My brain hurts!
March 16, 2009 9:30 PM   Subscribe

Identify this smell filter: I just used some McCormick brand vanilla extract and it smells exactly like kindergarten. My husband agreed. Our only guess is that it smells like the paste we used to use with the little stick shown here with Ralph Wiggum.

The extract straight out of the bottle doesn't smell like vanilla - I suppose it's too concentrated. I can't find any paste online - does anyone sell it anymore? This is driving me crazy. Is there anywhere to buy paste for comparison? Or alternatively, is there anyone out there who thinks, "You're right! Vanilla extract straight out of the bottle smells exactly like rubber cement!" (Or something.) It's not a playdoh smell - that smells better, and I've had a lot of playdoh since kindergarten. This is a smell from much further back in my brain...
posted by artychoke to Food & Drink (24 answers total)
Well, here's some paste, and here's the MSDS on it. It apparently has a "spearmint aroma."

I don't know if it's the vanilla scent or the alcohol base that's giving you fits, but here's some McCormick vanilla info.
posted by peggynature at 9:56 PM on March 16, 2009

Was it real or fake vanilla? Could you be smelling some Fenugreek extract? It was found to be the culprit of the NYC maple syrup smell. Fenugreek is used in tons of stuff, including yellow dies.

Also it might help to know when you were in kindergarten.
posted by fontophilic at 9:56 PM on March 16, 2009

I always thought my kindergarten smell was an off-brand knock off version of Comet.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:57 PM on March 16, 2009

This won't help much, but at least I understand exactly the sensation you're talking about. It *is* playdoh for my, though. When were you in kindergarten and where?
posted by jefficator at 9:59 PM on March 16, 2009

It could be a coincidence, that you both had kindergarten teachers with vanilla-scented candles or the like.
posted by Picklegnome at 10:11 PM on March 16, 2009

The paste was definitely minty, not vanilla.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:22 PM on March 16, 2009

Maybe you're remembering Strawberry Shortcake or another scented toy?
posted by lemuria at 10:22 PM on March 16, 2009

Possibly LePage Mucilage glue? The greenish gooey stuff in the bottle with the rubber tip that they used to have the kids do collages and such with?
posted by azpenguin at 10:30 PM on March 16, 2009

Oh yeah, the Sno-Drift paste! It even tasted minty. Yes, I was that kid.

When I was that age I had a few scented school supplies that were sort of a vanilla-strawberry scent - scented erasers and Pop-a-Point pencils - and that scent brings back a lot of memories. Mr. Sketch markers were also ubiquitous in my earlier school years; I don't think there's a vanilla-scented one, but maybe one of the colors smells similar. (Oh man, the turquoise was my favorite.) Depending on when you were in kindergarten, scratch-n-sniff stickers may have been big, too.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:08 PM on March 16, 2009

My Kindergarten smell is definitely the funny smell of homemade playdoh. Fond memories, I can still kinda "smell" it in my mind.
posted by Precision at 11:27 PM on March 16, 2009

When my parents moved into their apartment building, the first time I helped them take their recycling down to the basement bins, I was knocked back a few decades into kindergarten--it smelled EXACTLY the same. It's a sickly sweet smelling disinfectant that the building cleaners use, and it has to be the same kind that they cleaned my kindergarten classroom with.

Did your kindergarten use sweet(ish) smelling disinfectant?
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 1:40 AM on March 17, 2009

Some vanilla extracts remind me of Perkins Paste. So does the vanilla-flavoured toothpaste my mum sends over from the US.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 3:41 AM on March 17, 2009

Completely different country but my guess would be the same as hurdy gurdy girl, our kindergarten smelled of pear drops because of the cleaning products they used. Maybe your school had a more vanilla scented disinfectant?
posted by missmagenta at 4:08 AM on March 17, 2009

My kindergarten smelled of the crayons that my friends and I snuck onto the radiators to watch them melt, but I do know what you are talking about. It was a sickly sweet smell, now I'm curious!
posted by Pollomacho at 5:05 AM on March 17, 2009

When I was in grade school, they had a pencil machine that sold us scented pencils for a dime. Could that be it?

Or maybe your teacher smelled like Vanilla. I was in Kindergarten in 1980, and to this day, if I smell someone wearing the same smell as my teacher, I am instantly transported back to Kindergarten. Or there was one year when I still lived at home where my voting place was in my Kindergarten building. It closed after Kindergarten and sat unused for years. Even after that ~15 years, the place still smelled exactly the same.
posted by gjc at 6:15 AM on March 17, 2009

Thanks so far everyone! Maybe it was a disinfectant. It's a very chemical/medicine smell, not very vanilla/scented marker at all. (Rather an "I really put this in my oatmeal cookies!" smell.) I really think it's a craft supply smell, though. Although, everyone is saying paste is kind of minty, so I might not run out to Ye Olde Retro Craft Emporium for paste to compare.

I went to Airline Park kindergaten in Metairie, Louisiana, fontophilic, and I'm 36. (So if anyone went to school with me and remembers...Becky?) Actually, I only went to that school for Kindergarten. The smell doesn't remind me of my 1st through 8th grade Catholic school. Hmmm.
posted by artychoke at 6:37 AM on March 17, 2009

Back in the day, when I worked in a preschool, we made all our own playdoh and we would always put vanilla fragrance in it for fun. Everyone likes vanilla. Also - it was a fad then to make a super-fragranced thick playdoh and make things out of it like cookies with a hole at the top; let the cookie dry; then tie a string so it would be a xmas tree ornament or room freshener. We would help the kids make them as presents for their parents.
posted by cda at 7:18 AM on March 17, 2009

Sweeping compound, is my best guess. That was the scent predominant in my entire elementary school. I don't know what it was, or what was in it, but it was some stuff that the janitor pushed around in front of his broom. It had a lovely scent.
posted by Goofyy at 7:23 AM on March 17, 2009

I suspect that the vanilla smell you remember is from cookies. I assume that cookies were the ultimate desire of your five-year-old lizard brain, and you'd remember that smell.
posted by hardcore taters at 10:15 AM on March 17, 2009

Yes. Echoing hardcore taters, it makes me think it is the little flower "shortbread" cookies you could stick your fingers through.
posted by MasonDixon at 10:33 AM on March 17, 2009

Did you use pure vanilla extract or imitation vanilla extract? Maybe we're neglecting the significant alcohol undercurrent to the smell?
posted by jefficator at 10:43 AM on March 17, 2009

Pure vanilla extract. Ingredients are vanilla bean extract, alcohol and corn syrup.

Maybe I have a bad batch of vanilla. The dominant smell is NOTHING like vanilla. I know what vanilla candles and butter cookies smell like. This makes me think of glue or something. What does mucilage smell like? I'm gonna have to go smell school supplies. (But not any I've ever bought my kids.)
posted by artychoke at 10:54 AM on March 17, 2009

Yeah jefficator, I've always thought vanilla extract (especially the cheaper grocery store kinds) smell more of vodka than vanilla cookies. I suspect the high alcohol content is creating a sort of tingly smell. That combined with a bit of creamy vanilla note could be reminiscent of the creamy but tingly minty paste smell. Just a guess.
posted by mostlymartha at 10:59 AM on March 17, 2009

I think of sweeping compound solely for the absorption of children's barf. That's the only time I saw/smelled it as a lad: it was a sure give-away that someone had sicked up when that flat, sweet smell rolled down the elementary wing of my school. Gah.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:47 AM on March 17, 2009

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