of supposedly increasing immigration.
Completely ignoring any other contributing factors to crime, completely ignoring actual crime statistics and trends. 
An expat is someone "on assignment", who has and expects strong ties with their home country. People who fit this description tend to frequently seek help from their own consulates, for example. It's particularly relevant for Americans because we tax ourselves even when overseas.
An emigrant (as seen from the source country) or immigrant (as seen from the destination country) is someone who has (usually permanently) moved and now expects primary services and sovereignty from their new home country.
I highly doubt that the distinction is strictly an anglophone concept, although perhaps it's related that they sound similar and have similar roots.
Higher status? "People who hang out with diplomats", try beating that. If you routinely dine at your embassy you'd sure be considered "expat" even if you are from Afghanistan. Of course only a tiny fraction of expats would actually do this, but it illustrates the idea. A more practical line of distinction: would they seems their children to regular local schools? If they insist on private "international schools", then it's "expat", otherwise only if a return date is known.
E.g. If you were born in Madagascar and moved to Belgium: You're a Madagascan expat because we're talking about Madagascar, but you might be referred to as an immigrant to Belgium if we're talking about Belgium.
Even in a more casual context, I know a lot of Japanese expats in US, and have never heard of any of them being called an immigrant: most come from one of the big Japanese banks (Mitsui Sumitomo, UFJ, etc.) and stay in NYC for two to five years, before heading back either to Japan. Cultural quirk: Japanese people are usually sent abroad right after purchasing a house in Japan, the management line of thought being that with the associated mortgage they won't quit even if they don't want to go abroad.
The funniest manifestation of this is letters to the Daily Mail where the writer moans on about all the immigrants in England before revealing that they’re an ‘expat’ living in Spain.
Edit: incidentally, it’s not universal in English speaking countries. Irish media, for instance, will rarely refer to an Irish person living abroad, temporarily or permanently, as an expat; they’re an emigrant. And immigrants from other English speaking countries would normally be referred to as immigrants, not expats.
Also immigration primarily occurs from poorer developing countries to richer developed countries, so the label immigrant is used to describe long term foreigners since it is likely that they actually are. In contrast, in primarily emigrant countries (like say China), the immigrant label will almost never be true, so something else is used instead.
This is based on the 1.5 minutes I just spent looking these up and is only based on definition (not usage).
I'd describe someone moving from one part of the US to another on a seasonal basis, someone chasing farm work, as a migrant. I'd call a canadian working for a period of year at a US firm an expatriate. The former is under a continual state of movement that the later is not.
from the latin expatriare meaning to leave one's own country
For example, I was an American expat in France for the past 4 years (and in Mexico and Asia before that,) only just recently having returned to the US. I had no intent on permentantly settling in France. There are plenty of long term German, French and Dutch, Japanese expats in China (not anglophone obviously,) but they are almost entirely never intending (or able to,) become citizens of China. They are expats. They work a job for 2+ years, but they never intend to become Chinese. Nor are they floating around city to city each year picking up seasonal jobs as is the case for migrants.
An H1B worker from India in California is also an expat, up until the point where they are intending to become a citizen and stay permenantly — in which they become immigrants. An Indian H1 who is after a green card though, becomes an immigrant because of their intent to permantly change home countries.
“Migrant” worker versus expat is another nuance and it is because historically, migrant workers, by definition, migrate temporarily based on the availability of seasonal work. Migrant workers, by definition don’t stay in one place very long — they would typically work a farming season and then move to the next place where a harvest is coming.. like migratory birds going south for the winter. A migrant worker doesn’t stay in one place very long: they migrate depending on where the work is and ideally, return home between temporary jobs. America used to have a robust guest worker program in the 1950s-1960s and people from Mexico would cross the border to work the harvests, then go back home when the season was finished.
In short: an expat is someone living for some longer length of time in a country outside their own with the intent to eventually go back home. Expat is a “temporary” status characterized by long stints in one place away from home. An immigrant is someone that leaves their origin country permenantly. A migrant is someone that follows the harvest (i.e. seasonal jobs) and returns home regularly.
