When we came to Xiamen in 1988, it took me weeks to learn that nutmeg (ròudòukòu, 肉豆蔻) and cinnamon (ròuguì, 肉桂) were sold only in Chinese medicine stores. Better yet, vanilla (xiāngcǎojīng 香草精) was sold only in paint stores! I asked why, and was told, by many Chinese, that paint, vanilla and thinner should be sold together because they are all chemicals.Maybe they’re right. Peacock Brand Vanilla smelled like paint thinner, and when I put a match to a spoon of vanilla it exploded. After that I didn’t buy any more vanilla from paint stores. I’d already lost a lot of weight my first few months here and I didn’t need any thinner.