Just to bring us all down to earth a little...
"REAL" vanilla is the seed pod of an (originally) Mexican orchid. the word " Vanilla" is an English corruption of the Spanish word "Vainilla", meaning sheath, or (long) bean .
The vanilla orchid only grows at a certain altitude ( I recall it has to be more than 2,000 mts, but I may be wrong) in a certain climate with a certain temperature and a certain micro-environment. For that reason it is so expensive. You cannot find Hydroponic Vanilla, thank God!
"Someone" ( probably the local indigenous population) discovered the extraordinary perfume, allure and flavour.
If you want to taste Heaven, buy yourself a REAL vanilla pod,split in two, scrape out the seeds and prepare yourself for a culinary experience.
If you want to use run-of-the-mill stuff, that's also fine (vanilla is very expensive) but you'll be missing out on a very special flavour.
Regarding "Toxic" Mexican vanilla extract -it's false. I'm happy to announce that this is complete rubbish, since the label MUST display all ingredients.Unfortunately, if ONE product slips through the net, then ALL products are I've spoken to Mexican producers who assure me that only the very cheapest brands use coumarin. Coumarin tastes a little like vanilla, too.
The exhortation remains. Buy the real thing, boys and girls,
and you won't get any surprises!!