Some people have attached racial or class distinctions to those terms which is unfortunate because such distinctions aren’t accurate — they are the invention of (mostly white) people that seem to find offense in everything. This topic has lit expat Facebook groups and forums up with white expats attempting to put virtue Signal everyone else while ignoring the actual nuances involved. It’s much easier to engage in pseudo-intellectual outrage in order to assuage their own feeling of expat “privilege.” It was exhausting being around those sorts of people. Some white woman who is the wife of a British business executive on a full expat package in Shanghai trying to convince others that she is an immigrant is ridiculous when she’s talking about retiring one day to her country house in Yorkshire.
The TLDR is that one’s status of expat, migrant or immigrant is one of intent, not class or national origin.
> The reason that Madagascar is still on top of the vanilla game is grim: According to The Financial Times, it’s one of the few regions with the right climate that is also poor enough to make laborious hand-pollination affordable. While other countries, such as India, have dabbled in heavy vanilla production, huge swings in the international price make it a dangerous crop to grow widely
I'd find this unethical. Even if that's not a problem, automation/technology will bite you eventually, and this stuff will be grown around the world, reducing the price.
At one point they grew 90% of the worlds forced rhubarb (a special kind of rhubarb grown indoors).
It's not like I didn't know that this is how the world works, but this specific case is even more of a slap in the face. It's kinda fucked up to think that in the local specialty store merely a couple pods of vanilla (a few grams each) go for 6-7 dollars, but these folks live in poverty. But more fucked up is the implication that to keep vanilla prices down we specifically maintain these conditions, because of cheap labor.
Oh well, the artificial stuff for me from now on.
Much of the island's vanilla is grown in the northeast region of the country, called the SAVA region, named after the towns of Sambava, Andapa, Vohemar, and Anthala. The sole overland connection to the rest of the island is a dirt road that goes through desert and is nearly impassable during the rainy season; during the dry season, it can take 6-8 hours to traverse. Other options are either lengthy boat trips or flights. Many of the Malagasy people live in huts that are either bamboo or corrugated metal, with little or no indoor plumbing and small solar panels for electricity. Over 100 people died last year from an out break of the bubonic plague due to very poor healthcare. If that is not poverty, what is?
That said, many of the Malagasy people do seem quite happy despite the living conditions.
The world has lots of poverty, but we are on track to rid ourselves of extreme poverty. Hopefully, it'll keep going up from there...
The difference isn't luxuries it's SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS. Like Healthcare (159th in the world), Life Expectancy (140th in the world), and Happiness (143rd in the world).
As to your argument that stopping from sending the money is going to harm the poor farmers not the corrupt government/military, I could just as easily make the reverse argument:
"If the majority of the money we send there goes only to the corrupt leadership, helping keep them in power and abusing their people, then
A) Doesn't that prove that trickle-down economics don't work without regulation? Just sayin'.
but more importantly
B) Wouldn't STOPPING sending that money then WEAKEN that leadership, making them more susceptible to an uprising and takeover? But no, see if the people take over, you know it's not just that the money would be distributed from the leaders to the workers. They would actually start to expect rights, and prosperity growth. Which means rising prices. Which, historically, would have led to a Western-based invasion or coup (see: Republics, Banana) means the west would have to invade them and restore the status quo.
The standard of living is much lower. They don't have "things" because they cannot afford them. But they do want them. This is because of poverty.
Ask them. Would you like a house with hot and cold running water? A gas supply? A bedroom for each of your children? A telly in every room? Be a two car family? Then ask them why they don't have this? They will answer: poverty and life is a struggle.
Not with the current model of economic exploitation pursued by western firms. They will never get the money because the companies operating the plantations simply don't have to give it to them and Madagascar's ability to govern itself is completely compromised by outside money.
I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for the Nigerian people to receive the fruits of their labor as opposed to Shell, the corporation who's bribing the government to keep conditions as profitable as possible.
