Sunday, August 02, 2009


Woman in Ruanda, originally uploaded by cookiesound.

Woman in Ruanda, originally uploaded by cookiesound.

Once upon a time, my mother and I were nomads. My mother just sold her house in Jerusalem and was about to move into the little hut that my stepfather was building for us in the Galilee, so that we can all live closer to nature and eat organic vegetables that we sweat on growing in the garden. Until the little hut was ready, my mother and I lived with various friends and family members. It is very probably that we only stayed there for a few days, but I was left with the impression that we lived in all those different places. Little girls’ memories are not the most reliable thing in the world, but I sure did sense the temporary nature of these living arrangement.
And so we “lived” in different cities, including Tiberias near the Sea of Galilee, and in Bat-Yam, near Tel-Aviv, to stay with my step-grandparents. They had a cottage with a garden, one of the very few that were left from the days when Bat Yam was all just little houses with gardens and everyone could leave their house without locking the doors and never worry about theft. And in their house, they had a collection of my stepfather’s paintings. One of the painting always puzzled me, so I spent hours staring at it: a young African woman balancing a cluster of bananas on her head. Since they covered her hair completely, they seemed like a strange hairdo and if it wasn’t for my parent’s conversation, I would have never thought about the weight of the bananas on the girl’s tender neck.

These were days of summer, and my mother and grandmother took me to the beach every single day. At least this is what I can remember. Every day, I wore my banana-yellow velour swimsuit that my great-grandpa from LA brought me on one of his rare visits. And I always hoped that my mother would get me a banana ice-cream bar. It must have been the new big thing, because until than the only flavours were vanilla or chocolate. All were dipped in a thin imitation chocolate coating that crackles under your teeth and slide off the bar as it melted. It was a lot of fun to eat it, and if you every go to Israel, look for it – those very same ice cream bar, same flavour and probably the same recipes, have survived the test of time despite the great variety and competition in the frozen snack kingdom at this part of the world. It’s quite astonishing, actually.

But will Vanille-Banane, from Comptoir Sud Pacifique survive such test? No one could tell. I have to agree with Ishai, a rare case of a male perfume aficionado who lives in Israel – that all of the “Vanille”-something share the following characteristics:
1) Whatever is the second part of the name (i.e.: NOT the “Vanille”) will appear first when applying the scent
2) Whatever is the second part of the name will stick around for a few seconds or perhaps minutes (if you are so lucky)
3) They all dry down to vanilla (I can also smell musk in all or most of them) and that’s the end of the story.

Vanille-Banane is no exception, and begins with the promising mouthwateringly delicious fake banana flavour that makes you want more. And the moment you start salivating and licking that ice cream bar, the fickle structure of cream and sugar suffers a melt-down and slides off the stick, leaving you with just that: a popsicle stick soaked in artificial vanilla flavour. Yum.

Whatever other notes might be there - cardamom, condensed milk or what not, are far less apparent than they are in a banana bread. But even a simple scent like that has its charm: it really goes well with anything to do with suntan oil and cheap beach desserts. I like it a lot with my Hawaiian Tropic sunscreen or sunblock, which smells like pina-colada and banana to begin with...

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