What makes French vanilla...er... "French"?

Had a small debate with family, saying that I preferred French vanilla over American... stating that, French vanilla had a better sweet vanilla flavor and was better for creams like for coffee or ice cream... to which I was looked at like I had four heads and told "there wasn't a difference just marketing and food coloring"... In my soul I know there is a difference... but how do I prove my argument?

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10 Comments

Nancy July 16, 2019
I wonder if the name origin had something to do with Madagascar, where good vanilla beans grow & which used to be governed by France.
 
Smaug July 16, 2019
Madagascar and Bourbon (Reunion) are the biggest growers of vanilla, though it's a Mexican native; it certainly has a lot of French background. I've seen vanilla orchids in a conservatory reaching a ceiling that was at least 15' high, a pretty impressive orchid, though the flower isn't spectacular.
 
Liz D. July 16, 2019
With ice cream, it's my understanding that French Vanilla includes eggs, where plain Vanilla doesn't? French Vanilla is more golden-colored, due to the egg yolks?
 
Smaug July 16, 2019
No, there are a billion recipes for vanilla ice cream, with and without eggs.
 
Liz D. July 16, 2019
True. My comment was based on my Joy of Cooking book, plus several articles I found online when I looked up "difference between Vanilla & French Vanilla." Per Joy of Cooking, ice cream made with just cream, milk, & sugar is "Philadelphia style," egg custard base is "French style."
 
Smaug July 16, 2019
Hard to imagine anything "French" without eggs- a French Drain, maybe.
 
Gammy July 16, 2019
Agree. Internet search of several different sources says "French" vanilla is based upon a custard made with egg yolks, which make it richer, creamier and appear more yellow, regular vanilla ice cream does not contain egg yolks.
 
Smaug July 16, 2019
I don't know- the first ice cream I ever made , "Fantastic Vanilla Ice Cream" from Maida Heatter, was made with egg yolks and extract, a few others (with no mention of "French", used whole vanilla beans and egg yolks. Wikipedia says that Thomas Jefferson fell under the spell of French vanilla ice creams and invented an "American" recipe, but doesn't give the recipe. I read the thing about seeds somewhere fairly reliable years ago and French Vanilla ice creams I've encountered since have borne it out, but looking at some random "French Vanilla" recipes on the internet, they do tend toward heavy custards (all cream and lots of egg yolks) and whole vanilla beans, but there's no lack of plain "vanilla ice cream" recipes based on custards. Maybe not as easy a question as it looked like.
 
Smaug July 16, 2019
French vanilla includes the vanilla seeds.
 
Rizzos_Fridge July 16, 2019
hmm... cool. Thank you. That answers for the extra flavor.
 
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