Instead you should figure out what part of the supply chain is causing the local farmers to not get paid (or maybe theyre the problem and need to pay their laborers more money.). And then campaign against that or make technology to effectively destroy the middle-men. There's plenty more high value products than Vanilla I assure you where the end-workers are living in poverty.
It's problems are more corruption and political than anything else.
Here's a better rule: Completely disregard any claim about economic health, sustainability, well-being etc. if it's based on GDP.
GDP is a measure that deserves no respect and the mere use of it has caused a lot of harm to the world.
Sure, GDP isn't a perfect measure, but if grows odds it's a good thing.
GDP growing is NOT a good thing per se. It does a mix of capturing how much productivity is being commercialized (if we all paid our neighbors to do our household chores, GDP would double or something instantly with zero productivity gain), how much pay is going to non-productive or even counterproductive work (see the phenomenon of bullshit jobs^1) and ignoring externalities (growth in fossil fuel extraction and consumption, for example is overall negative for society).
It's not useful to even assume that GDP growth correlates with positive economic status in measures we actually want (i.e. measurements of overall long-term prosperity)
^1: https://strikemag.org/bullshit-jobs/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullshit_Jobs
But at a macro level those seem unlikely to dominate the development.
If GDP is increased by disposing nuclear waste in international waters that's obviously bad. But generally speaking degenerate trends like that don't dominate economic development. I hope :)
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/04/five-measures-of-grow... (note that World Economic Forum is far from some radical hippy organization)
Another perspective: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/12/doughn...
There are simple places where growth necessarily means we're beyond some limit and causing more problems the more we grow. Growth is not the goal, the goal is well-being and health. Growth is only the goal when we're under the level that maximizes well-being and have room to grow before problems start getting exacerbated.
So it's different from any other country how?
Transparency International ranks Madagascar at #155 on their corruption perception index. That's not a slightly bad ranking, that means they barely have a functioning system because it's so riddled with corruption. Their neighbors on the ranking are: Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Haiti, Myanmar, etc. Venezuela for reference is presently #169.
So that's one way they're (unfortunately) different.
Heritage ranks Madagascar #119 on their economic freedom index. They receive a 32/100 score on property rights, 19/100 on government integrity, 21/100 on judicial. Their summary on rule of law:
"Although the legal structure provides protections for private property rights and secured interests in property are recognized if not entirely enforced, the vast majority of farmers do not hold the official rights to their land. A lack of training, resources, and personnel hampers judicial effectiveness, and case backlogs are lengthy. Corruption is pervasive at all levels of government."
Besides, we can reasonable expect that if (when!) labor costs go up enough I think we're likely to see automation solutions to the labor intensive portions of growing vanilla.
Your buying artificial vanilla instead of real vanulla will NOT help make people in Madagascar less poor! Indeed, it will only help make them poorer (by reducing demand for their labor). If you want to help them, you should consume more real vanilla, as that will result in more work for them, thus increasing their incomes.
Yes, we could help them even more by educating them and turning the country into, say, a software developer powerhouse. But that's not easy, and will take time. In the meantime, the only thing you can do to immediately increase their income is to consume more of what they produce.
or you can pass laws to bring in temporary migrants from African countries to do the extra work and still keep wages down.
(as explained to me by an orchid enthusiast)
Growing your own vanilla is very difficult (assuming you're not in a place where it grows outside naturally). Not only do you need a significant amount of greenhouse space (you're right--20' minimum to flower, but the vines can grow up to 120'), you also need all the very specific orchid growing conditions--low water/nutrient, high drainage soil (or bark or similar medium), high brightness (but medium direct sun--can't let 'em burn), along with a very high humidity (vanilla orchids grow best ~80-90% humidity) and high heat (ideally not dipping any lower than 15 C, but with a bit of wiggle room). They have aerial roots, so you also need to mist with diluted nutrient mix (preferably an x-x-x fertilizer (eg: 20-20-20)) for them to get any particular growth benefit.
