Patricia Rain is The Vanilla Queen, and her title is not in dispute. She is the author of Vanilla: The Cultural History of the World’s Favorite Flavor and Fragrance among other books and publications. An anthropologist with a keen sense of social justice, she brings the world’s awareness to issues of sustainability in vanilla’s tropical growing regions. When I interviewed her for an article on vanilla, she was recovering from stage four cancer and explained to me that because of her travels on vanilla’s behalf and in its defense, small farmers, growers & gods of their many different religions look after her. More specifically, she says, “I met some of the many women with HIV who prayed for me in Uganda and I stayed with an Indian man who did 125,000 mantras for my survival (also in Uganda). We went to the Hindu temple in the Jinja and the priest completed the healing with a purification ceremony and we then went by boat to the source of the Nile where they had thrown the flowers during the 56 days of services for my survival. It was a deeply humbling experience.”
Eleven years after her diagnosis, she is cancer-free and going strong. She is included in the new Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets (publication date: May 1, 2015). I’m attending the food conference where this book will be celebrated in Oxford in July, and I hope to bring a few good wishes from the queen.
To buy vanilla beans from the queen and/or hear her story: http://www.vanillaqueen.com