I spent Christmas, 1987 in the home of a friendly Belgian family. I was in the Army, stationed in Hanau, West Germany. The family I was staying with was in a religious group affiliated with the Word of God, the American group my family is a part of.

The father of the family, Luc, took me shopping to get food for the Christmas dinner. When we arrived at the store, he asked me if there was anything that Americans traditionally consumed on Christmas that I might want. All I could think of was eggnog, so that's what I told him.

"Eggnog?", he said.
"Yeah. Eggnog."
"Hmm... what's in this eggnog?"

By some fluke of nature I actually knew how to make eggnog (though the recipe I knew varies slightly from those mentioned above.) I began to list the ingredients for him (he was visibly pleased by the fact that rum was involved) and quickly arrived at vanilla.

"I don't know this word, vanilla", he said.
"Oh, well vanilla is... it um tastes like... um, vanilla".

I knew from his blank stare that this wasn't going to be an acceptable explanation if we were going to find vanilla in the store. "Um, lets just go to where the spices and flavorings are," I said. "I'll know it when I see it."

I lied. I picked up numerous boxes and noticed that they were all labled in French and Dutch, but not English. It occurred to me that I was at a total loss. I couldn't possibly pick vanilla out of all these spices, and I couldn't describe vanilla. Then it hit me:

"White ice cream!" I blurted out. "It's the flavor of white ice cream!"
"Ahhh...." he smiled, and pulled a box from the shelf.