Assuming you can provide these conditions, you'll have to continue to provide these conditions for ~5-7 years, which is how long vanilla takes to grow from seed. Most people, however, take clippings from already healthy plants. Clippings need all the same care and effort of growing from seed, but won't flower 'til they're established and ~20 feet long (and the temperature controls are on-point for flowering), so how long they take depends on a bunch of factors, but even for a 3' clipping, you're looking at ~5 years.
So, let's say you have flowering-capable vines, at least 20', properly cared for with appropriate temperature controls to compel flowering. The vanilla flowers for one day. Furthermore, the pollination of the one-day flower must occur by hand (you cannot use natural pollinators--there's only one species of bee capable of pollinating this thing and they're not only isolated to a very specific geographic location, but they're also rather rare).
Presuming your pollination is successful it still takes, at this about, about 9-10 months for the vanilla pods to form. You'll get long green-bean lookin' things. You have to pick them as they begin to turn yellow--kinda like bananas. But the fun doesn't stop here. At this point you still have to blanche the yellowing beans, then let them sweat in a container for several weeks until you finally end up with usable vanilla pods that you might find in a store.
The process is extremely involved, incredibly time consuming and each step has a number of 'gotchas' that will ruin your vine/flowering/pollination/beans. The big effort is literally just keeping up with the very specific humidity/light/temperature/nutrient requirements for so long to even get it to be flowering capable.
If it weren't for the pollination issue, I would suspect that Florida might have been a natural place to produce vanilla beans.
I just checked and the same container is now $140! 
I’m going to have to start rationing!
Check out the price graph:
 - https://www.amazon.com/dp/B001GE8N4Y/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_qJtl...
I do tend to make French toast for the kids a couple times a week, so we do use quite a bit. I usually just kinda splash it in the bowl, I guess I have to start measuring now!
One of the older "life hacks" is to put a teaspoon of vanilla extract in the oven to make the house smell better. Speaking from experience: don't use more than that or you will regret it. I couldn't visit their house for a week.
It's a cooking joke, because vanilla is incredibly strong.
I said 5 plants because it's the fewest needed to be able to split out 80% without fractions.
You obviously need to eat some other stuff occasionally, but those plants are the staple diet for a large chunk of the world population.
I'd need some variety just so I didn't go insane.
Stupid Mercator Projection.
There is literally no point in growing vanilla to extract vanillin if vanillin can be synthesized artificially for much cheaper. Though if you're going for compounds other than vanillin that exist within the vanilla plant itself... that's a different story.
Artificial vanilla flavoring (vanillin) is actually preferred for many applications where the alcohol in true vanilla extract can't evaporate off and will harm the flavor more than the extra aromatic compounds will help.
That said, the French have a great dessert recipe for battered/fried black locust flower beignets:
1) Snip the bunches of black locust flowers from the tree at their base stem. Maybe let them sit out in the sun for an hour on a cloth so some of the bugs can escape. Then rinse the bunches in cold water.
2) Prepare some pancake batter with maybe 30-50% extra milk, obtaining a thickness that forms ribbons as it drips from the whisk, or a bit thicker.
3) Heat up a frying pan and add a half inch of mild-flavored oil to it.
4) Hold a bunch of flowers by the stem, dip it evenly in the batter, and fry both sides until browned, then remove them to some paper towels on a plate to drip dry and cool off.
5) Sprinkle sugar evenly to taste while still warm and enjoy heaven, trying not to think of bug juice.
Supposedly they freeze pretty well actually, never tried it though. (Or at least they maintain their flavor if not their texture, which is all that matters if you're taking them out of the recipe anyway after infusing.)
Also, black locust flower syrup is apparently a thing if you don't happen to have a still handy:
That seems like it would be pretty good.
The rest of the article's fine, but, really, click-bait much.
Disclaimer: I'm part of the team that made the app.
Did nobody think of this until years after vanilla was discovered? Really?
What's really interesting is how comparative advantage takes shape. There's several everyday products that originate in just one or a few places. Additional question: why isn't Mexico the main producer?
Edit: turns out this is, in fact, not a unique thought:
"Implementation of Automated Vanilla Pollination
Robotic Crane Prototype, 2017":
(No deep learning, but I guess these people weren't desperate for funding.)